In assessing means for widow(er)'s (non-contributory) pension, account is taken of any cash income the person may have, for example, earnings from employment or self-employment, together with the value of any capital or property. In the case of income from employment as a home-help, the first £30 (38.09) of weekly earnings is disregarded. The original rationale for the disregard was to allow people to take up casual employment in the home help service without affecting their social welfare payment, at a time when the service did not come within the realm of conventional employment. Following the conclusion of Labour Court negotiations in June 2001, agreement was reached on a revised overall pay structure for home helps in return for a restructured and enhanced home help service. The agreement provided for the alignment of hourly home help pay rates with the pay rates of other non-nursing health service employees, the payment of travel expenses, premia payments for Saturday/Sunday working and full annual leave entitlement as set out in the part-time workers agreement in the health service.
The revised pay rates were awarded on a phased basis of 75% from 1 January 2000, 85% from 1 July 2000 and the full rate from 1 January 2001. Accordingly, home helps now have full employee status similar to all other health service employees. The Department of Finance has emphasised that during all stages of the negotiations, including the Labour Court, it was made absolutely clear that any concessions, currently enjoyed by home helps in the area of income tax and or social welfare would cease should the unions succeed in their pay claim. In this context, the current arrangements for home helps are being reviewed.