I propose to take Questions Nos. 46, 55, 89, 262, 283 and 314 together.
The design of the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) reflects the changing environment around the COVID-19 pandemic which has shifted from crisis mode to one of living alongside the virus, in line with the recently announced Resilience and Recovery 2020-2021: Plan for Living with COVID-19.
The Government’s focus has therefore shifted from an employee income support paid via the employer that maintained the existing employee/employer relationship insofar as was possible, to a direct employer subsidy to help support viable firms and encourage employment, including prospective employment of new hires and seasonal workers.
It is appropriate that the level of State subsidy be moderated as many of the strictest public health restrictions on the economy have been eased and so it is expected that businesses are able to shoulder more of the economic burden of their businesses, including wages. At the same time, it is recognised that economic outputs are unlikely to return to normal for many businesses for much of the rest of 2020, which is why the Government remains committed to supporting employers by means of a wage subsidy.
A number of new flexibilities have been included in the EWSS, while the rates and eligibility criteria have been modified so that the support is sustainable into the more medium term. In that regard, I would note that the level of subsidy being granted under the EWSS is commensurate with the average payment per worker under the TWSS which had been reducing since the start of June and when the TWSS ceased at the end of August was €282 across all recipients and €225 in the case of first-time recipients.
It is important to emphasise that the adaptation from the TWSS to the levels of support in the EWSS will allow employers to rely on the continuation of support over a longer period of up to 8 months while also ensuring such support is sustainable and affordable.
With regard to the request for the number of employees on the Employment Wage Subsidy scheme, Revenue has begun to publish weekly statistics updates on the EWSS as employers continue to complete the registration process. These statistics are available on the Revenue website at www.revenue.ie. As of 25 September 2020, over 36,746 employers had registered for the scheme and the published statistics include a breakdown of employers by size, sector and county. EWSS registered employers must file payslips with Revenue for eligible employees in respect of relevant pay periods. Until these processes are completed it is not possible to know the number of employees (nor their characteristics or locations) that will be supported under the scheme. The payslip information for EWSS recipient employers for the period 1 September onwards will be available from October and Revenue has confirmed that it will publish employee level information as soon as is practicable after that date.
With regard to the number of employees earning less than €151.50, I am advised by Revenue that it is not possible to predict in advance the number of employees likely to be paid at or below a certain income range in September 2020. Incomes in earlier months do not provide a reliable guide to possible September levels, given the volatility in the labour market this year as well as the usual seasonal changes observed month to month. Also, the Deputy will be aware that the substitution of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) subsidies for ‘gross pay’ for a substantial number of employees across the economy this year, further complicates comparisons to previous months.
I will continue to monitor closely the administration of the EWSS as well as the uptake and utilisation of this important economy-wide employment measure in the weeks and months ahead with a view to ensuring that it achieves its objective of supporting viable enterprises and employers.