Social Democrats spokesperson for Children, Jennifer Whitmore TD, has expressed concern at the steady rise in the number of childcare workers migrating to the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

In a reply to a parliamentary question from Deputy Whitmore, the Minister for Social Protection revealed that the number of childcare workers availing of PUP has risen from 1,992 on December 21 to 4,175 on February 1.

Deputy Whitmore stated:

“This is a very worrying trend and reveals fundamental problems with the Employers’ Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS), which was designed to help employers retain staff and keep them on the books.

“As currently designed, the scheme allows for employers to reduce staff working hours to a minimum, which can often negatively impact on the relationship between staff and employers. Staff can feel uncomfortable with the level of uncertainty and as a result may leave the scheme and go onto the PUP.

“Being on the PUP also has implications for childcare workers in terms of PRSI contributions and other rights such as their holiday entitlements. We also still do not have a statutory sick leave scheme, which contributes to workers’ insecurity.

“Our childcare sector continues to be riddled with chronic underinvestment, quality and affordability issues and a crisis of pay and conditions for staff. Covid-19 has made these issues worse and staff retention is at an all-time low due to the lack of security staff and employers have on the EWSS.

“I raised this with the Minister for Children in the Dáil today, and while he said employers must keep staff on the payroll in order to secure the EWSS, the problem still persists that employers can reduce hours for staff. This still needs to be addressed.

“The State is contributing €600m of exchequer money to the childcare sector during the pandemic, yet sustainability of the sector continues to worsen. It’s time the Minister addresses the inherent flaws in Covid support schemes and works towards a template for a publicly funded childcare model.”

February 4, 2021

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