Wage Subsidy Scheme
The Wage Subsidy Scheme offers financial support for employers who employ certain people with disabilities. The scheme is one of the workplace supports for employers provided by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) to encourage the employment of people with disabilities.
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.
Under the scheme, the DEASP completes an annual review of the employment situation. The review is based on the performance of the employee in the previous 12 months. The employer must complete a productivity assessment form to certify the employee’s productivity deficit. The DEASP reserves the right to conduct additional monitoring visits without notice to the employer’s premises, when and where required.
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. There is some flexibility around how you calculate the number of hours a week the employee must work, 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. You can find further information on this in the Operational Guidelines for the Wage Subsidy Scheme (pdf).
You must be at least 18 years of age to participate in the WSS.
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 can 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.
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.
The scheme is not available to:
- Self-employed people
- Participants on Community Employment schemes
- Employers who avail of the JobPlus Scheme
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 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. The "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 30 or more employees with disabilities. The grant is used to employ an Employment Assistance Officer (EAO) at the company. The EAO is employed to support and assist employees with their employment needs. The grant is €30,000 per annum.
Conditions of employment
Employees 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.
You may also qualify for other in-work income supports, such as:
For further details you should contact your local Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office, or for WFP payments contact the DEASP WFP section directly.
The DEASP, 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). 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).
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 take up employment 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 DEASP that you have started work on the WSS scheme and ask how your individual payments will be affected.
You may be able to keep your Rent Supplement and Mortgage Interest Supplement, if you satisfy the means test and meet other conditions. The amount of Rent Supplement you get may be affected by your increased income.
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 and meets the DEASP Case Officer to register on the WSS system as someone with a disability. The employer completes the employer application form and productivity level report form 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 applying for Strand 3 WSS funding, the employer should complete the application for Strand III Grant form, which they can get from a DEASP Case Officer. They must also provide supporting documentation, see Operational Guidelines for the Wage Subsidy Scheme (pdf) for more information.
You can find more information in the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection ’s Operational Guidelines for the Wage Subsidy Scheme (pdf).