Question No. 1251 answered with Question No. 1179.

Jobseeker's Allowance

Questions (1252)

Eoin Ó Broin

Question:

1252. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason for the delay in the processing of a jobseeker's application for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 20. [6317/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

As the Deputy will be aware, my Department has experienced unprecedented demand for income supports including the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment and Jobseeker’s payments.  Delays can occur in some cases but please be assured staff are working on processing all applications as quickly as possible.

The person concerned submitted an application for jobseeker's allowance from 21/4/2020.  This application has been awarded and the first payment will be available in the nominated bank account of the person concerned on 19/5/2020.  Payment covers the period 21/4/2020 to 26/5/2020 and includes all arrears due to the person concerned.

Notification of claim award has been sent to the person concerned via his MyWelfare account.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Working Family Payment Eligibility

Question No. 1254 answered with Question No. 1247.

Question No. 1255 answered with Question No. 1198.

Questions (1253)

Norma Foley

Question:

1253. Deputy Norma Foley asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will review the requirement to work for 38 hours or more per fortnight to be eligible for the working family payment (details supplied). [6343/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Working Family Payment is an in-work support which provides an income top-up for employees on low earnings with children.  Working Family Payment is designed to prevent in-work poverty for low paid workers with child dependents and to offer a financial incentive to take up employment.  The estimated annual expenditure on Working Family Payment in 2019 is approximately €397.2 million.  As of February 2020 the support is paid to approximately 52,469 families in respect of some 117,940 children.

It important that Working Family Payment does not inadvertently subsidise unsustainably low earnings or encourage employers to offer minimal hours of employment.  The longer term goal of Working Family Payment, as an incentive to take up and remain in work, could be compromised if the nature of the work taken up is not sustainable.

There are a number of supports currently available from the Department in cases where an individual may not be eligible for Working Family Payment include the Short Term Work Support and Jobseekers Allowance, which allows an individual to work up to three days without losing their benefit.  The Department regularly updates information regarding the supports available during Covid-19 and details of these can be found at https://www.gov.ie/en/organisation/department-of-employment-affairs-and-social-protection/.

Reducing the “hours worked” requirement for Working Family Payment would also have significant expenditure implications which are difficult to quantify and would have to be considered in an overall budgetary context.

Question No. 1254 answered with Question No. 1247.
Question No. 1255 answered with Question No. 1198.

Widow's Pension

Question No. 1257 answered with Question No. 1201.

Questions (1256)

Seán Haughey

Question:

1256. Deputy Seán Haughey asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if provision will be made for widows on becoming eligible for a widow's pension to retain the State pension paid to their late spouse but paid at a quarter of the rate in view of the fact that they have the same ongoing cost of living expenses; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6433/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

There are a number of basic principles which underpin the Irish social insurance system.  Firstly, there is the contributory principle.  Under this principle there is a direct link between the PRSI contributions that a person has paid and entitlement to a varying range of benefits and pensions.  Where a person has sufficient PRSI contributions, then benefits and pensions may be paid, where a particular contingency arises and without a means test.

Secondly, there is the solidarity principle.  Under this principle the benefits and pensions that are paid are not directly related to the amount of PRSI contributions paid by insured persons.  PRSI contribution income is instead redistributed to support contributors who are more vulnerable.

To qualify for a Widow's, Widower's or Surviving Civil Partner's (Contributory) Pension, either the person claiming or their late spouse or civil partner must have a certain number of PRSI contributions and not be in a cohabiting relationship.  All the PRSI requirements must be met on one person's record - one may not combine the contributions of either spouses or civil partners.  All PRSI contributions must have been made before the death of the spouse or civil partner.

Virtually all PRSI contributions count towards this pension, including contributions paid by public servants and the self-employed.  Once in payment, the pension remains payable while the person remains widowed or a surviving civil partner.  The pension is payable regardless of other income.

Primary social welfare legislation provides that PRSI paid by the person and their employers only provides coverage for one payment at such times.  In the case of PRSI funded pensions, a person cannot be in receipt of both a State Pension (Contributory) and a Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Contributory) Pension.  It should be noted, however, that the maximum personal rate of a Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s (Contributory) Pension is significantly higher for those aged 66 or over than it is for a widow or widower of working age, as it is aligned with the maximum personal rate for the State Pension (Contributory).

To change the underlying principle of entitlement, and allow people claim multiple payments would involve significant additional expenditure which could prove unsustainable in the long-term, and would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary contexts.

There are a number of additional supports in the social welfare system which further benefit widows:

- A person who loses their spouse or civil partner may be entitled to the Living Alone Allowance in addition to the Widow's Pension.

