My partner and I are planning a holiday in Spain. How do we access public healthcare services if one of us becomes ill when abroad?
Answer (April 2018)
You and your partner each need a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This card allows you to access public healthcare services if you become ill or get injured when travelling to or visiting certain European countries. It doesn’t cover private treatment or the cost of repatriation to Ireland if required.
The countries covered by the card are the 28 member states of the EU, the three other members of the EEA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) and Switzerland. You don’t need the card for a visit to the UK if you can show that you are ordinarily resident in Ireland. In practice, this means showing a driving licence, passport or similar document.
If you have a smartphone you can download the free EHIC app. This includes emergency phone numbers and information about treatments and costs covered. The app does not replace the card.
If you already have a medical card or Drugs Payment Scheme card, you can apply online for your EHIC at ehic.ie.
Otherwise, you can download an application form from ehic.ie or get one from your Local Health Office. You need to provide your name, address, date of birth and Personal Public Service number (PPS number). You may also need to show proof that you are ordinarily resident in Ireland. If your EHIC has expired you can renew it online at ehic.ie. If your details have changed (for example, your address) you need to contact your Local Health Office to renew the card.
If you have concerns about getting a new or renewed card in time, you can get a Temporary Replacement Certificate, either online or from your Local Health Office. You may also wish to consider taking out private travel insurance for expenses that are not covered by the EHIC (such as the costs of repatriation).
I have heard that new data protection rules are coming in. What are these rules and how will they affect me?
Answer (April 2018)
A new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) comes into force across the EU on 25 May 2018.
The GDPR strengthens your rights and gives you much more control over your personal data. It also introduces stricter measures for businesses and other organisations that collect, control and process your personal data.
Under the GDPR, personal data is data that relates to you or can identify you, either by itself or together with other available information. Examples of personal data include your name, phone number, bank details and medical history.
Under the GDPR you are entitled to:
- Access the contact details of the organisation collecting your data
- See a copy of the data held about you
- Have it amended or erased if it is incorrect
- Move or transfer your data
- Object to the use of your data
- Information about how your data is being protected
The GDPR also imposes more obligations on organisations that control and process your data. These organisations must design data collection systems that meet specified requirements, collect only the data that is absolutely necessary for their purposes, keep records of the processing activities under their responsibility, keep data secure and report any data breaches.
Find out more on dataprotection.ie and gdprandyou.ie.
I have a valid passport, but it will expire two weeks before I go on holiday. Will two weeks give me enough time to get a new one?
Answer (March 2018)
You don’t have to wait until your passport expires to renew it. However, if you apply for a new passport before your current one expires, your new passport is valid from when you apply, rather than from when your previous passport expires.
The website of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, dfa.ie, lists the current average processing times for different types of passport applications. The quickest way to renew your passport is by using the online application service. You can use this service to renew your passport if it expires any time in the next 12 months.
You must submit a digital photo with your online application. You can get a friend to take your photo with a digital camera or smartphone or you can go to a photo provider, for example a pharmacy or a photographer, who will give you a copy of your digital photo to upload. Alternatively, you can go to one of the Irish photo booth services listed on passportphoto.ie, which will take your photo and provide you with a code. If you enter this code when applying for your passport online, you don’t need to upload the photo yourself.
Online renewal isn’t available for children’s passports, so if you want to renew your family’s passports together, you have to use Passport Express, the postal application service. There is an extra charge of €9.50 per application for using Passport Express. However, if you are renewing passports for the whole family you can use the ‘Family Application’ option for €16, where up to four passport applications can be sent in one envelope. Alternatively, you can renew your own passport online and use Passport Express to renew any passports for children.
I am getting Jobseeker’s Allowance and have just been offered a job. My husband looks after our two children at home. Can I get any social welfare assistance if I stop signing on and go back to work?
Answer (March 2018)
There is a scheme for people with children who stop claiming a jobseeker’s payment, or a one-parent family payment, because they are in – or are taking up – work or self-employment. The scheme is called the Back to Work Family Dividend (BTWFD).
The BTWFD is a weekly payment for up to two years after you start work. For the first year in employment, you are paid the equivalent of any Increase for a Qualified Child that you were getting on your jobseeker’s payment or one-parent family payment (up to a maximum of four children). You get half of that amount weekly for the second year.
To qualify, you must have at least one qualified child and have been getting one of the following payments: Jobseeker’s Allowance or Jobseeker’s Benefit (for at least 12 months), One-Parent Family Payment, or Jobseeker’s Transitional payment. You and all members of your family (including your adult dependant) must sign off all primary social welfare payments.
