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Driving instructors warn of COVID-19 risks in absence of sector-specific safety protocols

By unitetheunion

Unite logo white out of red

Potential 20,000 daily personal interactions in sector

July 12th: Unite, which represents driving instructors throughout Ireland, today (Sunday) warned that both instructors and learners could be at risk unless rigorous safety protocols are developed which take account of conditions specific to the sector.  The union has written to Transport Minister Eamon Ryan highlighting instructors’ concerns, pointing out that they were not consulted prior to being included in Phase 3 of the re-opening ‘roadmap’, and asking the Minister to facilitate engagement between all stakeholders in order to develop sector-specific safety protocols.

Commenting, Unite Regional Officer Jean O’Dowd said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing have focused attention on the challenges faced by different sectors in keeping those providing and using services safe.

“Driving instructors face particular issues given that their work is carried out within the small enclosed space of a car, and involves close interaction with learners.  Our members estimate that there could be up to 20,000 personal interactions in the sector every day.  Both the confined space and the close interaction pose an obvious risk for both instructors and users.

“Unite has written to Minister Eamon Ryan highlighting these issues and asking him to facilitate engagement between all stakeholders in the sector to develop safety protocols which will keep everyone safe and ensure that the sector does not contribute to spreading the virus.

“We are now at a critical juncture in our management of this emergency, and workers must be fully involved in developing safe working practices to protect all of us”, Ms O’Dowd concluded.

Pat McLoughlin, CEO of Alzheimer Society of Ireland on health deterioration

By Near FM – Listen Again
Pat McLoughlin CEO of the Alzheimer Society of Ireland  joins Karl Fenlon about the deterioration of health of those with Dementia. Broadcast: 09/07/2020

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The Importance of Childhood Immunisation

By Near FM – Listen Again
On this edition of Northside Today: Michael Sullivan is joined by Essene Cassidy, HSE Director of Public Health Nursing to explain the importance of child immunisation and the July immunisation programme for School Aged Children. Immunisation queries for Dublin North City and North west: 01-8975881 or 01-8975135 Immunisation queries Dublin North County: 01-8661410 or 01-8661431

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‘New normal’ excludes workers

By unitetheunion

Unite Community flag cropped

Members of Unite give coalition a ‘slow clap’; say workers were “applauded then abandoned” by those who promised a “lasting appreciation” 

  • Programme for government fails to address need for renewed workers’ rights legislation.
  • Status of workers in the “new normal” needs clarification following High Court ruling on SEOs.
  • Unions say COVID-19 worker representative function not effective on a wide enough level. 

July 2nd: Members of Unite Trade Union held a short rally outside Dáil Éireann today (Thursday), highlighting how workers have been forgotten about in the so-called ‘new normal’. This was followed by a sarcastic ‘slow clap’ for the new coalition Government which remarkably, managed to leave a workers’ rights agenda out of its Programme for Government almost entirely.

There have been lessons for workers in the last few weeks, starting with the treatment of the Debenhams workers who could only be exploited because successive Governments failed to close a legal loophole which had already caused untold misery for workers in Clery’s, GAME, La Senza and Vita Cortex (to name a few). Speaking this morning Jane Crowe Shop Steward at Debenhams Henry St said:

“We are striking now for around 6 weeks now, our future and our families futures are on the line, we still have a lot of fight left in us and we will keep going until the bitter end’

Further to this, last week’s landmark High Court ruling on the constitutionality of Sectoral Employment Orders could have very serious implications for tens of thousands of construction workers.

Speaking ahead of today’s event, Unite Regional Officer Tom Fitzgerald said:

“The government must immediately seek a stay on the orders contained in the Court decision  and then appeal the rulings to the Supreme Court. Should there be any obstacles to either course of action, robust emergency legislation must be brought forward to protect the terms and conditions contained in the SEOs.”

Health & Safety is now a major concern for workers and Unite’s Hospitality and Tourism spokesperson Julia Marciniak pointed out, “While there has been no shortage of industry voices seeking to trivialise important public health advice by forcing debates on the merits of social distancing, many workers are being forced back into working arrangements in which they are afraid, at-risk and have been denied consultation.”

Unite Community is demanding that the new government take into account the urgent need for a new Charter for Workers, one that places the health and safety of workers, and their right to be represented by a trade union, at the heart of any roadmap for recovery.

Nationalise The Private Hospitals

By People Before Profit

Even before Covid-19, the privatisation of health was the major obstacle to an efficient public health system.

