Companies encouraged to fund scheme to replace JobBridge

A potential showdown between Government and business groups is looming after the Coalition said companies participating in a new scheme replacing JobBridge must make larger, yet-to- be-agreed contributions to interns’ pay.
Companies encouraged to fund scheme to replace JobBridge

Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar confirmed the situation yesterday, saying that “there should be an employer contribution to gain access to the programme” and that future interns must be guaranteed at least the net minimum wage from state and private sector funds.

Under long-flagged measures formally announced in a new report into the JobBridge scheme, the Government is scrapping the deeply divisive internship system from this Friday and replacing it will a new group from next summer.

While existing nine-month placements will continue until their conclusion, just 2,500 placements will be allowed under the new system and will be focused specifically on the private sector, with public groups only allowed to participate if they can prove there is a genuine chance of employment for interns after their placements end.

Mr Varadkar said the JobBridge replacement will see a working week cap of 30 hours instead of the existing 40-hour JobBridge ceiling, reduce placements from nine months to six months, limit the number of interns to 10% of a company’s workforce, and guarantee that interns receive at least the net minimum wage.

This means participants will be in line to receive about €258 per week, compared to the existing system which works out at €152.50 per week for a person under the age of 25 and €240.50 per week for older participants.

The recommendations have been made in an independent review of the Job-Bridge system by consultancy firm Indecon, which was itself reviewed by the Labour Market Council which concluded, among other recommendations, that the taxpayer contribution to the new scheme should be limited to the first three months of a six-month placement.

In addition to the changes, Mr Varadkar said he expects employers taking part in the new scheme to pay a “contribution” to interns’ wages, which the Indecon and Labour Market Council reports separately said could be a blunt contribution or a programme registration fee.

However, despite the minister and his spokesperson last night saying the exact figure will be the subject of a consultation process with businesses and other interest groups in the coming weeks, no suggested rate for the employer contribution has been put forward.

And while the internship funding increase has been widely welcomed, the crucial part of the plan is risking a showdown with small and medium-sized businesses which claim to be already critical of Brexit, the 10c minimum wage budget rise and other rising costs.

“There should be an employer contribution to gain access to the entry to the programme, and I think that will reduce the risk of exploitation,” Mr Varadkar confirmed at the launch of the reports at the Royal Irish Academy yesterday.

An Ibec spokesperson last night declined to comment on what type of contribution, if any, businesses would be willing to pay for six-month net minimum wage placements which taxpayers may only fund for three months until after the consultation process begins.

Small Firms Association director Patricia Callan said while most firms are willing to pay an amount it would “certainly not be towards the minimum wage”, and similarly declined to provide a figure until after the consultation process begins.

JobBridge was introduced at the depth of the recession in 2011 in a bid to help the long-term unemployed back to work.

It was quickly criticised for taking advantage of unemployed people and young college graduates.

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