Workers unable to go to work due to a lack of childcare triggered by Covid-19 closures may be eligible to claim the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, according to the Department of Social Protection.
In a tweet, the Department said: “Workers affected by lack of childcare should engage with their employer with a view to exploring all options available to enable them to return to, or continue with, work where possible.
“Where there are no options possible they are eligible to apply for the PUP,” it said.
The number of people receiving the Pandemic Unemployment Payment has soared to just under 400,000 from 336,000 a week ago, according to the latest figures from the Department of Social Protection.
The 18.7% increase of 62,000 reflects the wave of business closures triggered by the reintroduction of Level 5 restrictions.
This week’s payments to 398,206 claimants will cost €118 million – though the PUP figures do not include a further 189,860 individuals reported on the Live Register at the end of December.
In total, just over 588,000 people are entirely dependent on the state for income support.
Meanwhile, the number of people receiving the Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit has risen fourfold over the last 7 days from 1661 to 6,412, as the number of new coronavirus cases has reached record levels.
The sectors with the highest number of PUP recipients this week are accommodation and food service activities (106,387), followed by wholesale and retail trade (65,300) and administrative and support service activities (34,459).
Wholesale and retail saw a dramatic rise of almost 40% in PUP claims from 46,853 seven days ago, to 65,300 this week.
Construction saw a similar percentage increase in claims (39.3%), rising from 23,080 last week to 32,151 this week.
However, the Department warns of worse to come, saying: “The number of people in this sector in receipt of PUP is expected to increase further next week following the imposing of restrictions that took effect last Friday evening.”
Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said the statistics outlined the “stark” impact the pandemic continues to have on the labour market.
“The decisions taken by the Government to impose increased restrictions on sectors such as construction, retail and education were not taken lightly,” she noted.
However, she defended those decisions as “necessary in order to protect lives, livelihoods and our frontline workers.”
She reiterated government calls for everyone to follow health guidelines to suppress the virus, adding that the more people complied with the guidelines, the sooner the government could begin to reopen the economy.
She also reminded claimants that the PUP scheme remains open to eligible individuals including the self-employed, but also noted other supports available to businesses.
“I would also strongly advise businesses to consider availing of the Employment Wage Subsidy scheme and the Covid Restrictions Support scheme administered by Revenue – during the current restrictions.
“These are designed to protect businesses and seek to maintain the important link between businesses and their employees during these extremely difficult times,” said the Minister.
Meanwhile, the number of people aged under 66 availing of the Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit has reached 105,372, with increases in every county and economic sector.
Of those, 11.5% have actually been diagnosed with the virus, while the remainder have been required to medically self-isolate on a precautionary basis.
Over the last month, 7,308 were medically certified for the Enhanced Illness Benefit, with 1,629 actually contracting the virus.
The highest increase in recipients was in Dublin at 2,007.
The sectors with the highest number of employees medically certified for Enhanced Illness Benefit are wholesale and retail (22,642) and human health and social work activities (18,595).
Minister Heather Humphreys said the “significant” rise in the number of people receiving the Covid-19 Illness Benefit was yet another demonstration of the increased presence of the virus in communities, coinciding with the increase in virus numbers.