The Irish state has long protected private health care. Generous  tax reliefs for the building of private for-profit  hospitals, allowing publicly paid consultants to double-job as private consultants,  dishing out tax credits to individuals to encourage private insurance:  all these have bolstered private healthcare and resulted in the chaotic public-private mix of Irish health policy.

The Covid-19 crisis forced a single public approach to dealing with the pandemic. GP’s were paid a fee from the state for some of their consultations. Step down facilities were expanded through the public requisition of private hotel facilities.  Private hospitals were taken over by the state – at a huge cost – for much needed bed capacity.

Programme

But, as the new Programme for Government makes clear, for-profit health care, post Covid-19 has no need to worry. The Programme reaffirms the principle ‘choice in healthcare’ (p.47), coded market- speak for a two-tier system. The National Treatment Purchase Fund will continue under the Sláintecare regime. The scheme ‘buys’ private beds to treat patients on public waiting lists (up to 800,000 at the last count) and thus pours more public money into private health care.

 After the biggest health crisis in living memory,  the Programme  argues for the  continuation of a health policy which saw us going into the pandemic with half the bed capacity that we needed and our intensive care facilities only able to cope with just 5.6 people in every 100,000 needing to be hospitalised. This was the lowest level in Europe.

Mater Private

Worse, the Private Hospitals are not even prepared to cooperate with the demands of the crisis.

The Mater Private Hospital Group has recently warned staff that its ability to pay wages and its debts was ‘under threat’, that the danger to the Mater Private’s future is ‘real and immediate’.

In a communication to staff, Mater Private CEO John Hurley, on an undisclosed salary,  urged them  ‘to discuss with your families, and to continue to be prudent with personal finance’ because the Mater Private ‘cannot escape  the reality of a severe recession’.

The Mater Private Hospital group consists of two hospitals, in Dublin and Cork, and several other cancer treatment facilities. The group was bought for €495 million in 2018 by giant French investment fund, Infravia’s Capital Partners.  Globally acquisitions have multiplied since 2008 and Ireland’s private health care sector was a lucrative target. In just five months under Infravia, the Mater Private Group had revenues of €100 million.  Their warning to staff is based on nothing else but the risk of their hefty profits falling.

Infravia also owns Carechoice nursing homes, which has 500 long term residential care beds in Dublin, Cork and Waterford, and is still proving reliably profitable. Private for-profit care homes, we will remember, were able to escape full scrutiny regarding PPE and testing, at a tragic and scandalous cost to the patients. Infravia, it is also worth adding, also owns gas pipelines, mobile phone masts and other infrastructural projects and manages €3 billion worth of this mixed bag of assets across Europe.  Medical treatment is not particularly its thing: profits are.

Health inequality

The profit motive not only by-passes issues of public health but also allows the continuation of health inequality.

The Irish health care system, in its failure to provide universal, equitable access to either primary or acute hospital care, makes it one of the most unequal in Europe.

Access to treatment is based either on having the money to pay for it or on means based eligibility.

And not many people are eligible. Even after the extension  of  the GP visit card to the under six-year-olds and to the over 70’s,  according to the Deptartment of Health’s figures, in 2016, 10% of the population had a GP visit card and 36% a medical card.

On the other hand, from fear and awareness of the inefficiency of public hospital system, more and more people feel forced to go the private health route. 43% of the population pay out Private Health Insurance to access private hospital care, which is provided in both public and private hospitals.

Policy change

This inequitable and illogical public-private health service must go. Now is the time for a radical policy change. The pandemic has shown up Sláintecare’s compromises with private health care and its snail’s pace progress as no longer acceptable.

Policy must be made based on what is best for public health and universal access, not private profit. We need a much larger bed capacity to deal with the current dual hospital crisis – of the new socially distanced reality and of even longer patient waiting lists.  Unlike the Mater Private’s attitude to healthcare workers, we need many more, better paid nurses and everyone in the health sector on stable public sector contracts. They are our essential workers and the new government needs to recognise this.  A first step for the implementation of a new public health policy must be the nationalisation of private hospitals.

If you are interested in the Campaign for an All- Ireland National Health Service email the campaign at campaignainhs@gmail.com    

See also  https://www.facebook.com/Campaign4IrishNHS/

The post Nationalise The Private Hospitals appeared first on People Before Profit.