- People in receipt a Widow's Pension may also be eligible for the Household Benefits Package. In addition, a widow aged between 60 and 65 years, whose late spouse/civil partner received the Household Benefits Package from this Department, may qualify for that package if they otherwise satisfy all other conditions and receive a relevant qualifying payment.

- A Widow's Pension recipient may also qualify to receive Fuel Allowance, subject to the conditions of the scheme, including a means test.

- A Widow's Pension recipient who qualifies for both the Living Alone Allowance and the Fuel Allowance will automatically qualify for the Telephone Support Allowance.  This payment aims to help those living alone with the cost of  communications and/or home alert security systems.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 1257 answered with Question No. 1201.

Social Welfare Benefits Applications

Questions (1258, 1259, 1260)

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

1258. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if an application by a person (details supplied) will be granted. [6466/20]

View answer

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

1259. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if an application for community welfare assistance by a person (details supplied) will be considered. [6468/20]

View answer

Jim O'Callaghan

Question:

1260. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if applications for community welfare assistance by a person (details supplied) will be reviewed. [6470/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1258 to 1260, inclusive, together.

The main purpose of the supplementary welfare allowance scheme (SWA) is to provide immediate and flexible assistance for those in need who do not qualify for payment under other State schemes.

Under SWA, my Department can make a single Exceptional Needs Payment (ENP) to help meet essential, once-off expenditure, which a person could not reasonably be expected to meet out of their weekly income.  There is no automatic entitlement to these payments which are payable at the discretion of the officers administering the scheme, taking into account the requirements of the legislation and all the relevant circumstances of the case, in order to ensure that the payments target those most in need of assistance. 

The person concerned applied for assistance with the cost of repairing her heating system and a cheque for €760 was issued, payable to the repair company.  This cheque has been returned uncashed to the Department.

I am advised that the person concerned also sought assistance with another bill.  The Department encourages customers to engage with the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) to establish a manageable and sustainable path out of debt.  Where this has occurred, my Department may make a contribution towards reducing the debt.

I understand that the person concerned has been advised to contact MABS for assistance with managing these bills and she was also advised that she may subsequently apply for assistance under the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme and her eligibility will be assessed in the usual manner.

 I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions (1261)

Anne Rabbitte

Question:

1261. Deputy Anne Rabbitte asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if a person (details supplied) is entitled to the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment. [6477/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) is an emergency payment of €350 per week introduced by the Government for a 12 week period and intended to compensate those workers whose employers cannot retain them on their payroll. The payment is also being made to people who are self-employed but whose trade has temporarily ceased.

One of the eligibility criteria for the payment is that a person must have been in employment on or after 6 March 2020 and lost their employment due to COVID-19.

The person in question made an initial application for PUP on 1 April 2020 indicating their last day worked as 25 February 2020.  The person in question submitted two further applications containing information contrary to the original application.  Confirmation from the employer was requested by the Department. I am advised that the employer has stated in his letter that the person’s last day of employment was 25 February 2020.  The person in question, therefore, does not meet the eligibility criteria for PUP. 

I understand that the person in question is currently in receipt of a One Parent Family Payment from my Department.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions (1262, 1276)

Michael McGrath

Question:

1262. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the pandemic unemployment payment can be extended indefinitely under section 202 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005; if there are limits placed on the powers granted under this section; if she can spend as much money as deemed appropriate under this section; if primary legislation will be needed for the pandemic unemployment payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6490/20]

View answer

Michael McGrath

Question:

1276. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if section 202 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 has been used previously for a payment such as the pandemic unemployment payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6669/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1262 and 1276 together.

Given the need to pay the Covid Pandemic Unemployment Payment as expeditiously as possible, Section 202 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 was used.  This section allows for the provision of payments in urgent cases by way of Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

The Covid-19 pandemic and resultant immediate economic impact is unprecedented and created an urgent requirement for the provision of income supports to over 600,000 people in a period of a little over a month.  Therefore, it was appropriate to use section 202 as the basis for the payment.  As there has never been a situation comparable to the Covid-19 'lock-down' of businesses, an urgent need to provide payments of this type to so many people in such a short period of time has never arisen before.  This is the first time that the section has been used for this purpose.

There are a number of matters that may require placing the payment on a separate legislative footing including, for example, granting social insurance contributions to people who were temporarily laid off and are either in receipt of PUP or are being paid via the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.  These matters are currently being considered and legislative proposals will be brought to Government for approval.

