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'Anomalies have arisen': Donohoe admits 'gap' in wage subsidy scheme for low paid workers

Sinn Féin says workers are being penalised in some cases.

Minister Paschal Donohoe says anomalies have arisen in the temporary wage subsidy scheme.
Minister Paschal Donohoe says anomalies have arisen in the temporary wage subsidy scheme.
Image: Leon Farrell

FINANCE MINISTER PASCHAL Donohoe has admitted there’s a “gap” in the temporary wage subsidy scheme that sees some workers worse off if they’re kept on by their employers.

Employers who sign up are required to pay their employees no more than 70% of their net weekly wage, which for many is less than the €350 they would receive through the Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

Donohoe admitted today that the wage subsidy scheme was set up quickly and that “anomalies” were always going to arise. 

Today, he promised the government is looking at the issue.

The scheme aims to keep employees on the books for the duration of the crisis by paying a subsidy equal to up to 70% of an employee’s take home pay, up to €410 a week.

The initiative was brought in to prevent workers from being let go. 

However, Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty has called for a reform of the scheme “so that workers are not penalised by receiving the wage subsidy rather than the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment”.

Sinn Féin’s David Cullinane said the party is engaging with ICTU and with Mandate unions in relation to a number of cases. 

The party has called for a minimum payment of €350 per week to be introduced to the scheme.

Asked about the matter today, Donohoe said: 

“I am aware of the issue that is now being raised by Deputy Doherty and by indeed a number of groups regarding the relativity between the pandemic unemployment benefit, and then somebody who is in receipt of the income subsidy scheme on a very low-level of income.

“I’m aware of the gap that is there at the moment.

“This is one of the issues that we are having a look at in the context of this scheme.”

The minister said there’s “a real value in maintaining the relationship with your employer”, which is what the income subsidy scheme aims to encourage. However, he admitted that this is a “big issue” for workers at the moment. 

“But I do accept that there are a number of groups at the moment and a number of companies and former employees in particular parts of our economy for whom this gap is an issue,” he said, adding:

“I’m looking at that along with a number of other matters at the moment.”

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