Lauren Rodriguez, Encouraging Young People to Protect Themselves from Sunburn

By Near FM – Listen Again
On this edition of LIfeline: Karl Fenlon speaks to Lauren Rodriguez, Public Health Development Officer with the Institute of Public Health about a new report which encourages young people to protect themselves from sunburn. Broadcast: 25/06/2020  

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Hairdressing: Agreed safety protocol needed before June 29th re-opening

By unitetheunion

Unite logo white out of redProvision must be made for those who cannot return to work due to health or childcare concerns

Responding to this evening’s announcement that the hairdressing sector is to re-open from June 29th, three weeks earlier than initially planned, trade union Unite – which represents hairdressers throughout Ireland – said that employers need to engage collectively with workers to develop an agreed Covid-19 safety protocol before salons re-open.  The union also called on employers to facilitate those employees who are unable to return to work at the end of the month due to underlying health conditions or lack of childcare provision.  Commenting, Regional Officer Brendan Byrne said:

“While our members are keen to return to work, they need to be assured that both they and their clients will be safe in circumstances where close contact is unavoidable.  Unite is also aware of workers who have underlying health conditions, or family members with such conditions, and therefore do not feel safe returning to work.  There are also many workers in the sector who will be unable to make childcare arrangements between now and June 29th.

“Employers have not been in contact with Unite regarding re-opening, and the only safety information we have is a document published by the Irish Hairdressing Federation earlier this month.  Before salons re-open, a sector-specific safety protocol will have to be agreed between employers, workers and the relevant government agencies.  In this regard, Unite would welcome contact from employers’ representatives.

“In addition, hairdressing workers who cannot return due to underlying health conditions affecting themselves or their families, or who are unable to make childcare arrangements, must be maintained on current income supports.

“The best way to ensure that the hairdressing sector recovers quickly is for employers to engage collectively with their workers on all aspects of the re-opening”, Brendan Byrne concluded.

Draft Government Programme considers applause and platitudes good enough for workers

By unitetheunion

Brendan speakingJune 19th: Unite, which represents workers in all sectors throughout Ireland, has said that the draft programme for government negotiated by Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party would see Ireland continuing to be run in a manner that puts private interests above the public good.  In a statement issued today (Friday), the union’s Senior Officer in the Republic of Ireland, Brendan Ogle, said:

“The draft Programme for Government represents a plan to continue to run our country in a manner that puts private interests above the public good. In addition to the complete betrayal of any pretence to deliver workers’ rights that meet international norms, the Programme commits to Ireland continuing to act as an international tax haven. Ireland will continue to be a safe haven for those who want to contribute nothing, and a daily drudge for those working and paying to improve their lives and our society.

“We have the lowest standard of workers and union rights in our peer group. Negotiators for Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party are happy to keep it that way.

“Apart from the betrayal of workers, including the frontline workers who have been hailed as heroes during this pandemic, the proposals on healthcare are actually shocking. Rather than learn the obvious lesson we need a single tier public health system based on need, not means, the Programme enshrines a right to ‘retain access to private health services, ensuring choice for those accessing health care.’ People on low incomes have no such ‘choice’.

“Putting profit and ‘choice’ before the nation’s health is exactly what left us completely unprepared to face this pandemic. If the pursuit of profit is what is driving our basic right to healthcare (and it is), it is clear what the agenda of this proposed new Government is – further division, inequality, poverty and death.

“This programme is shameful”, Mr Ogle concluded.

How to look after your physical as well as your mental health

By Near FM – Listen Again
On this edition of Lifeline: Debbie McMahon is joined by Finian Murray from Men’s Health Forum In Ireland to talk about men’s health and how to look after your physical as well as your mental health. Broadcast: 17/06/2020

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Sage Advocacy “Shed A Tier” Campaign

By Near FM – Listen Again
On this edition of Northside Today: Francess McDonnell, Communications & research at Sage Advocacy, chats about the “Shed a Tier” postcards campaign to get political leaders thinking about why Ireland needs a new single tier national health service, post Covid-19. Broadcast: 12/06/2020  

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Northside Today 12-06-2020 Francess McDonnell, Communications & Research at Sage Advocacy, chats with Michael

By Near FM – Listen Again
Francess McDonnell, Communications & Research at Sage Advocacy, chats about the “Shed a Tier” postcards campaign to get political leaders thinking about why Ireland needs a new single tier national health service, post Covid-19.

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How Carmel Donohue helped her daughter through depression

By Near FM – Listen Again
On this edition of Lifeline: Debbie McMahon is joined on the phone by Carmel Donohue to talk about how she helped her daughter through her depression & what it is like to live with someone who has a mental health illness.