Pandemic Unemployment Payments are funded through the Department's vote.  As the Revised Estimates Volume for 2020 has not yet been voted upon, spending thus far in 2020 is operating under the ‘four-fifths’ rule which applies to voted expenditure under the Central Fund (Permanent Provisions) Act, 1965. 

I understand my colleague, the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, will bring proposals to Government in the near future with regard to the Department's estimate and requirement for a Dáil vote.

Invalidity Pension Applications

Questions (1263)

Duncan Smith

Question:

1263. Deputy Duncan Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if an application for invalidity pension by a person (details supplied) will be expedited; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6491/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Invalidity pension (IP) is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and for no other reason and who satisfy the pay related social insurance (PRSI) contribution conditions.

The Department received a claim for IP for the gentleman concerned on 02 July 2019.  He was refused IP on the grounds that the medical conditions for the scheme were not satisfied.  He was notified on 03 October 2019 of this decision, the reasons for it and of his right of review or appeal. 

He requested a review of this decision and submitted further medical evidence in support of his request.  Following a review of all the information available it was decided that there was no change to the original decision.  He was notified on 05 March 2020 of the outcome of the review.   

He subsequently lodged an appeal with the independent Social Welfare Appeals Office (SWAO) and submitted further medical evidence in support of his appeal.  Following a review by a deciding officer of this medical evidence in conjunction with all information available, it was decided that there was no change to the original decision.  A submission was prepared by the department and was forwarded to the SWAO on 13 May 2020 for determination by an appeals officer.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions (1264)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

1264. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the level of flexibility regarding the Covid-19 payment of €350; if small business owners, sole traders or both who are in receipt of the payment can still avail of some sort of financial assistance as they return to work or attempt to gain work on a phase by phase basis in harmony with the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6503/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, published by the Government on 1 May 2020 sets out a timetable for the phased reopening of society and the economy and envisages a series of steps which will lead to the resumption of various sectors of the economy.  Decisions around the future of the supports in place will continue to be monitored having regard to a range of factors including how the public health situation evolves and the effects of the reopening of Phase 1.

The Government recognises that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges for businesses.  My colleague, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation has introduced a range of supports and guidance for businesses available on the Department's website at www.dbei.gov.ie.

The COVID 19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment was introduced in March 2020 as a time-limited emergency measure to meet the surge in unemployment which resulted from the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic.  The conditions around the payment to self-employed people, including sole traders and business owners, are that they must have experienced a collapse of income and be available to take up other full-time work if it was available to them in order to qualify.  If a self-employed person does not meet this criteria and is continuing to operate their business at a reduced level they may be eligible to apply for support under the means tested jobseeker’s allowance.

I trust that this clarifies the position for the Deputy.

Wage Subsidy Scheme

Questions (1265)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

1265. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she is satisfied that the terms of the wage subsidy scheme are such that in circumstances in which a PRSI credit has been applied for the duration of the scheme by an employer in respect of an employee that the social protection or pension contributions of that employee are not diminished particularly when retirement of the employee will take place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6572/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, which is operated by Revenue, provides the payment of support to employers in respect of eligible employees where the employer’s business has experienced significant disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  As set out in the legislation underpinning the scheme, employers are required to record PRSI at Class J9 for each employee in respect of whom a subsidy is being claimed.  This is required for Revenue administration purposes and to allow for  the reconciliation of subsidy payments made.   

In the exceptional circumstances of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is important that employees do not have their social insurance records interrupted or otherwise adversely impacted for future social welfare entitlements including for contributory State pension qualification purposes due to their participation in the scheme.

My Department is currently developing legislative proposals for consideration by the Government in the near future.

I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Allowance Payments

Questions (1266)

Seán Sherlock

Question:

1266. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of jobseeker's payments being made while applicants are unable to apply in person for employment due to Covid-19 restrictions. [6580/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

All customers making a claim for, or in receipt of, a jobseekers payment must satisfy the deciding officer that they fulfil the conditions for receipt of a payment under that scheme. The genuinely seeking work and availability requirements remain for all jobseekers and the deciding officer is obliged to take into account the individual circumstances of the customer and the prevailing economic situation while having regard to the conditions of the scheme. 

A person may make an application for a jobseekers payment on-line through www.mywelfare.ie where possible or by post if they wish.  An application may also be made in the normal way to their local Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Social Welfare Rates

Questions (1267)

Gerald Nash

Question:

1267. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to develop a programme to index social welfare rates to the minimum essential standard of living; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6581/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Minimum Essential Standard of Living (MESL) is an assessment, developed by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice, of the minimum needed to live and partake in the social and economic norms of everyday life for various household types.

