Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has described the exclusion of women on maternity leave from the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme as unacceptable and discriminatory.
Her comments follow the confirmation by the government that women returning from maternity leave will not be entitled to the wage subsidy scheme and instead will only qualify for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
For many women, this will amount to a considerable drop in income.
Teachta McDonald said: “This is a clear and unacceptable case of discrimination against women returning from maternity leave. It is inexcusable that this oversight has been allowed to occur.
“Women who decide to return to work after maternity leave deserve the full backing and support of the state, not regressive barriers and discrimination.
“We have been told time and again that the purpose of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme is to retain the link between employers and their employees for the duration of the emergency period.
“The rationale provided by the Revenue Commissioner to me for the exclusion of women returning to work at this time is that the scheme is confined to employees who were on the employer’s payroll on 29 February 2020.
“Revenue’s position flies in the face of the stated intent of the scheme. Worse still, it is actively pushing employed women unnecessarily into unemployment.
“Maternity leave legally establishes the employee as being at work and employed. The decision to exclude women returning from maternity from the TWSS ignores the spirit and intent of the maternity protections contained within the Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015. This in itself is a deeply regressive outcome.
“I want to commend the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and SIPTU for pursuing this matter.
“I first wrote to the Finance Minister on the 24 April calling on him to urgently address this discriminatory anomaly within the Temporary Wage Subsidy scheme and again following receipt of the Revenue Commissioners response.
“It is clear that the Minister needs to instruct Revenue to administer the scheme in accordance with the provisions of employment rights legislation.”