Thursday, 13 July 2023
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
352. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if he will consider the introduction of an employment wage support scheme for small to medium sized enterprises; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35002/23]
A key objective of the White Paper on Enterprise 2022-2030 is to ensure that the wider economic and enterprise ecosystem is appropriately supported, and that Ireland can continue promoting strong employment growth and a resilient SME sector. Targets on maintaining full employment and ensuring balanced regional employment growth are listed amongst the 15 targets for delivery set out in the White Paper.
The White Paper details Government’s commitment to supporting Ireland`s SME base through initiatives such as the expansion of Local Enterprise Offices (LEO`s) supports, increasing access to finance for SMEs, as well as addressing productivity challenges in the locally traded sector. Through the LEO`s, the Priming and Business Expansion grants in particular support SME employment, by including salary costs as eligible expenditure. This is under the condition that a maximum grant of €15,000 per full time job created shall apply in respect of any employment support granted.
Previous wage support schemes such as the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) were unique schemes developed and operated in exceptional circumstances during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Beyond such circumstances, a general scheme of employment wage support for small to medium sized enterprises would constitute State Aid, which is prohibited under the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU due to its potential to distort competition and affect trade between Member States of the European Union.
The Government has however, provided a wider range of measures to support Irish enterprise and Irish workers as we face strong headwinds in the global economy. A total of €12 billion has now been provided in direct relief to absorb some of the impacts and to ease the burden of inflation on households and businesses. Government has also introduced the €200 million Ukraine Enterprise Crisis Scheme, to assist vulnerable firms in managing the economic impact of the current crisis in Ukraine. The €100 million Brexit Response Scheme and the Brexit Resilience Fund were introduced to bolster the resilience of companies facing Brexit related challenges, whilst the Brexit Impact Loan Scheme will provide up to €330 million to SMEs that have been impacted by Brexit and COVID-19.
In regards to short-time work support, the Pathways to Work 2021-2025 strategy, sponsored by Minister Humphreys and her Department, includes the following commitment: "building on the EWSS/TWSS and drawing on existing international models, explore the possibility of introducing a new Short Time Work Support scheme to enable employers retain people on their payroll in response to short-duration shocks to employment".
Further details on the Pathways to Work strategy, including the ‘First Annual Progress Report, July 2021 to June 2022’, can be located as follows: www.gov.ie/en/publication/1feaf-pathways-to-work-2021/.