Wage Subsidy Scheme for people with disabilities

What is the Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS)

The Wage Subsidy Scheme gives financial support to employers who employ people with disabilities. The scheme is a workplace support for employers from the Department of Social Protection (DSP).

How the WSS works

Sometimes, a disability can restrict an employee's productivity compared to other staff, regardless of their ability to do a job. In this case, the Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS) makes up the shortfall in productivity directly to the employer (who pays the employee as usual).

While it is generally illegal to discriminate against an employee based on disability, discrimination on the grounds of disability is allowed if there is clear evidence the employer would face significantly increased costs if the discrimination were not permitted.

For this reason, employers who employ staff with disabilities, with proven productivity rates of 50-80%, will not lose out as the subsidy makes up for any shortfall in productivity.

Under the scheme:

  • The DSP completes an annual review based on the performance of the employee in the previous 12 months
  • The employer must complete a productivity assessment form that certifies the employee’s productivity deficit
  • The DSP can conduct additional monitoring visits, without notice, to the place of work.

What companies can use the WSS?

The Scheme is available to private sector employers who can employ workers with a disability between 15 and 39 hours per week.

The minimum weekly hours threshold for eligibility was reduced from 21 to 15 hours from 1 April 2024.

An employer can offer more than 39 hours each week, but they can only claim a subsidy for up to 39 hours.

The contract of employment offered must be for a minimum of 6 months.

You can get more information in the Operational Guidelines for the Wage Subsidy Scheme.

WSS and third parties

WSS is only available to the company or organisation that directly employs the person to do a job. It cannot be used by any other third parties, such as recruitment agencies or other agents that help the company find and manage employees (for example, payroll services).

If your business gets other financial support from the State

If your business is already getting payment under the Wage Subsidy Scheme, you cannot get additional financial help from the government for the same employee's employment costs.

Which employees can take part in the WSS?

You must be at least 18 years of age to participate in the WSS.

The scheme is not available to:

  • Self-employed people
  • People on Community Employment schemes
  • Employers who avail of the JobsPlus Scheme

If you get a disability payment

You can qualify for the WSS without a medical assessment if you are getting one of the following disability payments:

You can also qualify for the WSS if you are getting an Illness Benefit, Invalidity Pension or Partial Capacity Benefit. However, you must come off these payments to take part in the WSS.

Currently, if you are getting Disability Allowance or Blind Pension, you can stay on your payment alongside the WSS, but it will be reduced. You must contact the Disability Allowance or Blind Pension section in DSP to tell them you are starting work. Read more about how your payment will be reduced.

If you get the Disablement Pension at less than 20% for life

If you get a Disablement Pension or Gratuity assessed at less than 20% for life, or if you have been awarded a Disablement Benefit based on a provisional assessment, you need:

  • A recent specialist’s report or doctor’s letter confirming your disability
  • A confidential medical report form, filled out by your doctor, confirming that you have a disability which could cause a shortfall in productivity

If you are not getting a disability payment

If you are not getting a disability payment, you can still apply for the WSS.

To apply, you need a recent specialist’s report or doctor’s letter confirming your disability.

Your doctor must also fill out a confidential medical report form confirming that you have a disability which could cause a shortfall in productivity.

Other support for people on the WSS

People on the Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS) may also qualify for other work-related income supports, including:

You should contact your local Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office for more information. Or, for information on the Working Family Payment (WFP), contact the Department’s WFP section directly.

Keeping your medical card and other benefits

You may be able to keep your medical card and certain extra benefits for a number of years after you start work on the WSS scheme.

If you were unemployed for 12 months or more before starting work on the WSS, you can keep your medical card for 3 years from the date you started work.

You may also be able to keep any extra benefits you were getting before you started the WSS employment scheme, such as:

You should tell the DSP that you have started work on the WSS scheme and ask how your individual payments will be affected.

You can continue to get the WSS until you become eligible to apply for a State Pension.

Payment rates

The Department of Social Protection (DSP), the employer and the employee must agree on the productivity shortfall, if any.

