Wage Subsidy Scheme for people with disabilities
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).
On 24 March 2020, the Government announced a COVID-19 Income Support Scheme for employers to support employees who have been laid off during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. This is a separate scheme to the Wage Subsidy Scheme that is described in this document. You can read more about the COVID-19 Income Support Scheme.
Disability and productivity
Sometimes a disability can restrict an employee's productivity compared to other staff, irrespective of their ability to do a job. If this restriction results in a loss of productivity, the Wage Subsidy Scheme (WSS) makes up the shortfall directly to the employer (who pays the employee as usual).
It is illegal to discriminate against an 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 as the subsidy makes up any productivity shortfall.
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 are eligible for the WSS?
The Scheme is available to private sector employers in the State who can provide between 21 and 39 hours of employment per week to workers with a disability. An employer can offer more than 39 hours each week but 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.
Who can take part in the WSS?
You must be at least 18 years of age to participate in the WSS.
You can qualify for the WSS without a medical assessment if you are getting one of the following disability payments:
If you are getting Disability Allowance or Blind Pension, you can stay on your payment in conjunction with the WSS but it will be reduced. You will need to contact the Disability Allowance or Blind Pension section to tell them that you are starting work. You can read more about how your payment will be reduced.
If you are not getting a disability payment, you can still apply for the scheme. 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.
You 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.
The scheme is not available to:
- Self-employed people
- People on Community Employment schemes
- Employers who avail of the JobsPlus Scheme
How the Wage Subsidy Scheme works
The WSS is divided into 3 strands.
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 21 hours a week. There is some flexibility on how your weekly work hours are calculated, for example, you can work a minimum of 15 hours in one week, as long as you make up 84 hours over a four-week period. The subsidy is €5.30 an hour for 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 people with disabilities. This "top-up" grant covers supervisory, management and other work-based costs. The top-up grant is based on the overall number of employees with disabilities. There is an additional 10% of the wage subsidy for 3 to 6 employees with disabilities to a maximum of 50% of the wage subsidy for 23+ employees with disabilities.
Strand 3 is a grant to companies that employ 25 or more people with disabilities. The grant is used to employ an Employment Assistance Officer (EAO) at the company. The EAO supports and assists employees with their employment needs. The grant is €30,000 per annum.
Conditions of employment for people on the WSS scheme
Employees on the WSS scheme have the same conditions of employment as all other staff. They qualify for PRSI contributions, annual leave, tax deductions, contracts of employment and minimum wage requirements.
People on the WSS scheme may also qualify for other in-work income supports, including:
You should contact your local Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office for more information, or for WFP payments contact the DSP WFP section directly.
The DSP, the employer and the employee agree the productivity shortfall, if any. Grant assistance is payable to the employer by electronic fund transfer on a frequency as agreed with the DSP (normally on a monthly basis). The employer pays the going rate for the job. The employer is paid a subsidy of €5.30 an hour for the hours worked. The maximum annual subsidy to the employer is €10,748 based on a 39-hour week.
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, employers may get WSS for employees who are entitled to keep their Disability Allowance (DA) or Blind Pension (BP). – see ‘Who can take part in the WSS?’ above.
Retention of 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 taking up employment on WSS, you are entitled to 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. You should tell the DSP that you have started work on the WSS scheme and ask how your individual payments will be affected.
You may also be able to keep the following benefits if you were eligible for them before you started work on the WSS scheme:
The WSS is only payable until you become eligible to apply for a State Pension.
How to apply
The employee completes the employee application form (pdf) and meets the DSP Case Officer to register on the WSS system as someone with a disability. The employer completes the employer application form (pdf) and productivity level report form (pdf) as agreed with the employee. 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, see Operational Guidelines for the Wage Subsidy Scheme for more information.
You can find more information on the Wage Subsidy Scheme from the Department of Social Protection.