Three unions have penned a letter to the finance minister as an “oversight” in the temporary wage subsidy scheme (TWSS) has seen mothers returning from maternity leave to work miss out on pay.
The TWSS was put in place by the government for employers who have been impacted by the pandemic in order to keep employees on the payroll throughout the crisis so they could return to work.
However, the scheme requires that employees be on the payroll in January and February 2020 to prove they were employed.
Lower paid workers who were on maternity leave and are now returning to work cannot benefit from the scheme as their employers did not provide top ups for their Maternity Benefit to constitute full wages and they did not appear on the payroll.
While workers can sign up for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP), they have no guarantee of returning to work after the crisis.
The National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) and unions SIPTU and ICTU wrote a letter to finance minister Paschal Donohoe today asking for the anomaly in the scheme to be addressed.
“This anomaly in the administration of the TWSS has the potential to be discriminatory since workers returning from maternity leave are returning under different pay/conditions from their colleagues,” the letter reads.
“As it currently stands, the exclusion of women returning from maternity leave from the TWSS is both discriminatory and deeply unjust,” it adds.
Speaking to Independent.ie, ICTU Social Policy Officer Dr Laura Bambrick said that the “oversight” was made as the scheme was put in place very quickly.
“One lady wrote to me earlier in the week and she had been an employee for ten years and is due to go back, clearly an employee of that business, but because she can’t show that she was on the payroll, she’s not entitled to the wage subsidy,” she explained.
She said that this anomaly was created due to the speed of the scheme being put in.
“The legislation was written up and the Oireachtas passed it and the President signed it, then Revenue started implementing it, all within ten days.
“Everything was done very rushed so there have been some anomalies,” she said.
Those returning from sick leave may also be impacted.
“It might also impact people who are coming back from sick leave who were on a state illness payment and didn’t get a top up from their employer,” Dr Bambrick said.
48,100 employers have registered under the scheme and higher paid jobs have added top-ups to employee’s pay, so they receive their regular wages.
Over 35,200 employers have already received subsidy payments under TWSS.
“There can be cases where an employee was in employment but who did not receive normal pay in January or February 2020, such as reduced pay, maternity leave, illness benefit or off-pay leave,” said a spokesperson for Revenue.
“In such cases, the employer can either operate the scheme based on Average Revenue Net Weekly Pay, or pay the employee the appropriate wages without receiving a subsidy refund.”
However, Dr Bambrick said that these options are “not going to be workable".