The BTWFD can be paid with other social welfare payments including Working Family Payment (formerly called Family Income Supplement), Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, Child Benefit, Domiciliary Care Allowance and Rent Supplement.
You can get BTWFD for up to two years if you stay in employment. If you or your husband claim a primary social welfare payment within two years of you starting work, the BTWFD payment will stop. If you lose your job and claim a social welfare payment, the BTWFD stops. However, it may restart if you get a new job. You can get a maximum of two restarts per claim.
I’m working part-time on a low wage. Do I qualify for any social welfare payments?
Answer (February 2018)
It depends on your personal circumstances. Many people work part-time before taking up full-time employment. If you are working part-time you can, in some cases, keep or apply for a partial social welfare payment, or you may qualify for additional supports.
If you work over 38 hours in a fortnight and you have children you may be able to claim Working Family Payment (WFP), formerly known as Family Income Supplement or FIS. WFP is a weekly tax-free payment for people on low pay.
You may be able to claim a jobseeker’s payment for the days you are not working. You can work part-time for up to three days a week and claim a reduced Jobseeker’s Benefit or Jobseeker’s Allowance payment. You may qualify for the Part-Time Job Incentive Scheme if you were getting Jobseeker’s Allowance and find part-time work for less than 24 hours per week.
However, one of the main conditions for getting a jobseeker’s payment is that you must be available for work and actively seeking work. This means that you must continue to look for work on the days you are unemployed. You must also be unemployed for at least four days out of seven consecutive days.
If you return to work after a period of unemployment, you may qualify for the Back to Work Family Dividend (BTWFD) which aims to help families move from social welfare into employment. The BTWFD and WFP can be paid together and the BTWFD is not taken into account in the means test for WFP.
If you are parenting alone and getting a One-Parent Family Payment, you are allowed to earn a certain amount each week and keep your payment. In some cases, people getting disability payments can do some work and keep a social welfare payment.
What is parental leave? Can both parents take it?
Answer (February 2018)
Each parent of an eligible child may take up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave from work. Leave can be taken no later than the child’s eighth birthday. However, if your child has a disability or a long-term illness, you can take parental leave up to their 16th birthday. If you adopt a child between the ages of six and eight, you can take leave for 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.)
You can take 18 weeks of leave per child in one continuous period or in two separate blocks of a minimum of six weeks. If you take it in two separate blocks, there must be a gap of at least 10 weeks between the two periods of leave per child. However, if your employer agrees, you can separate parental 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 while on parental leave you will continue to accumulate your annual leave entitlement. While you are on parental leave, a public holiday that falls 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 can 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 entitlement to 18 weeks’ parental leave each. Unless you and your partner work for the same employer, this leave is non-transferable; you can only claim your own parental leave entitlement of up to 18 weeks per child. However, if you both work for the same employer and your employer agrees, you may transfer up to 14 weeks of your parental leave entitlement to each other.
I know that medical treatments available in Ireland can be accessed in other EU countries instead. What if I need a treatment that is not available in Ireland?
Answer (January 2018)
If you are entitled to public health services that are available in Ireland, you can access these services in the European Economic Area (EEA) and be repaid the cost under the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive.
If you are a public patient and need treatment that is not available to you in Ireland, you may be able to use the Treatment Abroad Scheme to get the treatment in another country in the EEA, or in Switzerland. The Scheme may provide help with your travel fare and, in some cases, the fare for a travelling companion.
You must be referred for treatment abroad by an Irish-based consultant who is treating you as a public patient. You cannot refer yourself or be referred by a GP.
You and the consultant complete an application form and include a copy of your referral letter. Your application must be approved by the Health Service Executive (HSE) before you travel or start treatment abroad. You usually get a decision on your application within 15 to 20 working days.
If your application is approved, the HSE will issue a form called E112. This authorises treatment abroad so that you do not have to make any payment to the healthcare provider. The treatment you have abroad must be in public healthcare under a registered medical practitioner. It must be in a recognised hospital or other institution that accepts the form E112. If you don’t have the form when you attend at your appointment, you may be charged and not be refunded. Any treatments or consultations that are not pre-approved will not be covered.
The Ombudsman has produced a report that suggests improvements to the application and appeals process. It recommends that, by the end of February 2018, the HSE produce a plan and schedule for making the suggested changes.
To apply for the scheme, contact the Treatment Abroad Scheme Office for an application form. You can get the contact details for your area by calling the HSE Infoline on the Callsave number 1850 24 1850 or online at hse.ie/treatmentabroad.
I recently started working in a new job on a part-time basis. I have just learned that I am pregnant – will I be entitled to maternity leave?
