The Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS) is an employment support to private sector employers, the objective of which is to encourage employers to employ people with disabilities and thereby increase the numbers of people with disabilities participating in the open labour market.
The scheme provides financial incentives to private sector employers to hire people with a disability for between 21 and 39 subsidised hours per week under a contract of employment. The contract of employment offered must be for a minimum of 6 months and the employee must be paid the going rate for the job (which must be at least the statutory minimum wage).
Private sector employers may claim a subsidy, subject to certain conditions, against the cost incurred where a productivity shortfall arises from a disability. The basic rate of subsidy is €5.30 per hour giving a total annual subsidy available of €10,748 per annum based on a 39 hour week.
The financial supports for employers are structured under three separate strands and companies could benefit under one strand or under two or three strands simultaneously, as the case may be, depending on the number of people with a disability employed, as below.
Strand I is a general subsidy for any perceived productivity shortfall in excess of 20% for a person with a disability, in comparison to a colleague without a disability. The subsidy is based on the number of hours worked.
Strand II subsidy is payable when an employer employs three or more people with disabilities who are supported by a WSS Strand I payment. Strand II is intended to cover the additional supervisory, management and other work based costs relating to such employees. This top-up payment is a percentage of the Strand I subsidy and is based on the overall number of employees with a disability employed under Strand I. It ranges from an additional 10% of wage subsidy for 3 to 6 employees with a disability to a maximum of 50% of wage subsidy for 23+ employees with a disability. Therefore when an employer has 23 or more WSS employees a 50% top up is applied to the hourly rate increasing the payment rate to €7.95 per hour for each employee.
3 to 6 employees with a disability
10% top-up of wage subsidy paid
7 to 11 employees with a disability
20% top-up of wage subsidy paid
12 to 16 employees with a disability
30% top-up of wage subsidy paid
17 to 22 employees with a disability
40% top-up of wage subsidy paid
23 + employees with a disability
50% top-up of wage subsidy paid
Strand III subsidy enables employers who employ 30 or more workers with a disability on the Wage Subsidy Scheme to be eligible for a grant of up to €30,000 per year towards the expense of employing an Employment Assistance Officer (EAO) to support these employees.
At end June 2019, there were 1,671 private sector employers availing of the wage subsidy with 2,722 people with disabilities employed. The existing annual cost based on the current number of contracted hours at the €5.30 rate is €26.9 million.
My Department regularly reviews its supports and payments schemes to ensure that they continue to meet their objectives. Any changes to the current rate of subsidy would have to be considered in the overall budgetary context.
I hope this clarifies the issue for the Deputy.