Time for Varadkar to level the playing field for self-employed

23 June 2016

Labour Spokesperson on Social Protection Deputy Willie Penrose has called on Minister Leo Varadkar to act to provide self-employed people with a fairer access to the social protection system.

Speaking last night in Dáil Eireann, Deputy Penrose said, “During the period of the worst economic recession, the protection of the social welfare system was given the utmost priority by the last government, a government that had the Labour party at its heart.

“They also commenced a policy of equalisation with respect to the taxation treatment of the self-employed compared with employed people by increasing the earned income tax credit for self-employed people.  That will match the PAYE tax credit by 2018.  They are now on a current-year basis in terms of taxation, so this should be done in the sake of fairness. 

“As the economy continues to improve, the Minister must now ensure that the playing field is levelled for self-employed people.

“Self-employed people are also entitled to have a safety net in place in the social welfare system, for when one falls into personal difficulties, such as illness, or where one loses one’s job unexpectedly. Many of these people who are self-employed also provide valuable employment for others. Such persons are liable for PRSI payment under the class S rate of 4% which entitles them to access long-term benefits, such as the State pension – contributory – or the widow’s, widower’s or surviving civil partner’s pension – contributory.  They do not qualify for jobseeker’s benefit, irrespective of how long they have been making contributions, and these people are compelled to seek recourse to the jobseeker’s allowance which is means tested. 

“For many formerly self-employed, this turns out to be their first encounter with the social welfare system.  It can be an emotive, tortuous and complex process in so far as the assessment must reflect the income that the self-employed person might expect to get from his or her business in the previous 12 months. 

“I hope the Minister will apply fairness in trying to achieve a just and equitable resolution for the self-employed in the application of the social welfare system for them, especially in the context of a specific PRSI scheme underpinning the equality objective.  It should recognise their special position as employers as well as employees.  We must confront the issue and address in a positive and constructive way the plight of the self-employed.”

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