Fórsa is in contact with the Department of Employment And Social Protection (DEASP) regarding changed procedures, increased workloads and the need for social distancing in Intreo centres (ICs).
A sudden and massive spike in coronavirus-related lay-offs is placing huge demands on social welfare services. Around 140,000 workers – from pubs, restaurants and childcare facilities – have been laid off in recent days.
In response, the Government has established a facility for employers to continue to pay laid-off workers at least the equivalent jobseekers' rate of €203 per week during a six-week period.
Employers will then be able to claim a refund for the payments under the temporary scheme. Refunds are expected to take some time to process, but banks have pledged to provide businesses with overdrafts and short-term loans to cover the costs.
If their employers can’t pay the jobseekers’ benefit equivalent, affected workers can claim an online Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment. This is available for six weeks to workers and self-employed people who have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
There is no need to attend an IC to claim the benefit. A simplified version of the jobseekers form is available on the DEASP website. This must be downloaded, filled out and returned by post.
DEASP’s communications staff are pushing the message that laid off workers don’t need to attend an IC. This has been covered widely across media outlets.
Staffing levels for online applications and the illness benefit helpdesk are being increased in anticipation of additional demand.
Fórsa has also sought the following measures to ensure social distancing is observed in public offices;
- A limit on customer numbers
- Signage outside ICs informing customers how to apply online
- Reserving each second seat in IC waiting areas so that they cannot be used.
Fórsa members who encounter difficulties should contact the union through its website as this is the best way of accessing the union at present.