Fianna Fáil promises to boost entitlements for self-employed
Self-employed workers must get the chance to increase their PRSI contributions to give them sick pay and unemployment payment entitlements, Fianna Fáil has insisted.
The party says people who have worked for themselves - and in many circumstances given work to others - have been given a very poor deal under the current welfare regime.
Fianna Fáil's welfare spokesman, Willie O'Dea, has pledged a system of selective voluntary opt-ins for self-employed people as part of the party's election manifesto to be unveiled next month. This would upgrade entitlements from the current situation, which in the main only guarantees a contributory pension to self-employed contributors.
The outline plan, signalled by the party, would be to offer graduated opt-ins to self-employed workers as well as those who operate small businesses.
It would extend unemployment payments and sickness benefits to the self-employed, which many people found to their dismay in the recent recession were not available.
Mr O'Dea said the self-employed would be able to opt into the employed workers' benefit on the same basis of income as already applies.
He suggested that self-employed people earning more than €356 per week could make voluntary payments of 4pc to top up their entitlements.
Mr O'Dea said it was necessary to address the plight of people who took risks to set up businesses and generate employment. He said many people who hired others found their former workers were better looked after than they were.
"Given the rapidly changing nature of work, we need to re-focus the welfare system and make it more flexible," Mr O'Dea said.
The former government minister said the Social Protection Department must undertake an extensive information campaign to fully explain self-employed people's rights under the current regime.