Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What social welfare supports are available to support people during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) has announced three new schemes to support people who have been affected by COVID-19:
Enhanced Illness Benefit:
If you are diagnosed with COVID-19 or are suspected of having COVID-19 and are medically required to self-isolate, you can apply for an enhanced Illness Benefit of €350. It will be paid for 2 weeks where a person is self-isolating (this can be increased by a further 2 weeks if you are told to self isolate again by the HSE) and for a maximum of 10 weeks if a person has been diagnosed with COVID-19. If you have been certified for less than 10 weeks you will be paid for the duration of your certificate. To get the payment, you must have a medical certificate called a ‘Certificate of incapacity for work’ from your own doctor or have a letter or text notification from the HSE telling you that you have been identified as having contact with someone who has COVID-19.
The COVID-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit scheme was due to cease after August 10th 2020. On August 4th 2020, the Government announced that the scheme would be extended until March 31st 2021.
COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment:
Weekly social welfare payment of up to €350 available to all employees and the self-employed aged between 18 – 66 years who have lost all of their employment due to COVID-19. Since 29th June 2020, the rate of COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is linked to your prior earnings. You do not need to contact the DEASP about your earnings. The DEASP has access to this information from Revenue. People whose average weekly earnings were €200 or more per week prior to the pandemic receive €350. Those whose average weekly earnings were €199.99 or less per week receive €203.
The Government announced under the July Jobs Stimulus that the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment will be paid until April 1st 2021. From 17th September 2020, the following changes will apply:
- The payment will be closed to new applicants
- A new rate of €250 will be introduced for people who previously earned between €200 and €300 per week.
- The maximum rate of payment will be reduced from €350 to €300 for people who previously earned over €300 per week
The rate of payment will be reduced again in February 2021 to bring it gradually in line with the standard jobseeker payment of €203. From February 1st 2021, the following changes will apply:
- The rate of payment will be reduced from €250 to €203 for people who previously earned between €200 and €300 per week
- The rate of payment will be reduced from €300 to €250 for people who previously earned over €300 per week
Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme:
Allows employers to continue to pay their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. It aims to keep employees registered with their employers so that they will be able to get back to work quickly after the pandemic. If your employer implements the scheme, you will not need to apply for a social welfare payment. The Scheme is available to employers from all sectors (except for the public service and non-commercial semi-state sector) who have lost a minimum of 25% of turnover because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers will have to make a declaration to Revenue confirming this.
Levels of subsidy since 4 May 2020
Since 4 May 2020, the subsidy payment has moved to a system based on the previous weekly average take home pay for each employee. The previous weekly average take home pay is based on an employee’s pay in January and February 2020.
Levels of Subsidy Payment
Previous average take home pay below €412 per week
85% of the weekly average take home pay
Previous average take home pay between €412 and €500 per week
Flat rate subsidy of €350 per week
Previous average take home pay between €500 and €586 per week
70% of the weekly average take home pay, up to a maximum of €410
Previous average take home pay between €586 and €960 per week
Subsidy is subject to ‘tapering’.
· Flat rate subsidy of €350 per week, where the employer pays a top up payment up to 60% of the employee’s previous weekly take home pay
· Flat rate subsidy of €205 per week, where the employer pays a top up payment between 60% and 80% of the employee’s previous weekly take home pay
· No subsidy is payable, where the employer pays a top up payment above 80% of the employee’s previous weekly take home pay
Previous average take home pay above €960 per week
Employees whose average take home pay has fallen below €960 can now avail of the scheme, subject to the tapering rules (see above).
No subsidy applies for employee’s whose current pay is more than €960. This is the case regardless of the level of any reduction in pay.
The scheme will run until the end of August 2020. It was announced on 23 July 2020, that under the July Jobs Stimulus Package that a new Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) will succeed the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, and run until April 2021. Under this scheme, employers and new firms in sectors impacted by COVID-19 whose turnover has fallen 30% will get a flat-rate subsidy of up to €203 per week per employee, including seasonal staff and new employees.
Q. I’m a family carer and receive Carer’s Allowance. I also work part-time for less than 18.5 hours per week. I’ve just lost my job due to COVID-19. Can I apply for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment?
Yes, family carers who lose their employment due to COVID-19 can apply for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment. You will be allowed to keep your Carer’s Allowance and receive an additional payment to compensate for your lost earnings.
Q. Are carers receiving a Half-Rate Carer’s Allowance or Carer’s Benefit eligible for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment?
Yes, family carers in receipt of the Half-Rate Carer’s Allowance and Carer’s Benefit are eligible to apply for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment if they have been laid off due to COVID-19. You will be allowed to keep your Carer’s Benefit or Half-Rate Carer’s Allowance and receive an additional payment to compensate for your lost earnings.
Q. What about carers who don’t receive Carer’s Allowance or only receive the annual Carer’s Support Grant?
COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is paid to anyone, including the self-employed, who have lost their employment due to COVID-19. You do not have to have been receiving a social welfare payment before the crisis to apply.
