Government must not abandon workers in need of pandemic income supports

I have called on the government to ensure that they extend Short-Time Work Support (STWS) payment for workers in industries still unable to reopen fully due to ongoing public health restrictions.

The government must not abandon workers on pandemic income supports. They must ensure that workers get the supports they should be entitled to.

Short-Time Work Support

Short-Time Work Support is a form of Jobseeker’s Benefit. It is specifically for workers who have had their working week reduced on a temporary basis. Many employees find themselves on reduced hours, due to the impact of Covid-19, have been placed on this benefit. This includes many in the aviation industry and retail sector.

However, employees can only receive the support for a maximum of 234 days. As a result, many of these workers are now seeing their eligibility for this payment coming to an end. This is despite them still unable to return to full time work due to ongoing restrictions.

Sinn Féin have been very clear throughout the pandemic. Government must fairly treat workers in industries affected by public health restrictions. They must receive the supports they are entitled to.

I am very concerned that the government is now abandoning workers on the Short-Time Work Support payment. This will mean thousands of workers supports would be drastically reduced. This is despite them not being able to return to work as pandemic restrictions continue.

Eligibility coming to an end

Many workers receiving the STWS are now in a situation where their eligibility is coming to an end, because they have reached the maximum days allowed for this benefit.

Despite this, many are unable to return to fulltime work as their sectors remain shut or severely restricted under public health guidance. For example, many in the aviation sector are on this payment. They still have not received a date from the government for when their industry will fully reopen.

This means that workers running out of time on the STWS will have means-tested Jobseeker’s Allowance as their only option. Some may not even qualify due to household income, others may qualify on reduced rates. 

“In April, over 600 people exited the Short-Time Work Support payment, with just 60 of those moving to Jobseeker’s Allowance. In the same month, 4,180 people were still receiving the payment. This does not just affect a small number of people. We can see this issue will get worse, unless the government takes action now. 

Government offers no extension or solutions

Last week my colleague Sinn Féin spokesperson on Social Protection Claire Kerrane TD raised this issue with Minister Humphreys. The Minister said she has no plans to extend the payment or provide an alternative solution for workers in this position. 

I am extremely disappointed with the government’s response to this. The government must not abandon workers. Workers cannot be expected to pay the financial cost of this government’s inaction.

I am calling on Minister Humphreys to extend the time allowed on the Short-Time Work Support and Jobseeker’s Benefit. This will support workers who are on reduced hours through no fault of their own here in Mayo and across the state.

Workers are already under huge financial pressure after an extremely difficult year. The government must do right by workers and ensure they get the supports they deserve. 

A drop like this will cause considerable financial pressure for thousands of workers and families. These are people already struggling to pay their bills. Government cannot allow this to happen. Sinn Féin will continue to stand up for workers. We will ensure those on income supports in industries affected by the pandemic get the fair treatment they deserve.