Written answers

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Covid-19 Pandemic Supports

Photo of Michael McGrathMichael McGrath (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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1273. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if assistance is available for employers endeavouring to keep their business afloat but that cannot afford the redundancy costs they are facing; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6622/20]

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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Entitlement to a redundancy payment is defined under the Redundancy Payments Act.  It is the employer’s responsibility to pay statutory redundancy payments to eligible employees. 

In situations where an employer is unable to pay these entitlements due to financial difficulties or insolvency an application for payment under the Redundancy Payments Scheme may be submitted to the Department.  The Department will make the statutory redundancy payment to eligible employees on behalf of the employer.

The Redundancy Payments Scheme is funded from the Social Insurance Fund (SIF). When such a redundancy payment is made from the fund, a debt is raised against the employer. The Department will engage with employers to establish their financial situation on a case by case basis and seeks to recover the debt on a mutually agreed basis, including repayments by instalment, where appropriate. This ensures that the scheme takes into account both an employer's ability to pay redundancy payments and that the Social Insurance Fund can be reimbursed in due course. 

 The Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation has agreed a major expansion of business supports that have been developed for companies dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers can contact a dedicated Business Support Call Centre, available at 01 631 2002 and at infobusinesssupport@dbei.gov.ie.  This provides information on the government supports available to businesses and enterprises affected by COVID-19, which are also listed and available on that Department’s website www.dbei.gov.ie or via Gov.ie.   This is in addition to the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme which supports employers from the private sector experiencing significant economic disruption.

Photo of Aindrias MoynihanAindrias Moynihan (Cork North West, Fianna Fail)
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1274. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the maternity benefit, pandemic unemployment payment or the temporary Covid-19 wage subsidy scheme will continue for employees in the private sector in order to provide employment protection in cases in which the employee is unable to access childcare to return to work when their sector reopens under the Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6657/20]

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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The Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business, published by the Government on 1 May 2020 sets out a timetable for the phased reopening of society and the economy and envisages a series of steps which will lead to the resumption of various sectors of the economy.  As this situation continues to evolve, decisions around the future of the emergency income measures will be taken having regard to a range of factors including how the public health situation evolves which is being carefully monitored.

People on maternity leave should remain on that leave until such time as they are due to return to work.  A person can also avail of up to 16 weeks unpaid maternity leave which can be added to the end of the 26 week period of paid leave.

Many employers can, and do, agree compassionate leave arrangements with staff who need to take short periods of time off to care for another person or new baby.  These include arrangements to enable employees to work remotely from home, to alter shift patterns around their partners work, to work-up time taken, to rearrange parental leave or to bring forward annual leave entitlements from future work periods.

Where parents have to continue to work and is it not possible to make appropriate compassionate leave arrangements, employees can call on some statutory entitlements which provide for income support including paid Force Majeure Leave, Parents Leave together with Parents Benefit, for each parent where a baby was born after 1st November 2019 or unpaid Parental Leave.

I trust this clarifies the position at this time.

Photo of Aindrias MoynihanAindrias Moynihan (Cork North West, Fianna Fail)
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1275. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the employment protections being considered or in place to ensure security and protection of employment in the public and private sectors if employees cannot return to work due to no childcare being available; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [6658/20]

Photo of Regina DohertyRegina Doherty (Meath East, Fine Gael)
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‘The Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business’ sets out how the Covid-19 restrictions will gradually be lifted. As different parts of the economy open at different times, the fact that schools and creches have not yet re-opened may cause some obstacles for workers with childcare responsibilities.  Some workers will be able to manage this with their partner and extended family, whereas others will not.

The Government has requested employers to be as flexible as possible in allowing staff time off to look after their children or other members of their families.  Just some of the flexible options to be considered include - 

- Offering paid compassionate leave,

- Allowing employees to work from home,

- Altering shifts, so that employees can coordinate caring between themselves and partners, or another person,

- Allowing employees to rearrange holidays,

- Allowing employees to take paid time off that can be worked back at a later time etc.

I would encourage any employees affected by the lack of childcare to engage with their employer in the first instance with a view to exploring all options available to enable them to return to work.  I would encourage all employers to be as flexible and supportive as possible in the circumstances with a view to maintaining good employment relationships over the long term.

I trust this clarifies matters for the Deputy.

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