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Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Tuesday, 18 May 1993

Vol. 430 No. 8

Written Answers. - Social Welfare Benefits.

Ivan Yates


122 Mr. Yates asked the Minister for Social Welfare if his attention has been drawn to the hardship being experienced by casual workers, such as dockers (details supplied) in New Ross, County Wexford whereby they are experiencing severe cuts in unemployment assistance and unemployment benefit payments due to the revised arrangements; if he will review these regulations with a view to seeking that they be amended so that these persons are allowed earn some income on a graduated basis while at the same time being entitled to some social welfare payments; and if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that such dockers will have to cease employment unless these rules are changed.

In April 1991, I extended social insurance to part-time workers earning £25 or more per week. This measure brought 27,000 part-time workers into the social insurance system for the first time and means that they are now insured for the full range of social insurance benefits and pensions. The vast majority of these workers now have sufficient PRSI contributions to qualify for short-term contributory benefits such as Disability Benefit and Unemployment Benefit.

Changes in the benefits system were required to accommodate this group. One of these changes related to Unemployment Benefit. The purpose of Unemployment Benefit is to provide a replacement income for people who have lost their full-time jobs. Now that so many part-time workers, some of whom normally work only a day or two per week, are covered by social insurance, it was necessary to review the conditions for unemployment benefit to ensure that they were in line with the scheme's objectives. The new arrangements require the claimant to have suffered a loss of employment in order to qualify for benefit.

Initially, regulations provided that the employment lost had to be at least two days for persons normally working four or more days in the week and one day's loss for persons normally employed from one to three days. In March of his year, I reduced this requirement to one day in all cases.
Any person who is adversely affected by the provisions of these regulations may instead claim unemployment assistance for the days of unemployment. From April 1993, I revised the regulations governing the asessment of insurable earnings for Unemployment Assistance purposes to improve the position of workers with earnings from part-time work. A person can now earn an amount equivalent to the normal daily rate of unemployment assistance plus an additional £15 per day for each day worked. This, for example, means that a married man with two dependent children can earn up to £34.42 per day without affecting the rate of unemployment assistance payable for each day not worked in the same week.
In the case of certain casual workers, including some dockers, the new provisions for the treatment of part-time workers may result in a reduction in their overall income when their period of entitlement to unemployment benefit is exhausted. I am currently examining this situation with a view to further improving the position of these workers.