We are getting ever closer to the current expiry date (8th June 2020) of the Irish government's COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) scheme. Given the number of people who are currently relying on payments under the scheme for their economic survival, questions are being asked of Ministers on an almost daily basis as to whether or not it will be extended into later June and July.
On Friday last (15th May) the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, said that no decision had yet been made as to whether or not the PUP would be extended. Earlier this week the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, stated that the PUP will continue “for now”. Clearly these statements do not give any great degree of certainty to either employers or employees. However, Minister Donohue is now reported by the Irish Examiner as having stated that the government will shortly decide on how long the PUP will continue and at what level. He has also reportedly stated that the PUP:
“... will continue for a period of time. But we just have to decide over what period and at what level. We are simply a few days into the reopening of the economy and we just need some information about ... the numbers on the wage subsidy scheme and the number of people who are availing of the PUP (pandemic unemployment payment).
I would hope we will have more data available on those issues soon and then we will be able to make an announcement ... regarding the value of these payments and what is going to happen to them."
There may be interest at Government-level in encouraging employers to take steps towards transitioning employees from relying on the PUP to the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme (TWSS) over the course of the summer. Minister Donohoe's latest comments, for example, hint that consideration is being given to reducing the level of the PUP payments. Whilst any such interest may not crystallise, employers may want to re-evaluate the TWSS as a potential aid in light of recent clarifications issued by the Revenue given that the PUP could be eliminated or restricted before companies are ready to fully reopen.