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Wage Subsidy Scheme

Introduction

The Wage Subsidy Scheme offers financial support for employers who employ certain people with disabilities on a full-time basis (between 21 hours and 39 hours per week). 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.

Rules

Disability and productivity

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.

The scheme provides for 12-monthly reviews by the Department of Social Protection. An employer must also complete a productivity assessment form to certify the employee’s productivity deficit. The Department reserves the right to conduct additional monitoring visits without notice to the employer’s premises, when and where required.

Eligibility

The Scheme is available to private sector employers in the State who provide a minimum of 21 hours and up to a maximum of 39 hours of employment per week to workers with a disability.

The scheme is not available to:

  • Self-employed people
  • Participants on Community Employment schemes, or
  • Employers who avail of the JobPlus Scheme

If you are receiving one of the following disability payments you can qualify for the WSS without further medical assessment:

If you are on Disability Allowance or Blind Pension, you may avail of the relevant disregard in conjunction with the WSS. You will need to contact the Disability Allowance or Blind Pension section to tell them that you are starting work.

You can also qualify if you are getting Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension. However, you must come off this payment in order to participate in the WSS.

If you are unemployed, have a disability and are not receiving a disability payment, you can still apply for the scheme. You will need to provide a recent specialist’s report or doctor’s letter, confirming your disability. Your doctor must also complete a confidential Medical Report form confirming that you have a disability which could cause a shortfall in productivity.

You will also need this medical evidence if you have been awarded a Disablement Pension or Gratuity assessed at less than 20% for life, or have been awarded Disablement Benefit on the basis of a provisional assessment.

Wage Subsidy Scheme strands

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.

Conditions of employment

Employees for whom the employer claims grant assistance under this scheme is 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.

Other benefits

You may also qualify for other in-work income supports, such as:

For further details you should contact your local Intreo Centre, or for FIS payments contact the DSP FIS section directly.


Rates

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.

Employee

Generally, the employee must give up their primary social welfare payment when they start employment under the Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS). For example, if you are on Jobseeker’s Allowance, you must stop claiming this payment. However, new applicants for the scheme who are currently getting Disability Allowance (DA) or Blind Pension (BP) may apply for the DA/BP rehabilitative work disregard together with the WSS, provided they are working at least 21 hours a week.

The WSS is only payable until you become eligible to apply for a State Pension.

How to apply

To apply for funding under the Wage Subsidy Scheme the employer and employee must contact their local Intreo Centre 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 Intreo Centre 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 are unemployed, have a disability and are not receiving a disability payment, you will need to provide a recent specialist’s report or doctor’s letter, confirming your disability. Your doctor must also complete a confidential Medical Report form confirming that you have a disability which could cause a shortfall in productivity.

You will also need this medical evidence if you have been awarded a Disablement Pension or Gratuity assessed at less than 20% for life, or have been awarded Disablement Benefit on the basis of a provisional assessment.

You can find more information in the Department of Social Protection’s Operational Guidelines for the Wage Subsidy Scheme (pdf).

Where to apply

Further information about employment and disability is available here and from your local Intreo Centre. You can also download the relevant forms from welfare.ie.

Page edited: 19 April 2017

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If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.