Dole for self-employed is 'unfair', unions complain

Minister Regina Doherty: changes to jobseeker benefit. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Charlie Weston

Trade unions have criticised the move to allow the self-employed claim the dole despite the low rate of social insurance they pay.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions questioned why Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty has sanctioned the granting of jobseeker's benefit to those who work for themselves when they only pay PRSI of 4pc.

This compares with the 14.85pc contribution for PAYE workers, made up of 4pc from the employee, with the rest from the employer.

Self-employed workers have to apply for means-tested jobseeker's allowances based on the previous year's income.

This excludes many seeking unemployment benefits when their businesses collapse.

However, the Budget saw jobseeker's benefit extended to thousands of those who are self-employed.

Jobseeker's Benefit is paid for nine months for people with 260 or more PRSI contributions paid.

The Budget also saw them given a new entitlement to parental leave. But the social policy officer of Congress Dr Laura Bambrick said it was unfair employees were paying three times more for benefits that were now being extended to the self-employed.

In the last year the self-employed have also gained from an extension of PRSI treatment benefits, which covers dental and optical costs, and the invalidity pension.

Dr Bambrick said: "Even before Budget 2019 comes in to effect, the self-employed already have access to 80pc in value terms of contributory benefits while making a mere 28pc of the effective rate of social insurance paid in respect to PAYE workers."

She said this was happening at a time when the Government was making it more difficult to qualify for the full-rate contributory State pension and increasing the pension age to 68.

Dr Bambrick said the self-employed were not being asked to pay more PRSI even though a survey commissioned by the Department of Social Protection of 20,000 self-employed workers last year found that 88pc would be willing to pay higher social insurance contributions for better benefits.

A spokesperson for Ms Doherty's Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection defended the move to pay the dole to the self-employed.

"This measure is part of the Government's stated aim of creating a supportive environment for entrepreneurship, including providing an income safety net to employees and the self-employed alike," they said.

Employers' body Isme said the trade unions were not being fair or logical in their opposition to the move to extend jobseeker's benefit to those who work for themselves.