The Wage Subsidy Scheme is a scheme that offers financial support for employers who employ certain people with disabilities on a full-time basis (21 hours or more). The scheme is one of the workplace supports for employers provided by the Department of Social Protection to encourage the employment of people with disabilities. (Public service employers or any employers or schemes where wages are funded by the Department are not eligible for this scheme.)
Sometimes the nature of a disability can restrict an employee's productivity in comparison with other staff, irrespective of their ability to do a job. In situations where this restriction results in a loss of productivity for the employer, the Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS) allows the employer make up the shortfall through grant assistance.
It is illegal to discriminate against any employee on the basis of disability and this right is set down in employment equality legislation.
However, it is permitted to discriminate on the grounds of disability where it can be shown that "there is clear actuarial or other evidence that significantly increased costs would result, if the discrimination were not permitted." For this reason, employers that employ staff with disabilities with proven productivity rates of 50-80% will not lose out if they employ staff with disabilities as the grant aid under this scheme will make up any shortfall in reduced productivity.
Employees for whom the employer claims grant assistance under this scheme are subject to the same conditions of employment as all other staff. This means that these employees qualify for PRSI contributions, annual leave, tax deductions, contracts of employment and minimum wage requirements.
The WSS is divided into 3 strands.
Strand 1 is a wage subsidy payment paid to the employer to make up the shortfall if a disabled employee has a productivity level of between 80% or less (compared to other staff). The employee must work at least 21 hours a week up to a maximum of 39 hours a week. The rate of subsidy is €5.30 a hour based on the hours worked. The maximum annual subsidy is €10,748 based on a 39-hour week.
Strand 2 is a payment to companies that employ more than 2 disabled employees. The "top-up" grant covers supervisory, management and other work-based costs. The top-up grant is based on the overall number of disabled employees from an additional 10% of the wage subsidy for 3 to 6 disabled employees to a maximum of 50% of the wage subsidy for 23+ disabled employees.
Strand 3 is a grant to companies that employ 30 or more disabled employees to enable them to employ an Employment Assistance Officer (EAO). The EAO is employed to support and assist disabled employees with their employment needs. The grant is €30,000 per annum.
The Department of Social Protection, the employer and the employee agree the wage subsidy to be paid after the first month of employment. Grant assistance is payable to the employer by electronic fund transfer on a frequency as agreed with the Department (normally on a monthly basis). The employer pays the going rate for the job.
Generally, the employee must give up their primary social welfare payment when they start employment under the Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS). However, new applicants for the scheme who are currently getting Disability Allowance (DA), may apply for the DA rehabilitative work disregard together with the WSS provided they are working at least 21 hours a week.
To apply for funding under the Wage Subsidy Scheme the employer and employee must contact their local employment services office to arrange a meeting with the employment services officer and complete the application forms for this scheme. All employers applying for this scheme must be in possession of a current tax clearance certificate.
Employers who are considering employing a person with a disability or are enquiring about other supports for employers of staff with disabilities, should get in touch with their local employment services office for more information.
If you are someone with a disability who is interested in entering or returning to employment, you should get in touch with your local employment services office, to find out about supports available in your area.
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000. The Phone Service will operate Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm during January 2017. You can also visit your local Citizens Information Centre.