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Eurofound's COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the crisis, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for case IE-2020-13/777 Updated – measures in Ireland

Temporary COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme

Country Ireland , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 26 March 2020 – 31 August 2020
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Employment protection and retention
– Income support for people in employment (e.g. short-time work)
Author Roisin Farelly (IRN Publishing) and Eurofound
Case created 23 April 2020 (updated 02 February 2021)

Background information

On 24 March 2020 the Irish Government announced new measures to provide financial support to workers affected by the COVID-19 crisis. As part of these measures, the Revenue service operates a Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme. The scheme enables employees whose employers are affected by the pandemic to receive significant supports directly from their employer through the payroll system. The scheme is expected to last 12 weeks from 26 March 2020.

The scheme was introduced as part of the terms of the Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (COVID-19) Act 2020.

On Wednesday 15 April, the Minister for Finance announced further updates to the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.

The scheme was closed on the 31 of August and replaced by the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) read more on the COVID-19 data base website

Content of measure

The Scheme is available to employers from all sectors (excluding the public service and non-commercial semi-state sector) whose business activities are adversely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is open to employers who retain staff on payroll; some of the staff may be temporarily not working or some may be on reduced hours and/or reduced pay. Provided the employer meets certain conditions and, subject to the levels of pay made to employees, the employer may be eligible for the scheme for some, or all of its employees.

The employer includes the subsidy as part of the employees’ wages in addition to any amount that the employer would otherwise be able to pay. The subsidy element on the employee’s payslip is indicated as a payment described as 'GovCov19 WageSub'.

  • A subsidy of 85% is payable for employees whose net weekly income does not exceed €412.
  • A subsidy of 70% is payable for those whose net weekly pay was previously no more than €500 but less than €586, with a cap of €410.

To qualify for the Scheme, employers must be experiencing significant negative economic disruption due to COVID-19, be able to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of Revenue, a minimum of a 25% decline in turnover and be unable to pay normal wages and normal outgoings fully. They must also retain their employees on the payroll.

The scheme is confined to employees who were on the employer’s payroll as at 29 February 2020, and for whom a payroll submission was made to Revenue in the period from 1 February 2020 to 15 March 2020.

Updates

The following updates to this measure have been made after it came into effect.

31 August 2020

The COVID-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme closed on 31 August 2020. It was replaced by the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS).

07 July 2020

From 5th May the Scheme funds up to 85% of salaries. In addition, employees earning over €76,000 in take home pay, who had previously been excluded from the scheme, can apply if their gross pay had now fallen below the €76,000 level.

07 July 2020

The Government agreed to extend the scheme until the 31 August 2020 and businesses re-opening, who were not previously registered for the scheme, are able to apply to join the scheme, provided they meet the relevant eligibility criteria. This decision was taken “having regard to the novel set of arrangements surrounding the re-opening of the economy, as well as the need to avoid the risk of forcing otherwise viable firms to close”.

Ibec welcomed the extension. Chief Executive Danny McCoy said: 'The extension of the TWSS scheme until August will provide confidence to employers and employees, helping vulnerable firms to stay afloat and keeping their employees engaged whilst protecting the incomes of individuals.'

Companies were also asked to review their eligibility for the scheme. Where a business, after reviewing its position and the economic impact of the pandemic, considers that it did not meet the eligibility criteria but had reasonable grounds for assuming it would, it should immediately cease claiming the subsidy for the extended scheme. Revenue will require evidence of the assumptions supporting the original self-assessment of eligibility and, once the basis is reasonable, will not seek to claw-back the subsidy paid for the original period. If there was not a reasonable basis, the subsidy is repayable.

23 June 2020

On 23 June a facility was introduced to include in the scheme, apprentices returning to work who had been on an apprenticeship education and training programme in February 2020 and who therefore were not on their employer’s payroll in February 2020.

29 May 2020

Mothers returning from work had previously not been eligible to receive the COVID-19 wage subsidy support, as they had not been on the payroll of their employers on 29 February, nor they had been paid in either January or February. Following criticism from women's groups and opposition parties, the Irish government announced that the scheme would be retroactively modified, so mothers returning from maternity leave will become eligible, backdating it to 26 March. While legislation will be adapted as part of the usual Financial Bill cycle 2020, Irish Revenue will already implement the change.

When the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) was amended to allow women who were on maternity leave to access the payment, this was welcomed by ICTU. ICTU and the National Women’s Council had campaigned to have the anomaly addressed.

21 May 2020

On 21 May, Revenue has generated further subsidy payments under the scheme worth over €33 million. The cumulative value of payments made under the Scheme is now €1,048 million. This includes €96 million in income tax paid that has been refunded over the same time.

05 May 2020

From 5 May onwards, the scheme is based on each eligible employee’s average net weekly pay for January and February 2020, calculated from the payroll submissions made (to Revenue) by the employer for that period.

Use of measure

47,400 employers are registered with Revenue for the scheme.

According to the minister responsible, on 29 April 2020, 'The cumulative value of payments made to employers under the scheme is €652 million, almost 400,000 employees have now received at least one payment under the scheme'.

According to preliminary statistics from the Irish Revenue, to 21 May:

  • Over 55,500 employers registered with Revenue for the wage subsidy scheme.
  • Over 48,300 employers have already received subsidy payments.
  • Over 473,500 employees have already received at least one payment.

