Public servants who ignore the Government’s advice to avoid all non-essential foreign travel will not be paid their salaries for any 14-day period of quarantine on their return to Ireland.
The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Heather Humphreys, said on Monday that the country’s 330,000 public servants would face a similar sanction to people in receipt of the PUP who failed to following the guidelines on travel outside Ireland.
Speaking on RTÉ’s News at One, Ms Humphreys defended the controversial measure to carry out checks on travellers at airports to see if they were in receipt of the PUP.
The Minister said: “If any of those [public servants] chose to travel abroad, they will not be paid for the two-week quarantine period when they return. Equally there’s many private companies have also told their staff that if they choose to go abroad, they will not be paid for that period that they have to quarantine when they come home. So we’re not trying to pick on anyone here. We’re doing what is right by the country to protect our people.”
Ms Humphreys said the country was at a crucial stage in dealing with coronavirus.
“The Irish people have sacrificed so much and nobody wants to see us go back,” she remarked.
The Minister said the public health advice in relation to foreign travel was “very clear” with all non-essential journeys abroad to be avoided.
Ms Humphreys reassured any social welfare claimants who had to travel for health reasons, family bereavements or other essential matters, that they would not suffer any deductions to their normal payments.
Under normal circumstances social welfare recipients on jobseekers’ payments are allowed to take a two-week holiday without any impact on their regular payments.
However, Ms Humphreys said the Government had temporarily suspended that flexibility of receiving their usual payments while abroad because “we are not in normal circumstances.”
She acknowledged that some people in receipt of PUP should start looking for work as they might not be able to return to their former job.
The Minister said the reduction in the number of people claiming the PUP, which has fallen from a peak of around 600,000 on May 5 to 286,900 last week, was “very encouraging”.
She welcomed the fact that the biggest reduction in recent weeks were among those aged under 25 “That’s particularly good news because part of the Government’s focus is on getting our young people back to work,” said Ms Humphreys.