I propose to take Questions Nos. 55 and 101 together.
The Key Employee Engagement Programme, KEEP, came into effect on 1 January this year to help SMEs to attract and retain employees in our highly competitive labour market. I am advised by Revenue that details of the costs and numbers availing of this programme will only be available once the relevant employer tax returns for 2018 have been received and processed. The first KEEP return is due on 31 March 2019.
Over the past year I have become aware that take-up has been less than expected and I decided to take early action in Budget 2019.
In my recent Budget speech, I announced my intention to increase the ceiling on the maximum annual market value of share options that may be granted to 100% of salary (i.e. to double the ratio of share options to salary). I will also be replacing the three-year limit with a lifetime limit and increasing the overall value of options that may be awarded per employee from €250,000 to €300,000. The €3,000,000 overall KEEP limit remains for companies and employees are not restricted in entering into future KEEP arrangements with future employers.
I expect that these changes will help support SMEs to compete for skilled staff.