CEO Update: Pandemic payments & wage subsidy scheme

March 25, 2020

We have had a huge response from you since yesterday which is most helpful to receive and we continue to channel it through to appropriate stakeholders.

A serious issue is now arising over the course of this afternoon on which we are actively engaging with policy makers and political stakeholders.  This is on the emergence of a potential disincentive to work arising from the higher-level pandemic welfare payment of €350 per week. This is of course an unintended consequence of the swift introduction of measures but nonetheless will need to be urgently addressed before it impacts the workforce of key sectors. Many of our members are reporting a negative impact from this payment and foresee a major difficulty if not addressed in legislative debate tomorrow or revised guidance and application processes for the scheme. We have spoken with Minister Humphreys and Minister Doherty on it this evening, as well as opposition spokespersons and Secretary Generals.

Separately, reaction to the Government’s wage subsidy scheme has been enormous as impacted businesses endeavour to support vulnerable workers until we emerge from this crisis.  Ibec’s employer relations team has been fielding queries from across many sectors over the course of today. The complexity of how business operates and the diverse nature of employment contracts means that each case must be considered individually as we unpick the measures and asses how business can apply them to their set of circumstances.  

The process is time consuming as Revenue, Ibec and individual employers tease out how best to make the scheme workable.  There are many challenges involved but the willingness to engage at the most senior levels in Revenue is supportive and appreciated as together we understand what are unprecedented moves to ensure business continuity.

This morning we held a follow up with Niall Cody, Chair of the Revenue Commissioners to discuss and work through some of the queries that you had channeled through Ibec.  This work is ongoing but for the moment I would like to share the following broad principles from this discussion:

Enterprise eligibility requirements will not be hard wired into legislation and a pragmatic approach will be taken to support impacted business.
The review decline criterion will reflect the applicants future expectations of crisis impact rather than a measure of impact to date.
Utilisation of the scheme will be at the full discretion of the employer who will also determine for when and how work is carried out. 

Thank you for your support and engagement on this and I am working through each email to respond to you individually. 

For those of you who don’t already follow us, we have updated the Ibec podcast to reflect the times we are in and have released a short episode today on Spotify and Apple with commentary from Maeve McElwee, Ibec Director of Employer Relations.  If you haven’t already viewed, can I draw your attention to FAQ’s on which is continuously updating as the different scenarios arise.

Finally, on political engagement, I spoke to Minister Heather Humphreys earlier today on the cashflow preservation measures for businesses. At this juncture the indication is that the scale of measures will not be increased in the short-term with reliance on working capital from the banking system and Revenue Commissioners forbearance measures.