The Government is preparing for a wave of redundancies in the coming months as emergency Covid protections are lifted.
Announcing a fund to support those who lose their jobs in the wake of the pandemic, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said his department estimated that between 25,000 and 56,000 people could be laid off in the next three years, which would cost the taxpayer up to €130m,
The special payment is aimed at ensuring workers who were laid off or put on shorter hours during the pandemic are not penalised when it comes to calculating their redundancy entitlements.
This lump sum payment of up to €1,860 will make up for lost reckonable service while in receipt of the PUP or another jobseeker's payment during the pandemic.
Emergency measures introduced in March 2020 effectively suspended an employee’s right to seek redundancy if they had been laid off or put on short-time work, as it was feared such claims could put extra pressure on struggling employers and could lead to insolvency.
However, the measure will be axed at the end of this month.
General secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions Patricia King said she expected a wave of redundancies to follow. Without the special provisions, she said, "tens of thousands of workers, having been laid off due to the pandemic and their redundancy rights being suspended, would lose out on almost 19 months of redundancy pay, where such payments arise".
She added the full effects of the pandemic in relation to job losses may not be seen until next year or the year after.
Siptu services division organiser Teresa Hannick said redundancies were expected in a number of areas, including those working in catering companies and in leisure centres, which have yet to bounce back from Covid, as well as the retail sector.
Welcoming the Government measure, Ms Hannick said: “Thousands of Siptu members working in the services division were laid off or put on short-time work during the pandemic. While a large majority have returned, or are returning, to full-time work, there are hundreds of Siptu members who may face a redundancy situation at the end of September.”
Mr Varadkar said it was "hard to estimate" how many people would be made redundant in the coming months adding: "We're estimating it will cost between €30m and €130m over the next three years.
The Tánaiste added that there are still 100,000 people on PUP, some of whom are "caught in limbo" as taking up new employment would mean they forfeit their redundancy payments
Mr Varadkar said the Government agreed to introduce the payment to ensure workers would not be left short and employers would not be burdened with heavy costs.
"They'll be able to say to their employer: 'Take me back on, or essentially make me redundant and release me'."
The measure will require primary legislation, which will be pushed through before Christmas. However, this means the State element of payments won't be received by people until the new year, even if they are made redundant in the coming weeks.
Sinn Féin spokesperson on workers’ rights Louise O’Reilly said the devil would be in the detail when it comes to the redundancy scheme to cater for workers and businesses as we exit Covid-19.