Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe speaking today. Brian Lawless/PA Images

Pay workers who have to take time off due to Covid-19 illness or self-isolation, Donohoe says

The Minister for Finance said that he was aware this would have “financial consequences” but added supports are in place.

IRELAND NEEDS AN “unprecedented shared national effort” to respond to the Covid-19 outbreak, the government has said.

At a press conference this afternoon, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said that the government along with trade unions and employer bodies is now urging businesses to pay workers who cannot attend due to Covid-19 illness or self isolation their full wage.

Donohoe admitted that companies will have to make decisions that have “financial consequences”. He added that he was aware that it may not be possible for some businesses to do this, but urged those employers who were able to do this as far as is possible.

He said that it was important that employees and the self-employed abide by public health advice to self-isolate while having their income protected to the greatest extent possible.

“We recognise that for many workers within our country, taking this decision [to avoid work] is one that does have financial consequences and we want to ensure that the measures are in place to minimise financial concerns as employees, and as employers make decisions in relation to their own health,” he said.

We are now joining with employers and unions today calling on all employers who do have employees who make the decision that they do need to go into a period of isolation, to continue to pay them as normal in recognition of the great challenge that we are now facing, and also in recognition of the exceptional measures that the government implemented on Monday.

“We recognise that for some employers, this may well be a challenge,” he added. “We understand the financial dimensions that are involved in this.”

The measures brought in by government will have “significant costs” to the Exchequer but are required to deal with the current crisis. The government has also agreed to measures to enhance State illness payments for people affected by Covid-19.

Also speaking at the press briefing, Minister for Business Heather Humphreys said there were a number of supports announced by government to support businesses facing difficulty due to the Covid-19 public health crisis.

Schemes announced here include a €200 million package of loans available to businesses impacted by Covid-19. A maximum of €1.5 million can be loaned at reduced rates.

“That means any business that is impacted by the coronavirus can make an application for assistance,” she said today.

“It will help them with the liquidity problems because cash flow and liquidity will be one of the first issues that will face businesses.”

Another €200 million in funding is available through a rescue and restructuring scheme through Enterprise Ireland for vulnerable but viable firms.

Speaking more generally, Humphreys said she was satisfied after talking to food retailers that food shortages are unlikely and added: “What I would say is do not panic buy”. 

When asked about whether people coming from back from the Cheltenham Racing Festival should be quarantined, Donohoe said that wasn’t the advice coming from public health officials at this stage. 

With reporting from the Press Association

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