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Martin Rogan on PTSD

By Near FM – Listen Again
Karl Fenlon is joined on the phone by CEO of Mental Health Ireland, Martin Rogan to talk about PTSD

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1,000 Irish Scientists Warn It’s Too Soon To Re- Open

By Siomha Ní Aonghusa

1,000 scientists, doctors and academics have all signed a letter that strongly opposes the governments plan to accelerate the opening up of the economy, warning that we risk a second wave.

The scientists have made the valuable point the risks to the economy from a second wave of Covid- 19 would be even more drastic.

But big business should not be in the driving seat here, either way, and it’s clear that Leo Varadkar is taking his lead from the likes of ISME and IBEC (both of whom have had meetings with the government this week), instead of the medical and scientific experts who have been sounding the alarm since the start of the pandemic.

There are unique risks associated with a return to work indoors, in tight spaces, with poor ventilation or air conditioning that can carry and re-circulate the virus for hours on end.

We have already seen the virus take hold in meat plants, and an accelerated re- opening of the economy risks this occurring at a much greater level.

Fine Gael cabinet ministers continue to emphasise the economy in debates with health officials.

But scientists are arguing that instead of just ‘’flattening the curve’’, we should aim to ‘’crush the curve’’, as they managed in New Zealand.

The opening up of non-essential work should be delayed and crucially, any return to work must be paired with massive investment in testing and tracing.

Equally importantly, there must be continued financial support for all those out of work. The 350 pandemic emergency payment must continue as long as necessary, and there should be a mortgage and rent amnesty as well.

For those who say the state can’t afford it- the banks were bailed out with €64 billion. In comparison, three months of pandemic payments has cost €5 billion. If the same bail out that was given to the banks was given to people who need it, we could continue this payment for six years! How about a bailout for workers?

Nobody should be forced back to work a minute before it is safe.

The government must pay heed to experts warnings, and put health before profit.

The post 1,000 Irish Scientists Warn It’s Too Soon To Re- Open appeared first on People Before Profit.

Covid-19 and your Rights as a Worker – UPDATED 5 June

By unitetheunion

Respect workersFrequently Asked Questions – UPDATED 05 June 2020

The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) situation continues to evolve and Unite will continue updating our advice as dictated by circumstances. 

The measures announced by the Government in March resulted in widespread business closures, layoffs and job losses affecting many Unite members.  The measures also meant that more people have working from home in challenging circumstances. 

On Monday June 8th, the second phase of the Government’s ‘Roadmap’ (accelerations announced on June 5th) will see additional workplaces, re-open  while remote working will continue to be encouraged where possible.  This follows the first phase of re-opening on May 18th, which saw many construction workers – including many Unite members – return to work.  The information below has been updated to reflect ongoing developments.

Unite is endeavouring to maintain our service to members during this unprecedented health emergency. In order to facilitate social distancing in line with public health guidelines, our offices remain closed to public visitors until further notice.

If you require assistance, please email adminroi@unitetheunion.org.

Below, please find information on some questions you may have as a worker affected by the COVID-19 emergency.  We will continue updating this FAQ on a rolling basis as the situation develops. The current version incorporates announcements made on June 5th. As well as the general information below, please scroll down for specific Health & Safety information.

As we prepare for workplaces to re-open (see current schedule below), Unite, together with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, is continuing to engage with Government and employers in different sectors to ensure the safety of our members, and to protect their terms and conditions going forward.  The Return to Work Safely Protocol is available for download here.  Unite will continue advocating for increased enforcement resources and powers to ensure that the the Protocol is fully implemented by all employers.

On a broader level, Unite and the wider trade union movement are determined to ensure that working people, their families and communities do not pay the price for any economic recession when we emerge from this emergency.  In this regard, click here to download our policy document Hope or Austerity: A Road Map for a Better Fairer Ireland after the PandemicThe policies in that document fed into ICTU’s recent report, No Going Back: A New Deal towards a Safe and Secure Future for All, which is available here.

A PDF of this document is available here.

Please note that this information only applies to the Republic of Ireland.

 What if I fall sick and/or need to self-isolate?

If you feel you may have COVID-19, or may need to self-isolate as a result of COVID-19, the first thing you should do is phone your GP and self-isolate in line with HSE advice.  Your GP will assess you and decide if a test for COVID-19 is necessary.

*  DO NOT GO TO YOUR GP IN PERSON  *

If you are diagnosed with COVID-19, or a GP has certified that you need to self-isolate, you need to inform your employer and adhere to any employment sick pay policy in place.  You then need to apply for Illness Benefit. An enhanced Illness Benefit of €350 per week has been agreed for COVID-19 related cases. To be eligible for this payment you must be confined to your home or a medical facility.  This payment, which is also available to members of a household who have to self-isolate in connection with COVID-19, is available from the first day of illness.   The enhanced Illness Benefit arrangements will now continue in force until 19 June.

