Returning to work

Returning to work after being unemployed

If you are returning to work after a long break, there are a number of options to consider and steps you should take before you start work. This page explains what will happen to your income supports, medical card, rent supplement and how to pay PRSI and tax.

You may need help with finding a job or you may be interested in further training before starting work. Your Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office can advise you about job opportunities - see 'more information' below.

The Department of Social Protection (DSP) is responsible for providing employment services and guidance to jobseekers as well as income support.

You can use the benefit of work estimator from the DSP to help you assess the financial consequences of taking up full-time work. The estimator works out the total amount you would receive on taking up full-time work (including any Working Family Payment) and compares this to what you are getting in jobseeker payments (including Rent Supplement).

What happens to my income supports?

If you are unemployed you may be able to keep your medical card or Rent Supplement when you take up employment - see below. If you have been unemployed for some time and still have not found a job you may be eligible for an employment scheme. There are also employment supports for people with disabilities.

If you have children:

Keeping your medical card and Rent Supplement

Medical card
If you are unemployed and you are returning to full-time or part-time work, you can keep your medical card for 3 years provided you have been getting a full-rate payment for one of the following allowances or benefits for 12 months or more:

If you take up full-time employment you will keep your medical card for 3 years from the date you start work. If you take up part-time employment the 3-year period starts from the date your income exceeds the relevant medical card guideline. You can get more details about the retention of medical cards in the Health Service Executive's Medical Card and GP Visit National Assessment Guidelines (pdf).

Rent Supplement
If you have been unemployed or not in full-time employment for at least 12 months and are assessed as in need of housing under the Rental Accommodation Scheme you may be entitled to keep your Rent Supplement.

Differential rents and returning to work

If you are renting from a local authority or housing association, your rent is calculated using the local authority differential rents system. This system is based on your household’s weekly income and your ability to pay. So, if your income increases when you return to work, you must tell the local authority or housing association and you can be asked for a higher contribution towards the rent.

If you are a private tenant on the Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) scheme, your rent contribution is calculated in a similar way and you will have to notify the local authority when your income changes.

Paying tax and PRSI

If you are returning to work after a long time, you need to make sure that your tax and PRSI deductions from your wages are correct.


Your new employer must deduct tax and the Universal Social Charge (USC) from your pay under the PAYE system from the beginning of your employment. To make sure that your tax is properly dealt with from the start and that your employer deducts the right amount of tax from your pay, you should:

  • Give your employer your Personal Public Service (PPS) number and ask for your Employer's Registered Number. If you do not know your PPS number, contact your Intreo Centre or Social Welfare Branch Office and staff there can find your number for you.
  • Register the details of your new job with Revenue’s Jobs and Pensions online service in myAccount. If you are unable to use online services, you can contact your tax office for assistance – see ‘Where to apply’ below.

Ideally you should take these steps as soon as you accept an offer of a job, even if only a part-time or holiday employment. This will give your employer and Revenue time to get things sorted out before your first pay day.

When you have registered the details of your new job, Revenue will send a Revenue payroll notification (RPN) to your new employer. The RPN will tell your employer how much income tax and universal Social Charge (USC) to deduct from your pay. You can view your tax credit certificate and claim any additional tax credits you may be due through Revenue's PAYE Services. You access PAYE Services through Revenue's myAccount.

If you have not sorted out your tax position by the time you start work your employer will have to deduct tax on an emergency basis.


Providing your employer with your PPS number will allow your social welfare contributions to be recorded along with any contributions you paid in previous periods of employment.

If you have been out of the workforce for some years, you will not immediately qualify for short-term social welfare payments such as Illness Benefit. You are, however, immediately covered for Injury Benefit, where you are unable to work due to an accident at work. How quickly you will qualify for the various social welfare benefits will depend on the type of benefit you are applying for and your circumstances before returning to work. You gain credited contributions if, for example, you are sick or unemployed.

More information

Page edited: 25 March 2024