Q. How long will the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment be paid?
The Department had initially stated that it would pay the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment for 6 weeks however on March 24th they confirmed that it will continue to be paid for the duration of the pandemic. As part of the July Stimulus Package it was confirmed that the Pandemic Unemployment Payment will continue until April 1st 2021 however rates will change on September 17th and again in February 1st 2021.
Q. I haven’t lost my job but my hours have been reduced due to COVID-19. What should I do?
If your working hours are reduced to 3 days or less per week and you had previously been working fulltime, you should apply for Short Time Work Support to compensate for your lost hours of work.
Q. I haven’t been laid off but have had to voluntarily leave work because the schools and creches are closed and I have no childcare. Can I apply for the COVID-19 Unemployment Payment?
Yes, if you left work to look after your child because of school or childcare closures during the public health emergency and you are not being paid by your employer, you can apply for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. You can contact the DEASP using MyWelfare or call 1890 800 024 to check if you can qualify.
Q. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak I earned less than €350 per week. If I apply for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment it means my weekly income will increase. How does this work and will the increase have to be repaid when the crisis is over?
Many people, including family carers who earned less than €350 per week, will temporarily see their weekly income increase as a result of receiving the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. For those who earned more before the crisis, their income will decrease. Former Minister Regina Doherty gave assurances to the Dáil that there would be no ‘claw back’ of payments made to those receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment while also receiving another social welfare payment. Family Carers Ireland understand that this commitment has also been made by the newly appointed Minister Health Humphreys.
Q. How should I apply for COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment?
The quickest and easiest way to apply for the emergency COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is by applying online at mywelfare.ie. You will need:
- A basic MyGov.ie account (all you need is an e-mail address and password)
- Your personal details
- Your bank details (only Irish banks)
Alternatively, you can apply by post by completing the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment application form and returning to Freepost, PO Box 12896, Dublin 1. Instructions and a copy of the application form are available here. You can get an application form posted to you by emailing your request and your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. How long does it take for my application to be processed and the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment to be paid?
Because it’s an emergency payment, processing times are typically less than one week. People should check their bank accounts to see if a payment has been made as the Department are unlikely to contact you in advance.
Q. Where will my COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment be paid?
Payment is made by electronic transfer only (into your bank account) and only into accounts held in Irish financial institutions. It will be paid in to your bank account every Tuesday once your application is processed.
Q. Do age limits apply for COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment?
Yes, you must be aged between 18 and 66 years to be eligible for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
Q. I’m a carer and receive Carer’s Allowance but also work as a Care Assistant in a hospital. Because of the crisis, my employer has asked me to work more than 18.5 hours. Can I work more than 18.5 hours and still keep my Carer’s Allowance?
No, the normal rules associated with Carer’s Allowance, including not being permitted to work/study more than 18.5 hours, still stand.
Q. I’m a family carer for my child who has special needs. I also work. Because the schools and crèches are now closed, I have no childcare while I’m at work. Is there any special leave I can apply for to help us get through this time?
Yes. The Carer’s Leave Act 2001 allows employees to leave their employment temporarily to provide full-time care for someone in need of full-time care and attention – called Carer’s Leave. You are entitled to take Carer’s Leave of at least 13 weeks up to a maximum of 104 weeks. You may be eligible for Carer’s Benefit of €220 per week if you have enough PRSI contributions. If you do not qualify for Carer’s Benefit, you may qualify for Carer’s Allowance which is a means-tested payment. You can take Carer’s Leave even if you do not qualify for these payments.
Q. I work part-time and receive Carer’s Allowance. I have been medically directed by my GP to self-isolate. Am I entitled to the Enhanced Illness Benefit of €350?
Generally where a carer receives a reduced carer’s payment which is paid at a rate lower than the Illness Benefit Rate, Illness Benefit may be paid to ensure that the aggregate payment will equal the rate of Illness Benefit or enhanced Illness Benefit appropriate to the person’s circumstances. In current circumstances, a person’s primary payment (in this case Carer’s Allowance) will be supplemented by the Supplementary Welfare Allowance up to the rate appropriate to their earnings level in the case of a regular illness and to €350 if they meet the medical criteria for enhanced Illness Benefit, subject to the same employment and certification conditions as all other scenarios.
Q. I currently receive Carer’s Benefit but have been told by my GP to self-isolate. Can I claim the enhanced Illness Benefit of €350 along with Carer’s Benefit?
No, the enhanced Illness Benefit is not payable alongside Carer’s Benefit.
Q. I’m currently on Maternity Leave and receive Maternity Benefit and Half-Rate Carer’s Allowance. I’m due to return to my part-time job next week however my employer’s business has shut down due to COVID-19. Can I apply for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment?
Yes, you can claim the COVID-19 payment from the date you are due to return to work after your Maternity Leave has ended.
Q. Where can I go for more information and support?
Family Carers Ireland has produced an Emergency Care Plan booklet in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. We are also continuing to offer information, advice and support to family carers through our dedicated Careline 1800 240724.