The rationale in relation to the Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS) having a minimum of 21 subsidised hours is to increase the likelihood of people with disabilities obtaining and sustaining employment in the open labour market. It does this by providing financial incentives to private sector employers.
To receive a wage subsidy, the private sector employer must offer employment to a person with a disability to work for at least 21 hours per week and the subsidy is payable for a maximum of 39 hours a week. Employment contracts offered must be for a minimum of six months' duration and the employee should be subject to and have the same rights as per the conditions of employment as any of the employer's other employees. There are no exceptions made for an employer to avail of a wage subsidy for an employee working less than 21 hours per week.
Through the Comprehensive Employment Strategy, the Government recognises the importance for people with disabilities of participation in employment. As part of the strategy, the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) is committed to improving employment outcomes and removing barriers to employment for persons with disabilities.
The DEASP supports have been designed to enable people with a disability to achieve their employment ambitions by focusing on the individual’s ability and capacity. The Department offers a range of supports to people with disabilities who may not be in a position to, or wish to, work full-time. Some of these supports include:
- The Department’s INTREO service is available to any person with a disability who wishes to avail of the service. People with a disability may, on a voluntary basis, seek an appointment with an employment supports case officer to discuss their employment ambitions and develop a personal progression plan. Staff in Intreo offices have undertaken training to better support persons with disabilities who want to pursue further education, training or work opportunities.
- EmployAbility is a specialist service (delivered under a contract arrangement in 23 locations around the country on behalf of DEASP) which works with the Department’s Intreo and Local Employment Services. EmployAbility participants are people with a disability who are able to work a minimum of eight hours per week and who need the support of a job coach to obtain employment in the open labour market.
- Partial Capacity Benefit (PCB) is designed for people who are in receipt of Invalidity Pension or Illness Benefit (for at least six months) and who have some capacity for work. There is no restriction on participant earnings or the number of hours they can work.
The Department’s employment support schemes for people with disabilities, including the WSS, are kept under review to ensure that they meet their policy objectives. Any potential changes to these schemes can only be considered as part of the wider Budget and estimates process.