- 25 Mar 20
In a major step forward for employers and employees alike, the Government has announced substantial new measures, designed to keep people in employment – if at all possible – for the duration of the coronavirus crisis. Plus: new limits have been imposed in relation to testing for Covid-19.
The government has announced new plans to help sustain employment through the coronavirus crisis.
Reflecting recommendations made earlier this week on hotpress.com, the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe (pictured) made the commitment yesterday to paying 70% of the wages of employees, in a special employment subsidy scheme designed to maintain the link between employers and employees as the crisis unfolds.
Similar schemes have been introduced in Denmark and the UK, where the commitment is to pay 75% and 80% respectively. However, in Ireland, crucially the government has also committed to treating the self-employed equally under the scheme.
From the outset, Hot Press has argued for the equal treatment of all citizens in the current emergency, and to a very large extent, the government employment scheme is designed to meet that objective.
Emergency employment legislation will be put to the Dáil on Thursday night. If it passes – and there is unlikely to be any opposition – then the mechanisms will be unlocked and payments can be made. They will be handled by the Revenue Commissioners, on behalf of the Government.
The scheme will, where possible, be extended to staff who were let go over the previous fortnight, because of employers’ inability to continue paying wages. The Minister for Finance has urged employers to examine details of the scheme and to see if they can move people back from an unemployment scheme into the employment subsidy plan.
The underlying philosophy, as outlined also by the Minister for Social Protection, Regina Doherty, is based on the principle that Ireland's route back to economic health is made far more straightforward, and hopefully quicker, if employees can be maintained in a relationship with their employer.
This scheme will run for a period of 12 weeks – at which time the Government will consider what other measures might be necessary. Clearly, the hope is that the crisis will have – to a large extent at least – run its course by then. Doubtless, people across the country will be keeping their fingers crossed.
• In other coronavirus news, the government has announced that, from now on, only people with two major symptoms will be tested for the virus. The change is in line with WHO (World Health Authority) guidelines.
Critical to the new guidelines is the requirement that someone should have a fever, or temperature. In addition, they must have either a cough or shortness of breath before they will be tested.
The only exceptions to these new rules relate to any of the priority groups, testing of whom has wider health or virus-related significance. Individuals who fall into these categories include healthcare workers, close contacts of a confirmed case and people from what are considered vulnerable groups.
The total number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Ireland, as of yesterday evening, was 1,329. However, standing at seven, the number of deaths in this jurisdiction is still relatively low. There are 1,317 cases of currently infected patients. Of these, 98% are experiencing what has been termed a “mild condition”. Separate from the fatalities to date, 29 cases have been deemed serious or critical. The hope is that of this 2%, as many lives as possible can be saved.