Social welfare payments and COVID-19 (coronavirus)

Introduction

COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. Ireland is trying to reduce transmission of the virus by implementing a range of measures.

As a result of the restrictions, many businesses have been forced to lay off staff or reduce their working hours.

This document gives a summary of social welfare payments for people:

  • With no work or reduced hours
  • Who are sick or who are looking after someone who is sick
  • Who cannot work because they are looking after children

It also gives information about the new 2-week payment schedule for most social welfare payments. The information set out here may change in the weeks ahead so please check back as we will continue to add information as it is announced.

People with no work or reduced hours

Your employer may have to close their business for this period and send you home. This is called a temporary lay-off. Your employer may be able to continue to pay you under the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme and if so, you do not need to apply for a social welfare payment. If your employer cannot pay you for this period, you can apply for the special COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

This payment is for employees and self-employed people living in Ireland who have lost all their employment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The payment will be paid for the duration of the pandemic at a flat rate payment of €350 per week. Read our document on COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

If you are getting the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment or you are being paid under the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme, when you apply for social insurance payments (for example, Maternity Benefit, Adoptive Benefit and the State Pension (Contributory), you will be treated as if you have been paying insurance contributions based on your normal social insurance class.

If your working hours are reduced to 3 days or less per week, you should apply for Short Time Work Support which is a form of Jobseeker’s Benefit. Short Time Work Support is based on your PRSI contributions. If you do not qualify for Short Time Work Support, you can apply for Jobseeker's Allowance.

Find out more about lay-off and short-time working.

Find out more about your employment rights during the COVID-19 restrictions.

Find out more about:

People who are sick and cannot work

The rules for Illness Benefit and Supplementary Welfare Allowance have been changed to help prevent the transmission of coronavirus. The changes mean that if you are diagnosed with COVID-19 or are suspected of having COVID-19 and are medically required to self-isolate, you can get income support.

The changes are:

  • You do not have to wait 6 days before you can apply for Illness Benefit. This means Illness Benefit can cover the first week of a COVID-19 diagnosis (or medically-required self-isolation) and any subsequent weeks.
  • The personal rate of enhanced Illness Benefit is €350 per week. It will be paid for a maximum of 2 weeks where a person is self-isolating and for a maximum of 10 weeks if a person has been diagnosed with COVID-19 (Coronavirus). If you have been certified for less than 10 weeks, you will be paid for the duration of your certificate.
  • The normal social insurance requirements for Illness Benefit will be waived or the means test for Supplementary Welfare Allowance will be removed, if you are medically required to self-isolate or diagnosed with COVID-19.

The Government has also stated that self-employed people can get either Illness Benefit or Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

The DEASP has provided information about how to apply for Illness Benefit if you are affected by COVID-19.

If you work in the civil and public sector, you do not need to apply for enhanced Illness Benefit as separate leave arrangements are in place.

Read more about enhanced Illness Benefit and Supplementary Welfare Allowance.

People who cannot work because they have to look after children

The Government has asked employers to be as flexible as possible in allowing staff time off to look after their children or other members of their families. This could include:

  • Offering paid compassionate leave
  • Allowing you to work from home
  • Altering your shifts, so that you can coordinate caring between you and your partner, or another person.
  • Allowing you to rearrange holidays
  • Allowing you to take paid time off that you can work back at a later time

Your employer may be able to continue to pay you under the Wage Subsidy Scheme.

If you left work to care for a child or another person and your employer is no longer paying you, in some circumstances, you may qualify for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. Contact the DEASP using MyWelfare or call 1890 800 024 to find out if you can qualify.

COVID-19 and Maternity Benefit

If you are pregnant and your employer has no work available, you should apply for the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. This applies both when your due date is within 16 weeks and if it is more than 16 weeks from the last day of your employment.

You should submit your Maternity Benefit application as normal. Your maternity leave should start no later than 2 weeks before the end of the week in which your baby is due.

If you are still getting a COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment when you are due to begin your maternity leave, you must close this claim and claim Maternity Benefit as normal.

People currently getting a social welfare payment

If you are self-isolating or diagnosed with COVID-19

If your only income is a social welfare payment and you are medically required to self-isolate or you are diagnosed with COVID-19, you will continue to get your social welfare payment. You do not need to apply for Illness Benefit. This also applies to people on Community Employment (CE), Tús, the Rural Social Scheme or a funded training and education programme.

If you are unable to collect your payment from the post offices due to illness or self-isolation, you can:

  • Leave your social welfare payment at the post office until you can collect it yourself. Your payment will be available in the post office for 90 days after you were due to collect it.
  • Nominate a temporary Agent to collect your payment. You can get a form for appointing a temporary Agent on the An Post website (pdf).
  • Apply to transfer your payment to your financial institution using form DIR PMT1 (pdf). Your social welfare payment can be paid directly into your personal account at a bank, building society or at certain credit unions.

If your income is a mixture of both earnings from employment and a social welfare payment (for example, you are getting the Working Family Payment) and you are medically-required to self-isolate or you are diagnosed with COVID-19, you can apply for the COVID-19 enhanced Illness Benefit payment if your employer cannot pay you.

If you lose your job or your hours at work are reduced

If your income is a mixture of both earnings from employment and a social welfare payment and you lose your job because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you can apply for the new COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

If your hours at work are reduced because of the COVID-19 pandemic and you have a reduction in your earnings, you should inform the DEASP. Your social welfare payment will be reassessed and you will get any increases due to you.

Fuel Allowance

The 2019-2020 Fuel Allowance season started on 30 September 2019. The fuel season has been extended from 28 weeks to 32 weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This means that the fuel season will now end on Friday, 8 May 2020.

Adult dependent increases

The weekly rate for an adult dependant is temporarily increased from €134.70 to €147 for 12 weeks for the following payments:

This temporary increase will end on the week of 15 June 2020.

If you are getting the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment or you are being paid under the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme, when you apply for social insurance payments (for example, Maternity Benefit, Adoptive Benefit and the State Pension (Contributory), you will be treated as if you have been paying insurance contributions based on your normal social insurance class.

Social welfare payments paid every 2 weeks

On 19 March 2020, the DEASP announced that social welfare payments will paid every 2 weeks.

This means that instead of being paid weekly, you will be paid your social welfare payment every 2 weeks. This will not affect the amount you get, but it will reduce the need for people to leave home during the COVID-19 pandemic to collect social welfare payments and support social distancing. The new measure applies both to people who collect their payments at post offices and people who are paid into a bank account.

The double payment will be made on some social welfare schemes from the week starting 23 March. People on the remaining schemes will be paid their 2 weeks entitlement in a single payment the following week.

It applies to most social welfare payments. You can find out if it applies to your payment and when your double payment will be paid on gov.ie.

Intreo centres

All Intreo centres and Social Welfare Branch Offices will be open to the public from 10am to 1pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (except for Good Friday). Public offices will be closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays. These are emergency temporary measures and will be kept under review.

You can continue to contact your Intreo centre or Social Welfare Branch Office by phone or email outside of these hours.

You can also get information through MyWelfare or call 1890 800 024.

If you have coronavirus symptoms or you have been medically required to self-isolate, you should not visit an Intreo Centre or local Social Welfare Branch Office.

Page edited: 6 April 2020