Up to 5 June 2020, over 58,300 employers had registered for the TWSS and over €1.37 billion had been paid out. The scheme has supported over 514,700 employees who received at least one payment. The cost of the scheme is over €500 million per month according to the Department of Finance.

According to data from the Central Bank: “The TWSS supported a cumulative 663,600 people since its inception accounting for, 28 per cent of employment (in Q1 2020). At its peak (end-April), the TWSS supported 425,000 workers, with approximately 340,000 still in receipt of subsidy payments at the closing of the scheme in September. Seventy per cent of supported workers had been availing of the scheme prior to 1 May. On average 58% of recipients were male, 77% were Irish nationals and 39% were aged under 34 years. “At end-August, three sectors – Accommodation and Food Services (24%), Wholesale and Retail Trade and Repairs (19), and Industry (10) – accounted for more than half of the TWSS recipients (Table 1). Within sectors, Accommodation/Food (54% of workers) and Retail (24) workers are particularly reliant on subsidies.”

According to the Irish Times: The employment wage subsidy scheme paid €1.4 billion to 39,800 employers in respect of 443,100 employees between September 2020 and January 2021.

According to a paper by the Department of Social Protection: “as at April 23rd, males accounted for 61.5 per cent of TWSS employees. The principal age cohorts were those aged between 30-39 years and 40-49 years representing 25.9 and 24.9 per cent of employees, respectively. Across all sectors, 84 per cent of employees are receiving a ‘top up’ from their employer; with the highest proportion of Page 17 employees receiving top ups being seen in the Utilities (93.4 per cent) and Finance and Insurance (93 per cent) sectors.14 Aside from activities of households as employers, the Accommodation and Food services sector sees the largest share of employees without a top up under TWSS, at 30.2 per cent.” “Data from Revenue shows the scheme has predominantly been utilised by smaller firms; 66 per cent of enrolled firms employ fewer than 10 workers, although these firms account for less than 22 per cent of all employees on the scheme… Meanwhile, the share of employers using the scheme is heavily weighted towards smaller firms; with over 80 per cent of employers availing of the TWSS seen in firms with less than 20 workers.”

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Does not apply to workers Applies to all businesses Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
National funds

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Consulted Consulted
Form Direct consultation outside a formal body Direct consultation outside a formal body

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • Unknown
  • Main level of involvement: Peak or cross-sectoral level

Involvement

Social partners were consulted. They welcomed the scheme and asked that it be extended for the duration of the crisis.

Views and reactions

Ibec, the group that represents Irish business, welcomed the COVID-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS). Ibec CEO Danny McCoy said: 'The TWSS scheme offers a strong solution for business and workforce continuity. It will continue to play a vital role in enabling the economy to bounce back at the other end of this crisis, helping vulnerable firms to stay afloat and keeping their employees engaged whilst protecting the incomes of individuals.'

Patricia King, General-Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions welcomed the Government’s decision to establish a Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme to maintain jobs and support workers’ incomes during this unprecedented crisis, as first called for by ICTU in its letter of 18 March to the Taoiseach when we outlined the urgent need for a 'temporary wage subsidy scheme’ that would help to keep workers in their jobs, protect them from unemployment and loss of income, and to help the economy rapidly recover when the COVID ends. 'These unprecedented times demand unprecedented measures to minimise the impact on workers, their families and the business community' , Patricia King said.

When the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) was amended to allow women who were on maternity leave to access the payment, this was welcomed by ICTU. ICTU and the National Women’s Council had campaigned to have the anomaly addressed.

Ibec welcomed the extension of the TWSS to 31 August. Chief Executive Danny McCoy said: 'The extension of the TWSS scheme until August will provide confidence to employers and employees, helping vulnerable firms to stay afloat and keeping their employees engaged whilst protecting the incomes of individuals.'

Sources

  • 25 April 2020: Revenue Commissioners (www.revenue.ie)
  • 29 April 2020: Covid-19: Over €650 million now given to businesses employed (www.thejournal.ie)
  • 05 May 2020: The Initial Impacts of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Ireland’s Labour Market (www.gov.ie)
  • 21 May 2020: COVID-19 Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme Preliminary Statistics (as at 21 May 2020) (revenue.ie)
  • 28 May 2020: Donohoe tweaks wage subsidy scheme so mothers returning from maternity qualify (www.irishtimes.com)
  • 02 June 2020: Opening up the Wage Subsidy Scheme to New Mothers Welcome - ICTU (www.ictu.ie)
  • 05 June 2020: Business welcomes acceleration of Covid Roadmap (www.ibec.ie)
  • 05 June 2020: Minister Donohoe announces extension of Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme until end August
  • 07 July 2020: COVID-19 information and advice for taxpayers and agents (www.revenue.ie)
  • 30 October 2020: Wage subsidies and job retention (www.centralbank.ie)
  • 06 January 2021: Government extends subsidy rates for the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme until March 31st (www.gov.ie)
  • 07 January 2021: Dark economic clouds foreshadow the storm yet to come (www.irishtimes.com)

Citation

Eurofound (2020), Temporary COVID-19 wage subsidy scheme, case IE-2020-13/777 (measures in Ireland), COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, http://eurofound.link/covid19eupolicywatch

Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process. All information is preliminary and subject to change.