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Know Your Rights: Grants for solar panels

Question

I heard that there is a new grant scheme for installing solar panels in your home. How does the scheme work and do I qualify?

Answer

The Solar PV scheme gives grants to install solar photovoltaic (PV) panels and a battery energy storage system at your home. This means you can generate and use renewable electricity in your home and reduce your electricity costs. The Solar PV scheme is a pilot scheme administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI).

To qualify for a grant you must:

  • Be the owner of a home built and occupied before 2011 (or a home constructed after 2011 that was built to the 2008 Building Regulations)
  • Use new materials and products that were not already covered under another grant programme
  • Use a registered contractor from the SEAI’s Renewable Installers Register for Solar PV
  • Have the electrical work completed by a Safe Electric Ireland electrician
  • Apply to be connected to the electricity distribution system using the ESB Networks NC6 form (pdf)
  • Have a Building Energy Rating (BER) carried out after the work is completed
  • Agree to participate in SEAI research about the scheme

The grant covers materials and labour, unless you are a contractor doing the work in your own home. In this case only the cost of the materials is covered.

When the SEAI payment system opens (in October 2018) you can claim your grant online and it will be paid directly into your bank account.

Know Your Rights: Maternity leave

Question

I am pregnant but I have only been working with my employer for a few weeks. Am I entitled to maternity leave?

Answer

If you are pregnant while in employment, you are entitled to maternity leave, regardless of how long you have been working for the organisation or the number of hours worked per week. You can also take 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. You can also take up to 16 weeks’ additional unpaid maternity leave, which begins immediately after the end of maternity leave.

Under the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004, you must take at least 2 weeks before the end of the week of your baby’s expected birth and at least 4 weeks after. You can decide how you would like to take the remaining weeks. Generally, employees take 2 weeks before the birth and the remaining weeks after. If you qualify for Maternity Benefit (see below) you must take at least 2 and no more than 16 weeks before the end of the week the baby is due.

Your entitlement to pay and superannuation during maternity leave depends on the terms of your contract of employment. Employers are not obliged to pay you if you are on maternity leave. You may qualify for Maternity Benefit from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection if you have enough PRSI contributions.

However, your contract with your employer could provide for additional rights to payment during the leave period, so that, for example, you could receive full pay less the amount of your Maternity Benefit.

Know your rights: Flu vaccine

Question

I’m thinking of getting the flu vaccine. Can you tell me about this vaccine?

Answer

Influenza, usually known as the flu, is highly infectious and anyone can get it. However some groups are at greater risk of complications if they get the flu. This includes people over the age of 65, pregnant women and people who have a chronic medical condition.

The flu vaccine can help protect you from getting the flu. The flu virus changes every year and this is why there is a new vaccine each year. Vaccination is strongly recommended if you:

  • Are aged 65 or over
  • Have a long-term medical condition, for example, diabetes or chronic heart, kidney, liver, lung or neurological disease
  • Have an impaired immune system due to disease or treatment
  • Have a body mass index (BMI) over 40
  • Are pregnant
  • Live in a nursing home or other long-stay institution
  • Are a carer or a healthcare worker
  • Have regular contact with poultry, water fowl or pigs

If you are aged 18 or over, you can get the vaccine from your GP (family doctor) or pharmacist. Children can get the vaccine from a GP.

The vaccine itself is free of charge if you are in one of the recommended groups. However, doctors and pharmacists may charge a consultation fee when they give you the vaccine.

If you have a medical card or GP visit card, you can get the vaccine without being charged a consultation fee.

You can read more about the flu and the vaccine on hse.ie.

Budget 2019

Budget 2019 was announced on 9 October 2018.

The citizensinformation.ie document Budget 2019 sets out the main changes to taxation, social welfare, health, housing, education, employment and other areas.

Some of the changes announced in the Budget come into effect immediately. Others take effect from the beginning of January 2019 or later in the year. Some measures have to be finalised before coming into effect, while others may change slightly when the legislation needed to bring them into effect is enacted.

For a full list of the Budget changes, see budget.gov.ie.

Final call for registering to vote

You can use checktheregister.ie to see if you’re registered to vote.

If not, you can still apply to be registered in time for the presidential election and referendum on 26 October 2018. Your application must reach your local authority by the right closing date.

The closing date for the supplement to the main Register of Electors is Tuesday 9 October 2018.

Application forms are available on checktheregister.ie.