The model produces a minimum income standard which is dependent on whether the household is, among other factors:

(i)  in a rural or urban location;

(ii) composed of a single working age person, a couple, a single- or two-parent family, a single pensioner or a pensioner couple; and

(iii) living in private rented accommodation, social housing or is an owner-occupier.

It should be noted that the MESL for welfare households assumes that households are eligible for a medical card and, as such, health and insurance costs are reduced accordingly.  While the model assumes that pensioners have the Free Travel pass and the Household Benefits package, it does not assume this for working age people.  Certain working age recipients of welfare payments do qualify for Free Travel – recipients of Disability Allowance, Invalidity Pension, and Carer’s Allowance, for example.

Bringing weekly working age social welfare rates in line with the MESL entails increasing the maximum personal rate to €245 and the Qualified Child Increase to €48.50 for children under 12 and €82.40 for children aged 12 and over.  There would be no proportionate increase in the current rate for Qualified Adults in order to meet the MESL.

The estimated full year cost of implementing these measures is €2.4 billion.  This costing is subject to change in the context of emerging trends and associated revisions of the estimated numbers of recipients.

Any change to the current process of setting social welfare rates would require Government approval and would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context.  This would include taking account of stakeholder views, as well as considerations of cost, work incentives, poverty alleviation, policy alignments and the administration of any proposed system.

Pension Provisions

Questions (1268)

Jack Chambers

Question:

1268. Deputy Jack Chambers asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the measures in place during Covid-19 to make it safer and easier for pensioners to receive payment; if she will consider the feedback from a person (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6582/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

My Department introduced a series of measures to maintain social welfare payments while assisting with social distancing measures designed to combat the spread of the Coronavirus. 

Fortnightly payments were introduced to minimise the need for people to attend and queue in banks or post offices to collect payments, so helping people restrict their movements to essential activities only.  These were introduced on a ‘payment in advance’ basis so people did not have to wait two weeks for a payment.

People who would normally collect their social welfare payment in cash at a post office have the option to request to have their payment made directly into a bank account should they wish to do so. 

In addition, the period of time in which cash payments have to be collected at post offices has been considerably extended.  If any person has received an expired payments letter, they should contact my Department so that their social welfare payment can be reinstated. 

Finally, the rules around nominating agents to collect social welfare payments at post office have also been changed to allow for more frequent agent collections. 

Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Questions (1269)

Claire Kerrane

Question:

1269. Deputy Claire Kerrane asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason a person (details supplied) has been refused the pandemic unemployment payment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6589/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) is an emergency payment of €350 per week introduced by the Government for a 12 week period and intended to compensate those workers whose employers cannot retain them on their payroll. The payment is also being made to people who are self-employed but whose trade has temporarily ceased. 

It is not a payment to compensate for a partial loss of income by people who continue to work.

Like many other sectors, the farming community has experienced difficulties since the outbreak of the pandemic but the majority are continuing to farm and find a market for their produce. Arrangements are also in place to enable marts to operate.  

In common with all self-employed workers, farmers can apply for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment but whether or not they receive it is dependent on them satisfying the conditions for receipt of payment.   

The person in question made an application for COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment on 24 April, 2020.  I am advised that as the person in question is continuing to farm and is not available to take up full-time work he is not eligible for the payment.

If the person in question is experiencing financial difficulties there are supports available from my Department in the form of Farm Assist or Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

I trust that this clarified the matter for the Deputy.

Jobseeker's Payments

Questions (1270)

Gerald Nash

Question:

1270. Deputy Ged Nash asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the number of persons on jobseeker's benefit and jobseeker's allowance, respectively, who have been placed on a penalty rate since 13 March 2020; the number of persons who have been placed on a penalty rate for failing to attend meetings requested by her Department or failing to participate in an appropriate employment support scheme, work experience or training, respectively; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6609/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

As part of the Department’s response to the Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic and in particular the social distancing measures introduced by Government all activation appointments were suspended from early March 2020.  The application of activation sanctions was temporarily suspended.

There have been no Jobseeker’s Benefit or Jobseeker’s Allowance customers placed on an activation penalty rate since 13 March 2020 to date.

Social Welfare Code

Question No. 1272 answered with Question No. 1247.

Questions (1271)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

1271. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the occasions on which section 202 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 has been utilised since it came into effect; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6620/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) scheme offers a safety net within the overall social welfare system by providing assistance to those whose means are insufficient to meet their own needs and those of their dependants.  The main purpose of the scheme is to provide immediate and flexible assistance to those in need who do not qualify for payment under other State schemes.  There are several payments within the scheme, including urgent needs payments (UNPs).