The employer pays the employee the going rate for the job. The employer is then paid a subsidy of €6.30 an hour for the hours worked. The maximum annual subsidy to the employer is €12,776, based on a 39-hour week.

The employer may get additional funding, depending on which strand of the WSS they fall into – read ‘the different strands of WSS’ below.

Employers are paid the grant by electronic fund transfer.

Employers may get the WSS for employees who are entitled to keep their Disability Allowance (DA) or Blind Pension (BP). Although, generally, the employee must give up their primary social welfare payment when they start work under the Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS). For example, if you are on Jobseeker’s Allowance, you must stop claiming this payment.

Frequency of payments to the employer

The Department of Social Protection (DSP) will generate a ‘wage subsidy request’ on Welfare Partners for the workplace every 4 weeks. This will:

  • List all WSS participants who are employed at the workplace
  • Specify the calendar dates for which the WSS payment is due for the employee(s)

Each week, the employer should fill in the hours worked by each employee and the total gross wage paid to them for the 4-weeks.

You should complete this online ‘wage subsidy request’ within 12 weeks of the date of issue, or the wage subsidy may not be paid to you.

You can include periods of paid leave as hours worked, but the WSS payment may be affected if the employee was getting a social welfare payment. Periods of unpaid leave are not counted towards the WSS.

When no salary at all is being paid by the employer, no wage subsidy payment will be made to the employer.

The different strands of WSS

The WSS is divided into 3 strands.

Strand 1

Strand 1 is a wage subsidy payment paid to the employer if an employee with a disability has a productivity level of between 80% or less (compared to other staff).

The employee must work at least 15 hours a week. There is some flexibility in how your weekly work hours are calculated. For example, you can work a minimum of 10 hours in one week, once you work 84 hours over 4 weeks.

The subsidy is €6.30 an hour for the hours worked. The maximum annual subsidy is €12,776 based on a 39-hour week.

Strand 2

Strand 2 is a ‘top-up’ payment to companies that employ more than 2 people with disabilities.

Depending on the number of employees with disabilities, the employer can get between 10%-50% extra WSS for supervisory, management and other work-based costs.

Number of employees with a disability: Grant ‘top-up’ paid to the employer:
3 to 6 employees with a disability 10% of wage subsidy paid
7 to 11 employees with a disability 20% of wage subsidy paid
12 to 16 employees with a disability 30% of wage subsidy paid
17 to 22 employees with a disability 40% of wage subsidy paid
23 + employees with a disability 50% of wage subsidy paid

Strand 3

Strand 3 is a grant to companies employing 25 or more people with disabilities. The grant is €30,000 per year.

The grant is used to employ an ‘Employment Assistance Officer’ (EAO) at the company. The EAO supports and assists employees with their employment needs. A company can only have up to 5 EAO positions subsidised under the WSS.

How to apply

What the employee needs to do

The employee must complete the employee application form (pdf) and meet the DSP Case Officer to register on the WSS system as someone with a disability.

What the employer needs to do

The employer must complete the employer application form (pdf) and productivity level report form (pdf), as agreed with the employee.

The employer should send completed forms to their local DSP Intreo Office, or to the DSP Case Officer dealing with the case if they know who this is. Forms can be sent by email to the relevant Case Officer, if known.

Employers must also provide a current tax clearance certificate and a signed contract of employment detailing the terms and conditions of employment.

If you are an employer applying for Strand 3 WSS funding, you should complete the application for Strand III Grant form, which you can get from a DSP Case Officer. You must also provide supporting documentation – read the Operational Guidelines for the Wage Subsidy Scheme for more information.

More information

Read more about working with a disability.

You can also get more information on the Wage Subsidy Scheme from the Department of Social Protection.

You may want to contact your local Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office for information on the Wage Subsidy Scheme and the impact it might have on your other payments.

If you are applying for the Wage Subsidy Scheme, you can download the relevant WSS application forms from gov.ie.

Page edited: 5 April 2024