Skills to Work

Skills To Work brings together key initiatives that support jobseekers to access training and work experience and encourage businesses to employ people currently on the Live Register. It aims to make it easier for jobseekers and employers to access information on all their training options. The five programmes under the Skills to Work programme are: Springboard, Momentum, Skillnets, JobBridge and JobsPlus.

Back to Work Family Dividend is now fully operational

The Back to Work Family Dividend (BTWFD) scheme aims to help families to move from social welfare into employment. It gives financial support to people with qualified children who are in or take up employment or self-employment and as a result stop claiming a jobseeker’s payment or a one-parent family payment on or after 5 January 2015.

The scheme become fully operational from 6 May 2015.

Read more about the payment in our document on Back to Work Family Dividend. 

Know your rights: Parental leave

Question

What is parental leave? Can both parents take it?

Answer (May 2015)

Each parent of an eligible child may take up to 18 weeks parental leave. In most cases an eligible child is under eight. However if your child has a disability or a long-term illness, you can take parental leave up to the child’s 16th birthday. If you adopt a child between the ages of six and eight, you can take leave on behalf of that child up to two years after the date of the adoption order. (Your contract of employment may also provide for an extended age limit.)

The 18 weeks per child may be taken in one continuous period or in two separate blocks of a minimum of six weeks. There must be a gap of at least 10 weeks between the two periods of parental leave per child. However, if your employer agrees you can separate your leave into periods of days or even hours.

Taking parental leave does not affect your other employment rights. Apart from the loss of pay and pension contributions, your position remains as if no parental leave had been taken. This means, for example that time spent on parental leave can be used to accumulate your annual leave entitlement. A public holiday that falls while you are on parental leave and on a day when you would normally be working is added to your period of leave.

When you return to work after taking parental leave, you are entitled to ask for a change in your work pattern or working hours for a set period. Your employer must consider your request but is not obliged to grant it.

Both parents have an equal separate entitlement to parental leave. Unless you and your partner work for the same employer, you can only claim your own parental leave entitlement (up to 18 weeks per child). If you both work for the same employer, and your employer agrees, you may transfer 14 weeks of your parental leave entitlement to each other.

Know Your Rights columns cover topical subjects every month in a question-and-answer format. They are published by the Citizens Information Board online and syndicated through Citizens Information Services to local newspapers around Ireland.

Further information is available from Citizens Information Centres and from the Citizens Information Phone Service, call 0761 07 4000.

Know your rights: Better Energy Homes Scheme

Question

Our house is quite chilly, so we’d like to make it more comfortable and save on our heating bills. Are there any grants for this type of work?

Answer (May 2015)

You can apply for the Better Energy Homes Scheme, which provides grants to homeowners to improve energy efficiency in their homes. (It is also available to landlords and owners of more than one property.) The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) administers the scheme.

You can use the Home Energy Self Survey to identify areas in your home that could be improved to increase  energy efficiency. You can also get a Building Energy Rating (BER) done if you are uncertain about your energy-saving options or what work to get done first.

Grants are available for the following types of work: roof insulation; wall insulation; upgrade of heating controls; installing a high-efficiency boiler; solar heating; and a BER after the energy-saving work is carried out.

To qualify for a grant, you must own a dwelling built before 2006; use a contractor from SEAI’s registered list; use newly fitted materials and products; have work done that complies with the required standards; have a BER carried out after the works are done and use a BER assessor from SEAI’s National Register. You must have grant approval before you buy materials or start work.

Grants for qualifying measures range from a maximum of €300 for attic or cavity wall insulation to a maximum of €4,500 for external wall insulation on a detached house. Grants are paid after the work is completed and you have paid your contractor.

If you get three qualifying measures done, a bonus of €300 is payable on top of the grants. (A BER doesn’t count as a measure for this bonus.) A further €100 is payable on completion of a fourth measure. Full details of grants and bonuses are available on seai.ie.