Under Section 202 of the Social Welfare (Consolidation) Act 2005, an urgent needs payment can be made to persons who have an urgent need which they cannot meet from their own resources or where an alternative is not available at that time.  UNPs can be paid to people who may not normally qualify for SWA.  The Department issued over 1,700 urgent needs payments in 2019.

Given the urgent need to ensure eligible claimants were paid as quickly as possible, Section 202 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 has been relied upon for the payment of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

There are a number of matters that may require placing the payment on a separate legislative footing including, for example, granting social insurance contributions to people who were temporarily laid off and are either in receipt of PUP or are being paid via the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.  These matters are currently being considered and any necessary legislative proposals will be brought to Government for approval.

I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.

Question No. 1272 answered with Question No. 1247.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (1273)

Michael McGrath

Question:

1273. Deputy Michael McGrath asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if assistance is available for employers endeavouring to keep their business afloat but that cannot afford the redundancy costs they are facing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6622/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Entitlement to a redundancy payment is defined under the Redundancy Payments Act.  It is the employer’s responsibility to pay statutory redundancy payments to eligible employees.

In situations where an employer is unable to pay these entitlements due to financial difficulties or insolvency an application for payment under the Redundancy Payments Scheme may be submitted to the Department.  The Department will make the statutory redundancy payment to eligible employees on behalf of the employer.

The Redundancy Payments Scheme is funded from the Social Insurance Fund (SIF). When such a redundancy payment is made from the fund, a debt is raised against the employer. The Department will engage with employers to establish their financial situation on a case by case basis and seeks to recover the debt on a mutually agreed basis, including repayments by instalment, where appropriate. This ensures that the scheme takes into account both an employer's ability to pay redundancy payments and that the Social Insurance Fund can be reimbursed in due course.

 The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation has agreed a major expansion of business supports that have been developed for companies dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers can contact a dedicated Business Support Call Centre, available at 01 631 2002 and at infobusinesssupport@dbei.gov.ie.  This provides information on the government supports available to businesses and enterprises affected by COVID-19, which are also listed and available on that Department’s website www.dbei.gov.ie or via gov.ie.   This is in addition to the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme which supports employers from the private sector experiencing significant economic disruption.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (1274)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

1274. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the maternity benefit, pandemic unemployment payment or the temporary Covid-19 wage subsidy scheme will continue for employees in the private sector in order to provide employment protection in cases in which the employee is unable to access childcare to return to work when their sector reopens under the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6657/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

The Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, published by the Government on 1 May 2020 sets out a timetable for the phased reopening of society and the economy and envisages a series of steps which will lead to the resumption of various sectors of the economy.  As this situation continues to evolve, decisions around the future of the emergency income measures will be taken having regard to a range of factors including how the public health situation evolves which is being carefully monitored.

People on maternity leave should remain on that leave until such time as they are due to return to work.  A person can also avail of up to 16 weeks unpaid maternity leave which can be added to the end of the 26 week period of paid leave.

Many employers can, and do, agree compassionate leave arrangements with staff who need to take short periods of time off to care for another person or new baby.  These include arrangements to enable employees to work remotely from home, to alter shift patterns around their partners work, to work-up time taken, to rearrange parental leave or to bring forward annual leave entitlements from future work periods.

Where parents have to continue to work and it is not possible to make appropriate compassionate leave arrangements, employees can call on some statutory entitlements which provide for income support including paid Force Majeure Leave, Parents Leave together with Parents Benefit, for each parent where a baby was born after 1st November 2019 or unpaid Parental Leave.

I trust this clarifies the position at this time.

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Questions (1275)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

1275. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the employment protections being considered or in place to ensure security and protection of employment in the public and private sectors if employees cannot return to work due to no childcare being available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6658/20]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

‘The Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business’ sets out how the Covid-19 restrictions will gradually be lifted. As different parts of the economy open at different times, the fact that schools and creches have not yet re-opened may cause some obstacles for workers with childcare responsibilities.  Some workers will be able to manage this with their partner and extended family, whereas others will not.

The Government has requested employers to be as flexible as possible in allowing staff time off to look after their children or other members of their families.  Just some of the flexible options to be considered include - 

- Offering paid compassionate leave,

- Allowing employees to work from home,

- Altering shifts, so that employees can coordinate caring between themselves and partners, or another person,

- Allowing employees to rearrange holidays,

- Allowing employees to take paid time off that can be worked back at a later time etc.

I would encourage any employees affected by the lack of childcare to engage with their employer in the first instance with a view to exploring all options available to enable them to return to work.  I would encourage all employers to be as flexible and supportive as possible in the circumstances with a view to maintaining good employment relationships over the long term.

I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.