Donohoe to address wage subsidy scheme error that excludes women returning from unpaid maternity

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe says he will bring a measure to Cabinet tomorrow to address an anomaly which has excluded some women from the temporary wage subsidy scheme.
Donohoe to address wage subsidy scheme error that excludes women returning from unpaid maternity
Paschal Donohoe wants "mothers who were and are on maternity leave, and who are planning to and want to come back to work, are treated equally".
Paschal Donohoe wants "mothers who were and are on maternity leave, and who are planning to and want to come back to work, are treated equally".

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe says he will bring a measure to Cabinet tomorrow to address an anomaly which has excluded some women from the temporary wage subsidy scheme.

Opposition parties have called for an extension of all maternity leave.

The scheme sees the Government subsidising up to 85% of wages for firms that have lost more than 25% of turnover due to the Covid-19 crisis.

However, an irregularity in the law was found last month which sees women who are returning from unpaid maternity leave and were not on their company’s payroll in January and February unable to access the subsidy.

Mr Donohoe said last week he was examining the issue with his department and the Revenue Commissioners. Today, he confirmed to the Dáil that a measure to clear up the anomaly would be brought to the Cabinet.

“I want to confirm to the House that I aim to bring a proposal to Cabinet tomorrow to resolve that issue. It was absolutely my intention to ensure that all were treated equally in front of the wage subsidy scheme.

I want to ensure that those mothers who were and are on maternity leave, and who are planning to and want to come back to work, are treated equally to those who are already in work and already on the wage subsidy scheme.

However, the Government is also facing calls to extend the period of maternity leave benefit for women whose children were born during the pandemic or who are due to return to work during it.

People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith asked Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty about a possible extension and was told it would cost €136m for three months, based on current levels. Ms Doherty said such an extension was a matter for Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.

Ms Smith said that figure amounted to little more than one month of the Government’s deal with private hospitals and she hopes to bring a motion on the issue to the Dáil in the coming weeks.

“There are thousands of mothers who are faced with the prospect of returning to work in the coming weeks in a situation where there is no childcare available, and no possibility of relying on grandparents or other networks because of the pandemic. It is a basic demand that those on maternity must have that leave extended by the State for the duration of this crisis. We have effectively frozen the last three months in other spheres such as planning and development, we need to do the same for the thousands of women facing an impossible situation.

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty said he believed a three-month extension was “justifiable”.

“We have this in our manifesto — that we want to extend maternity leave to 12 months. In the current circumstances, it is entirely justifiable. We also think it would be of benefit for the childcare sector — if parents are able to stay home with their younger children, it will take pressure off as the childcare sector reopens.”

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