What if I am working from home?

On Friday 27 March the Government issued an instruction to people to stay at home and to only travel to and from work if providing an essential service as specified here. Despite the phased return to work, this inevitably means that many Unite members are either working from home, have been placed on layoff or rendered unemployed (further information on your rights in the event of layoff/job loss is below).

If you are working from home at your employer’s instruction, your employer must pay you your usual wage.  Confirm with your employer that this is the case before agreeing to work from home.

Revenue has made provisions for these people to be reimbursed for work-related expenses, such as heating, electricity and possibly broadband expenses.

An employer can pay €3.20 tax-free (without PAYE, PRSI or USC being deducted) a day to their employee to cover additional costs involved in working from home.   It is important to note that there is no legal obligation on your employer to make such a payment.

Even if your employer does not make this payment, you will still be eligible for tax relief on such expenses.  Such claims would need to be supported by evidence in the form of receipts, and you may be required to produce a letter from your employer confirming that you have been working from home.

Further information on e-working and tax is available on the Revenue website here.  Health and safety information relating to working from home during the COVID-19 emergency is available here.

What if I want to continue working from home during this period?

While the widespread closures referenced above mean that many people still have to work from home, there will be other workers who can return to their workplaces under the ‘Roadmap, but who wish to work from home during this period in order to mind children during the period of school closure or for other health, personal or family reasons. You should approach the company and request to be facilitated in that regard.  It is at your employer’s discretion whether or not to grant that request but they should be cognisant of public health as well as Government advice and instructions.

It may be that your presence is necessary for only some of the normal working week when particular tasks need to be performed. If so, it may be worthwhile highlighting this fact to your employer. Given the ‘stay-at-home’ order announced on 27 March, with the exception of workplaces specified in the different phases of the ‘Roadmap’, attendance may otherwise expose you and your employer to criminal sanction.

When will workplaces be re-opening?

On 1 May, the Government published its ‘Roadmap for Reopening Society and Business’ which included a schedule for the reopening of workplaces in different sectors. This started on May 18th, and on June 5th it was announced that the Roadmap would be accelerated as indicated below, with further adjustments possible.

  • 8 June: On June 5th, an acceleration of the Roadmap was announced which will see all retail outlets with street entrances re-opening, with staggered hours. Shopping centres (only retail outlets) will re-open on June 15th, ensuring physical distancing. Solitary workers and those who who can maintain physical distance can return to their workplaces, but working from home is encouraged where possible.
  • 29 June: Re-opening of the hospitality and tourism sector, including bars which also serve food; limited to table service. All domestic travel restrictions will be lifted.
  • 20 July: Remaining restrictions will start to be lifted.

What if my employer asks me to attend work, but I don’t feel safe doing so?

Your employer must abide by the Return to Work Safety Protocol, which is available here. Under the 2005 Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act, workers must report a hazard or danger to their employer in the first instance. If an employee leaves the workplace because of an emergency, or because of serious and imminent danger, they cannot suffer any detriment as a result. Further information on the Act is available from the Health and Safety Authority here.

What if I have been placed on lay off – and my employer is operating the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme?

Government-ordered closures of businesses, as well as reduced demand in some sectors due to the pandemic, have resulted in a significant number of lay-offs.

The Government has asked those employers who have ceased trading to continue to pay workers during this period; this measure is intended to retain the link between workers and their employers.

A wage subsidy scheme was established providing that the Government would pay relevant employers 70 per cent of a workers’ salary (after tax) – up to maximum of €410 per week – in respect of workers who would otherwise have been laid off. This Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, which employers may top up, is intended to ensure that workers retain their link with employers and they do not have to submit a jobseeker claim. This scheme replaced the COVID-19 Refund Scheme announced on 15 March, and is now scheduled to last until the end of August.

On 15 April, changes to the Temporary Wage Subsidy scheme were announced which primarily addressed anomalies which had become apparent at the higher and lower ends of the earnings spectrum.  The Scheme has now moved from the ‘transitional’ to the ‘operational’ phase.

