Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Ceisteanna (46, 55, 89, 262, 283, 314)

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

46. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance if cuts made to the employment wage subsidy scheme, in comparison to the temporary wage subsidy scheme in September 2020, will be reversed in view of the increased restrictions that have been introduced in sectors of the economy and are likely to be introduced in the near future; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26794/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

55. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the number of employers and employees availing of the employment wage subsidy scheme; if he will increase the level of subsidy under the scheme in view of greater restrictions on work and business in recent weeks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26792/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Alan Dillon

Ceist:

89. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Finance if he will respond to the request by performers and crew in the live entertainment industry to retain the temporary wage subsidy scheme; if other supports and grants will be provided for those in the sector that due to social distancing requirements are uncertain as to when they will return to work; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17247/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Alan Dillon

Ceist:

262. Deputy Alan Dillon asked the Minister for Finance his plans to increase the wage subsidy scheme of €203 per week to the previous amount of €350 per week for travel agents that have been forced to survive on zero income since March 2020; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [26535/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Gary Gannon

Ceist:

283. Deputy Gary Gannon asked the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to calls from the live events sector to reinstate the employment wage subsidy scheme at the full rate per week for these workers in view of the fact the sector is closed and dramatically reduced under public health advice; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25023/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Pearse Doherty

Ceist:

314. Deputy Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Finance the number of employees earning less than €151.50 across the economy that do not qualify for the employment wage subsidy scheme; if he will increase the level of subsidy under the scheme in view of greater restrictions on work and business in recent weeks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [27357/20]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

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.