Answer (January 2018)
If you are pregnant while in employment, you are entitled to take maternity leave. The entitlement to a basic period of maternity leave from employment applies to all female employees (including casual workers), regardless of how long you have been working for the organisation or the number of hours you work per week. You are also entitled to additional unpaid maternity leave. The Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004 provide your statutory minimum entitlements in relation to maternity at work, including maternity leave.
You are entitled to 26 weeks’ maternity leave together with 16 weeks additional unpaid maternity leave, which begins immediately after the end of maternity leave.
Your entitlement to pay and superannuation (pension payments) during maternity leave depends on the terms of your contract of employment. Employers are not obliged to pay women who are on maternity leave. You may qualify for Maternity Benefit from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) if you have enough PRSI contributions. However an employee’s contract could provide for additional rights to payment during the leave period, so that, for example, the employee could receive full pay less the amount of Maternity Benefit payable.
If you have a dispute with your employer about maternity leave or if you have been dismissed due to a matter connected with your pregnancy or for claiming your rights under maternity leave legislation, you may make a complaint within six months of the dispute or complaint occurring. You must use the online complaint form available on workplacerelations.ie. The time limit may be extended for up to a further six months, but only where there is a reasonable cause which prevented the complaint being brought within the normal time limit.
You should apply for Maternity Benefit at least six weeks before your baby’s due date. Apply to the Maternity Benefit Section of the DEASP.
I am planning to extend my home. How can I claim the Home Renovation Incentive?
Answer (November 2017)
The Home Renovation Incentive (HRI) scheme enables homeowners or landlords to claim tax relief on repairs, renovations or improvement work that is carried out on their main home or rental property by tax-compliant contractors and that is subject to 13.5% VAT. It is also available to local authority tenants who have written consent from the local authority to carry out the works.
HRI is paid as a tax credit at 13.5% of qualifying expenditure, which can be set against your income tax over 2 years. You must be paying income tax to avail of HRI. You must also be up to date with your Local Property Tax (LPT) obligations.
Your contractor must be registered for Value Added Tax (VAT) in Ireland and be tax compliant. They also have to register the work on the HRI online administration system. If you use several contractors, such as a builder, a plumber and an electrician, you can combine the cost of the works to make up the minimum qualifying expenditure of €5,000 including VAT at 13.5%.
Repair, renovation or improvement work subject to VAT at 13.5% all qualify for the HRI, including extensions and attic conversions; supply and fitting of kitchens, bathrooms and built-in wardrobes; fitting of windows; plumbing, tiling, rewiring and plastering. Work subject to VAT at 23% is not covered. Neither are items such as furniture, white goods or carpets.
The work must be done and paid for by 31 December 2018. In general, the credit is paid over the 2 years following the year in which the work is done and paid for.
After work starts you should log in to HRI online to check that your contractor(s) have entered details of the work – if they have not, you will not be able to claim the credit. Once the work has been completed, you can claim the HRI credit. You access the HRI online system through Revenue’s myAccount service or through the Revenue Online Service (ROS) if you are registered for ROS.
There is detailed information about HRI on revenue.ie.
There is a long wait for a medical procedure that I need. Can I get my medical costs refunded if I have the procedure done in another European country?
Answer (December 2017)
If you are entitled to public health services that are available in Ireland, you can access these services in the European Economic Area (EEA). You will be repaid the cost if you meet the requirements.
This is provided for by the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive. The Directive covers services that are publicly funded and available in Ireland. These include acute hospital services and community-based outpatient care. Other services covered include physiotherapy, ophthalmic, psychology, disability and mental health services. Occupational therapy services and dental and orthodontic services are also covered, but with some exceptions. The Directive doesn’t cover treatments that qualify for the Treatment Abroad Scheme (in general, treatments that are not available in Ireland).
You must be referred to the health service abroad in the same way that you would be referred to public health services in Ireland. This referral may be by your GP (family doctor) or public hospital consultant, for example. They may also be able to tell you whether the service you require is covered by the Directive. You can also check with the National Contact Point (details below).
If the treatment involves an overnight stay in hospital, it will need to be authorised in advance by the Health Service Executive (HSE). For other treatments, you should check whether prior authorisation is required. You pay the costs of treatment and then apply for a refund when you return to Ireland. The amount repaid is either the amount that the treatment would cost in Ireland, or the cost of your treatment abroad, if that is less. It does not include other costs such as travel. The HSE has published refund amounts for different treatments. To get a refund of treatment costs, you and your healthcare provider abroad must complete a HSE form. You then submit it with the healthcare provider invoice and receipt. The HSE provides an invoice format that it recommends using for the invoice to make sure it includes all the required details.
To find out more, contact the National Contact Point: phone (056) 778 4546 or email email@example.com.