Operation of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme:

  • Initially, and until 4 May 2020, the subsidy scheme refunded employers €410 for each qualifying employee.
  • From 4 May 2020, the subsidy payment moved to a system based on the previous net weekly pay for each employee. See further information below.
  • Employers should pay the relevant subsidy to each employee and may make an additional payment so that the total pay does not exceed the average net weekly pay of the employee.
  • The subsidy scheme applies both to employers who make additional payments to their employees and those that are not in a position to do so.
  • Employers make this subsidy payment to their employees through their normal payroll process.
  • Employers will then be reimbursed for amounts paid to eligible employees and notified to Revenue via the payroll process.
  • The reimbursement will, in general, be made within two working days after receipt of the payroll submission.
  • Income tax and USC will not be applied to the subsidy payment made through the payroll.
  • Employee PRSI will not apply to the subsidy or any additional payment by the employer.
  • Employer’s PRSI will not apply to the subsidy and will be reduced from 11.05% to 0.5% on the additional ‘top-up’ payment from the employer.

Subsidy rates from 4 May

The following new rates will apply to payroll submitted from 4 May with a pay date on or after that date until the end of the scheme. (No backdating of the revised rates prior to 4 May will apply.)

Employees previously earning up to €586 net per week

  • An 85% subsidy shall be payable in the case of employees whose previous average net weekly pay does not exceed €412.
  • A flat rate subsidy of up to €350 shall be payable in the case of employees whose previous average net weekly pay is more than €412 but not more than €500.
  • A 70% subsidy shall be payable in the case of employees whose previous average net weekly pay is more than €500 but not more than €586, with the maximum cap of €410 applying.

Employees previously earning over €586 net per week

  • For employees whose average net weekly pay is greater than €586 per week but not more than €960 per week, the temporary wage subsidy shall not exceed €350 per week, and shall be calculated with reference to the gross salary paid by the employer and its effect on net average wages as follows:
    • A subsidy of €350 shall be payable to employees with average net weekly pay greater than €586, where the employer pays sufficient gross salary which equates to an amount up to 60% of the employee’s net weekly earnings;
    • A subsidy of €205 shall be payable to employees with average net weekly pay greater than €586, where the employer pays sufficient gross salary which equates to an amount that is more than 60% but not more than 80% of the employee’s net weekly earnings;
    • No subsidy shall be payable to employees with average net weekly pay greater than €586, where the employer pays sufficient gross salary which equates to an amount that is more than 80% of the employee’s net weekly earnings.

A comprehensive FAQ on the Wage Subsidy Scheme is available here.

What if my employer is operating the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, but is refusing to pay the top up in respect of public holidays?

Payment for public holidays is generally subject to the 1997 Organisation of Working Time Act, and Unite would argue that if an employer is topping up the Temporary Wage Subsidy they should also do so in respect of public holidays.  However, given that the Act did not envisage the current circumstances, an employer may argue that they are not obliged to pay the top up – which is at the employer’s discretion – in respect of public holidays. Any disputes in this regard would need to be raised by way of a formal grievance in the first instance and thereafter to the Adjudication Services of the Workplace Relations Commission.

What if I am returning from Maternity Leave?

At the end of May, following pressure from unions and civil society organisations, the Government rectified an anomaly whereby women returning from unpaid maternity leave – as well as people previously on paternity leave, adoptive leave illness benefit or off-pay leave – were ineligible for the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme since they had not been paid in January or February, the calculation basis for the Scheme.   These categories of people will now be eligible for the Scheme.  The revised arrangements will be in place from June 12th, and payments may be backdated to March 26th.

What if I have been placed on lay off – and my employer is NOT operating the Wage Subsidy Scheme?

If a worker is laid off without pay, there is no need to claim in person at an Intreo centre.  Instead, a new support payment has been introduced which applies to those workers whose employers lay them off.  This Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is paid at a flat rate of €350 per week.

The payment is available to all employees and the self-employed who have lost their job due to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, and is scheduled to last until at least August 10th.

On June 5th, a change to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment was announced whereby, from June 29th, part-time workers who were earning up to €200 per week will receive a PUP of €203, while those earning over that amount will continue receiving the payment of €350.

The Covid-19 unemployment payment can be applied for through the Department of Social Welfare’s online portal www.MyWelfare.ie.

All that is required is for the applicant to have an email address, a bank account and a Personal Public Service Number.  You will find your PPS number on a range of documents, including previous payslips. Simply go onto the Covid-19 Services section of the website and apply for the payment. You will have to set up an account but it is a simple and straight forward process.

To avoid any delay in payment, it is very important that you check carefully to ensure you have supplied the correct bank account and PPS numbers. 

What about other social welfare payments?

If you were working and were also in receipt of any social welfare payment such as a Carers Payment, Working Family Payment (WFP) or One-Parent Family Payment, you can, provided you have lost your job due to COVID-19, also claim the COVID-19 emergency payment, in addition to retaining your existing welfare payment. The COVID-19 Payment Unemployment Payment will replace your employment income and will be regarded by the Department as equivalent to employment income.