If you are also claiming a tax credit under the Home Renovation Incentive, the amount of expenditure that qualifies for the credit will be reduced.You can contact SEAI at 1850 927 000 or info@betterenergyhomes.ie.

Know Your Rights columns cover topical subjects every month in a question-and-answer format. They are published by the Citizens Information Board online and syndicated through Citizens Information Services to local newspapers around Ireland.

Further information is available from Citizens Information Centres and from the Citizens Information Phone Service, call 0761 07 4000.

New SURE tax refund scheme

A new tax refund scheme for start ups called Start Up Refunds for Entrepreneurs (SURE) has been announced.

If you are interested in starting your own company, you may be entitled to an income tax refund of up to 41% of the capital funding that you invest in the company. Depending on the size of your investment you may be entitled to a refund of PAYE income tax that you paid over the six years before the year in which you invest.

The general conditions for SURE are that you must:

  • Establish a new company and engage in a qualifying trading activity
  • Invest money in the new company by way of purchasing new shares
  • Have had mainly PAYE income in the previous four years (This would include a person currently in PAYE type employment, an unemployed person, a person recently made redundant or a retired person)
  • Take up full-time employment in the new company either as a director or an employee.

Read more at sure.gov.ie.

Springboard places for jobseekers

The 2015 Springboard courses are now open for applications. 

Springboard+ 2015 which incorporates part-time Springboard courses and full-time ICT skills conversion programmes will provide for 285 courses at 42 higher education institutions across Ireland.

Springboard offers free courses at certificate, degree and masters level and aims in particular to offer qualifications in areas where there are job opportunities – such as ICT and financial services.

In general, to qualify for Springboard you must be unemployed, with a previous history of employment, and you must be actively seeking work and available to take up work. Courses are one year or less and are generally part-time except for ICT skills conversion programmes.

Read about Springboard and eligibility criteria. 

Know your rights: Rights of au pairs

Question
I am thinking of getting an au pair to live with us and to look after the children as I am going back to full-time work next month. What are the rules about employing au pairs?

Answer (May 2015)

An au pair is a person who is treated as a family member in exchange for certain services, such as a limited amount of light housework or help minding children. It is a voluntary arrangement between a private household and a private individual. The au pair is usually given room and board and paid weekly pocket-money and is not considered to be an employee.

However, simply using the term au pair to describe an arrangement between consenting parties does not mean that the person is not an employee. If a person is carrying out a duty for another person in exchange for payment, a contractual relationship may exist.

Contract law and employment legislation are generally used to establish whether or not a person is an employee. If you employ someone to live in your house and look after your children while you are working full-time, they would be considered a domestic worker.

Domestic workers have various employment rights. These include the right to a written contract of employment, a minimum wage, rest periods and breaks, annual leave and public holidays. The maximum hours of work that an employee can work in a week is 48 hours on average. The employer must keep a record of how many hours a domestic worker is employed.

Domestic workers pay tax, PRSI and the Universal Social Charge and it is the responsibility of the employer to deduct this from the worker’s wages and also to pay the employer’s PRSI contribution on their behalf.
A leaflet on the employment rights of domestic workers (pdf) is available on workplacerelations.ie.

Know Your Rights columns cover topical subjects every month in a question-and-answer format. They are published by the Citizens Information Board online and syndicated through Citizens Information Services to local newspapers around Ireland.

Further information is available from Citizens Information Centres and from the Citizens Information Phone Service, call 0761 07 4000.

Childcare and early childhood education – extension of consultation period for parents

The Inter-Departmental Group on Future Investment in Early Years and School-Age Care and Education Services is exploring ways of ensuring that current and future investment delivers more affordable, accessible and high quality early years and school-age care and education.

The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has extended the time for parents and guardians to contribute to the Group. The new closing date for submissions from parents and guardians is midnight on Sunday 10 May 2015. 

Find out more from the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.