Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Questions (573)

Thomas Pringle


573. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Social Protection the supports available for those forced to take time off work due to illness; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12667/21]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

The Department provides a suite of income supports for those who are unable to work due to an illness or disability. It is important to note that entitlement to these supports is not contingent on the nature of the illness/disability but on the extent to which a particular illness or disability impairs or restricts a person’s capacity to work. The only exception to this is the enhanced illness benefit payment in respect of Covid-19.

The Department administers the Illness Benefit scheme to those customers who cannot work because they are sick or ill. Customers must be covered by the appropriate class of social insurance (PRSI), satisfy the PRSI conditions and provide a Certificate of Incapacity for Work from a medical practitioner.

Illness benefit is payable for one year (312 days excluding Sundays) in respect of people with a minimum of 104 contributions and for two years (624 days excluding Sundays) for people with a minimum of 260 contributions, subject to meeting the other medical and contribution eligibility criteria for the scheme, as set out in legislation.

A person who is not eligible for Illness Benefit or whose Illness Benefit expires and who is unable to work may be eligible for other payments depending on their circumstances:

- Invalidity Pension is a weekly payment to people who cannot work because of a long-term illness or disability, who are likely to be permanently incapable of work and who satisfy the PRSI conditions.

- Disability Allowance is a means tested payment for people who have a disability that is expected to last for a year or more.

- Supplementary Welfare Allowance is available to people who are ill, who do not qualify for other payments and who have insufficient means to meet their needs.

A person may requalify for Illness Benefit if they return to work and pay a minimum of 13 reckonable PRSI contributions. (All other qualifying conditions must also be satisfied.)

The rate of Illness Benefit payment is based on a person's weekly earnings in the governing contribution year. There are four rates of payment up to a maximum of €203. Increases can be paid in respect of a qualified adult or qualified children.

In addition to the payments listed above, a temporary enhanced Illness Benefit payment was introduced in March 2020 in respect of Covid-19. Its purpose is to encourage people to not go to work due to financial constraint when they should be in isolation. The rate of the enhanced Illness Benefit payment for Covid-19 is €350 per week, with additional payments possible in respect of a qualified adult and qualified children. The payment is made for a defined maximum period for each of the two situations listed. The measures were designed to ensure that, where a registered medical practitioner or a HSE medical officer of health diagnoses a person with COVID-19 or identifies him or her as a probable source of infection of COVID-19, the person concerned can comply with medical advice to isolate.

I trust this clarifies the matter.