If you have one adult and one or more dependent children you should claim a Jobseeker’s Payment instead of the COVID-19 Pandemic Payment.

This is because you can claim an additional allowance for your adult dependant and child dependants, which will bring your weekly payment to in excess of the €350 weekly payment due under the emergency COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.  Further information on Covid-19 and social welfare payments is available here.

What if I have been placed on short-time working?

If your employer reduces your hours to 3 days or less per week from your normal full-time hours, you can apply for a payment called Short Time Work Support.

Your employer can also put you on short-time working which is a more formal procedure and applies in the following situation:

  • Due to a reduction in the amount of work to be done, your weekly pay is less than half your normal weekly pay, or
  • Your hours worked are reduced to less than half your normal weekly working hours

What if my employer instructed me to go home?

You are entitled to clarity regarding your work situation, and in particular regarding whether you are to be paid, or are being laid off, made redundant or expected to work from home. If unclear on any of these or related questions, contact your employer in writing (e.g. by email) and ask them to confirm your employment and payment status in writing.  In the event that your employer says that you will not be paid the Department of Social Protection will require written confirmation of your status if you are applying for a Social Protection payment.

A simple email detailing when, where and by who you were told to go home and asking that your status be confirmed to you in writing without delay will assist you to explain your circumstances to the Department of Social Protection.

If I have been placed on layoff or short time working as a result of COVID-19, can I claim for a redundancy payment?

The provisions of Section 12 of the Redundancy Payments Act 1967 have been suspended where an employee has been temporarily laid off or put on short-term work arising from the COVID-19 emergency measures.  These provisions will remain suspended for as long as the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and the Pandemic Unemployment Payment remain in place.

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Workplace health and safety

Please click here to download the Return to Work Safely Protocol, and here to download the ICTU’s User Guide to the Protocol.  Unite is continuing to advocate for improved resources to ensure enforcement of the Protocol.

Members working in the construction sector should note that Unite has set up a hotline for you to report any safety concerns relating to Covid-19.  The number is 089-2031044.  We also have a dedicated email address for construction members to contact: constructionROI@unitetheunion.org. 

You should have a Health and Safety Representative – and you should know who s/he is

Under the 2005 Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, all employees are entitled to elect a Health and Safety representative.  You may also have a union safety rep.  It is important that you know who they are, that they are fully updated on any health and safety risks and relevant measures.

The Return to Work Safety Protocol states that your employer MUST:

  • Appoint at least one lead worker representative to make sure safety measures are in place and being followed.
  • Update business and safety plans, including the business COVID-19 Response Plan, the occupational health and safety risk assessment and the safety statement. Include how to deal with a suspected case of COVID-19 in the safety plans and appoint a dedicated manager in charge of dealing with suspected cases.
  • Develop, consult on, communicate and implement workplace changes or policies.
  • Send out a pre-return to work form to employees at least 3 days before their return to work. The form will ask employees to confirm they have not had symptoms of COVID-19 in the past 14 days, have not been diagnosed or suspected of COVID-19 in the past 14 days, have not been in close contact with someone confirmed or suspected of COVID-19 in the past 14 days and are not self-isolating or cocooning. You can get a return to work form templatefrom the HSA website. Note: Employers should not directly receive any test results from the HSE. Rather, the results should be provided to the person tested, who should then pass on the outcome to his or her employer.
  • Provide COVID-19 induction training for all staff.
  • Put in place temperature testing in line with public health advice.
  • Have appropriate hygiene facilities in place, display posters of good hand washing practices and have proper ventilation. Give tissues as well as bins or bags for employee’s disposal. Empty bins regularly and provide advice on good respiratory practice.
  • Provide for physical distancing across all work activities of at least 2 metres as much as possible. (Staggering breaks, put in place arrangements for meetings and canteen facilities, put in place a no handshaking policy, no sharing of cups or pens, adapt sign in or sign out systems). Install physical barriers, such as clear plastic sneeze guards between workers were 2 metre distancing is not possible.
  • Keep a log of any group work to help with contact tracing.
  • Have regular cleaning of the workplace and provide hand sanitisers.
  • Provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and protective clothing where there is an identified COVID-19 exposure risk and in line with public health advice. You can get more information on PPE from the HSA.
  • Make sure employees look after their mental health and well-being and are aware of any employee assistance programmes.

