We review the recent changes to the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) scheme.
The July Jobs Stimulus Package
The Irish Government published the July Jobs Stimulus Package to assist the economic recovery of the country and encourage employment opportunities and growth. The package includes changes to the financial assistance schemes available to both employers and employees. The legal basis for the scheme is set out in the Financial Provisions (COVID-19) (No.2) Act 2020.
Eligibility for the PUP scheme
The PUP was originally introduced to support eligible employees, self-employed people, students and part-time workers who lost work since 13 March as a direct result of the pandemic. Eligibility has also now been extended to people living in direct provision who have lost employment as they were originally excluded from the scheme. Applicants must not be in receipt of any employment income and they must be genuinely seeking work. Individuals who have voluntarily left employment are not eligible for the scheme.
The PUP is not available to anyone who:
Was not in employment immediately before Friday 13 March
Has not been laid-off from work by their employer
Is continuing to receive income from employment, or
Has voluntarily left employment
Changes to the scheme
New applications for the payment will not be considered after 17 September 2020. After that, new applicants seeking support will be directed to other social welfare schemes and the rate of payment will gradually reduce until the PUP scheme ends on 1 April 2021. Payment rates will change on 17 September 2020, 1 February 2021 and 1 April 2021.
Following well publicised reports of checks carried out at Irish airports, the Department of Social Protection confirmed that a number of PUP claims were stopped after claimants had travelled internationally. Now, individuals will be allowed to go on holiday abroad for up to two weeks to Government-designated “Green-List” countries without having their payment stopped.
With effect from 17 September 2020, individuals who were earning less than €200 per week prior to the pandemic will see their payment decrease from €350 per week to €203, the equivalent of Jobseekers Benefit.
From 17 September 2020, the following three rates of payment will be introduced:
Further amendments to the above payments will be introduced in February and April 2021. From 1 February 2021, the rates will change to €203 for anyone who earned less than €300 per week and €250 for anyone who earned over €300. From 1 April 2021, anyone in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will need to apply for either Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance.
Employers who were forced to temporarily lay off staff as a result of the pandemic should direct eligible staff to apply for the PUP online at mywelfare.ie. As the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection are updating their website on a continuous basis with the latest information on the above supports, both employers and employees should keep up to date with the most recent Revenue and Government guidelines.