Government to ramp up support for laid-off workers

The Government is considering a proposal under which it could pay up to three-quarters of the wages of thousands of staff who have been laid off as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

In the interim, the Government on Friday night announced changes to its existing financial support arrangements, which would allow employers to top up the Covid-19 unemployment payment of €203 per week offered by the State to the 140,000 people who have lost their jobs in the past week.

Sources said Ministers were now looking at a broader scheme similar to measures being introduced elsewhere in Europe and the UK, where the government has committed to pay 80 per cent of wages, up to £2,500 per month, for people out of work as a result of the pandemic.

It is expected the details of such a scheme will be announced in the next week, with work ongoing at Government level on how it would apply in Ireland.

Trade unions submitted proposals to Government on Friday for a €1.75 billion scheme which would pay workers up to a cap equivalent of €40,000 per year. It would see the Government pay 75 per cent of the wages for up to three months, with employers covering the remainder.

Unions and business lobby groups had strongly criticised the Government over the rules governing its existing employer refund scheme, which they maintained would penalise employers who gave workers additional money.

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty said last night the Government had agreed that employers who engaged with the scheme “should be allowed to top up the payment by the State”.

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