If an employee has symptoms of the virus during work hours, your employer must have a designated isolation area for employees and must follow a specific procedure:

  • The designated manager must direct the person to a designated isolation area, along a designated route
  • Maintain a 2 metre distance
  • Arrange for the employee to stay in isolation before arranging for them to be transported home, or to a medical facility, avoiding public transport.
  • Carry out a full risk assessment of the incident to see what, if any, further action needs to be taken

You are legally entitled and obliged to protect your health and the health of others

Under the 2005 Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act, workers must report a hazard or danger to their employer in the first instance. If an employee leaves the workplace because of an emergency, or because of serious and imminent danger, they cannot suffer any detriment as a result. Further information on the Act is available from the Health and Safety Authority here.

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GROW Mental Health Recovery

By Near FM – Listen Again
On this edition of Lifeline: Michele Kerrigan, CEO of GROW Mental Health Recovery speaks to Karl Fenlon about how the Covid-19 Pandemic has effected thoese who use mental health services. Broadcast: 05/06/2020

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Mental Health and Living with Bipolar Disorder

By Near FM – Listen Again
On this edition of Lifeline: Gemma Donohue talks to Debbie about her mental health and living with bipolar disorder. Broadcast: 03/06/2020

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Think A Head: 95% of Irish adults have not made plans to their future healthcare

By Near FM – Listen Again
On this edition of Lifeline: Patricia Richard-Clarke, Chairperson of Safeguarding Ireland talks to Karl Fenlon about how 95% of Irish adults, have not made plans in regards to their future healthcare, she also talks about the Think Ahead form.  

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Disabled And Vulnerable In A Pandemic

By People Before Profit

These past months have been a strange and stressful time for our society and its people. We have had to adjust to new social norms which consists of social distancing and cocooning both to protect ourselves and our fellow citizens. During this pandemic,  the measures that government introduced to fight the spread of the virus were extreme and tough but people were willing to do what was deemed right for our society.

As hard as it has been, groups that have suffered hugely during these emergency pandemic measures, include our disabled, those with long term illnesses and our elderly community. Services that are essential in the lives of these groups, have been abruptly halted and removed with very little warning or consultation. People received emails or letters advising them that their services were to be suspended for the foreseeable future and that in the case of an emergency to contact their local HSE offices. Many of these offices have been closed or at best have had their services reduced to the minimum. Essential staff providing care and supports to

our disabled, vulnerable and elderly community, were redeployed without the full implication of the impact this would have on people who are already reliant on these often minimal services. In some cases people who are reliant on home help supports for their personal care were abandoned in the hope that family members would take over this responsibility with very little if any consolation.

With the sudden removal of these essential services, our societies most vulnerable were left feeling abandoned, lonely and forgotten.

Lack of communication and direct engagement has been one of the major issues facing vulnerable people throughout this whole crisis. Many have yet to receive any information on when they will see the return of their vital services.

What we have seen throughout this pandemic is that people with disabilities, complex medical needs, the elderly and those on the margins of ours society are all but an afterthought for those in power. When new recommendations were made in realation to critical care provision and prioritising patient care, disability activists and disability rights organisations had to step in to get clarification and guarantees from government that all patients would be treated equally . This led to the rewording of the protocol so that those with complex medical needs or a disability would not be excluded from accessing critical care due to their condition. Imagine that, at the beginning of this pandemic families were left worrying that if their vulnerable or disabled loved ones contracted Covid-19, they might not be given equal access to life saving medical interventions. This all stemmed from a belief that after years of neglect and mismanagement of our public health care system by successive governments it would not be able to cope under the pressure.

If anything, this pandemic has shown us that our health service needs to be a fully inclusive and accessible public healthcare system, one that is based on patients needs rather than their ability to pay. We cannot have a healthcare system designed to enrich a small few elite individuals, or one that is geared towards investment funds whose priority is solely to their shareholders.

We should never allow the healthcare of our people, the healthcare of our children and the healthcare of our most vulnerable to be commodified and sold off to the highest bidder. As a human right no one person should have priority above another person for the best care just because their wallet is fatter. We should measure our success during this pandemic on how we have protected our most vulnerable, our elderly and our disabled communities. At this moment in time,  that report card doesn’t look too healthy.

By Bernard Mulvany
People Before Profit Representative
Dublin Bay North

The post Disabled And Vulnerable In A Pandemic appeared first on People Before Profit.

Mental Health Awareness Month: Toni Breen

By Near FM – Listen Again
On this edition o f Northside Today: Debbie McMahon is joined by Toni Breen to tell us her story and experience with mental health. Broadcast: 20/05/2020

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