The objective of the wage subsidy scheme (WSS) is to increase the likelihood of people with disabilities participating in the open labour market by providing financial incentives to private sector employers. The WSS does this by allowing the employer to make up the cost of a potential shortfall in productivity through grant assistance.
The subsidy scheme is operated under three strands based on the number of employees with a disability employed. To participate on the WSS an employee must work a minimum of 21 hours per week up to a maximum of 39 hours per week. The basic rate of subsidy is €5.30 per hour. In addition to a fixed hourly rate per employee (Strand 1), Strands 2 and 3 may be paid in cases where an employer has three or more employees participating on the scheme. There are currently 2,520 participants employed through the scheme and the estimated cost of the scheme in 2018 is €23 million.
On an annual basis, the minimum subsidy that an employer can receive is €5,787, where they employ one employee working 21 hours per week, while the maximum subsidy is €17,122 where the employer is benefitting from all three stands and where the employee is working 39 hours per week.
The design of the scheme does not provide that the basic hourly subsidy rate of the WSS is explicitly linked to the National Minimum Wage. Hence, the WSS rate was not reduced when the National Minimum Wage was reduced in 2011. I have no plans to link the WSS rate with the increase in the National Minimum Wage or to increase the hourly rate of subsidy at this time. However, the scheme is kept under ongoing review and any potential changes to the rate of subsidy could only be considered as part of the wider Budget and estimates process.
I trust this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.