Green Party spokesperson for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Steven Matthews TD, has called for the anomaly in the temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, which blocks women returning from maternity leave from accessing the scheme, to be addressed.
After a number of unions wrote to the Minister for Finance to ask for this issue to be examined, Deputy Matthews said:
“This is an instance where there is a clear anomaly in a well-intentioned law. As we have seen in other areas of the emergency Covid-19 legislation, there have been gaps and issues and the Government has and needs to continue addressing them as they arise.
“I have been contacted by constituents who are facing extreme financial hardship, and in some cases had their hours cut dramatically, as a result of this oversight. In these instances, the employers wanted to keep their employees on the books but feared that if they applied for wage subsidy, they would be forced to repay the figure to Revenue.
“The alternative for women in this situation is to leave their employment and apply for the pandemic unemployment payment but this offers no guarantee that they will be able to return to work at the end of this crisis. This obviously isn’t fair and if their employers want to keep them on the books, which is the exact purpose of the wage subsidy scheme, then they absolutely should be able to.
“The strict wording of the law means that employees must have been on the payroll in January and February in order to be able to qualify for the wage subsidy. In cases where businesses were not topping up the Maternity benefit, this would not be the case. Even in situations where businesses were topping up their payment, it would not reflect their normal salary.
“I am sure this was not an intentional omission by the Department. The legislation was pulled together in the face of an unprecedented emergency, so it is important that the Minister for Finance provides clarity on these issues as they arise.”
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