Wage Subsidy Earnings Limit ‘Not Fair’

10 Apr 2020 | 01.15 pm

Wage Subsidy Earnings Limit ‘Not Fair’

Hidden Hearing boss wants wage subsidy scheme extended 

10 Apr 2020 | 01.15 pm

People earning over €70,000 p.a. should be included in the government’s wage subsidy scheme to prevent them being made redundant, according to Hidden Hearing managing director Stephen Leddy.

Hidden Hearing provides hearing technology and audiology services across the country, operating emergency clinics and providing online resources as well as a call centre for clients.

Leddy (pictured) has written to minister Heather Humphreys to make the case for including higher earners in the scheme that helps pay the wages of workers kept on by employers during the Covid-19 crisis.

Leddy told the minister: “Hidden Hearing had committed that all staff would be retained on full salaries, based on the subsidy scheme announced. Excluding higher earners altogether from the wage subsidy scheme means that this is now not possible, due to our current dramatic loss of income. 

“We cannot afford to carry our senior management and audiologists without government support and may have to make them redundant. These people provide important services and support business and economic development, and it is unwise to overlook their contribution and their concerns at this difficult time.”

Leddy added: “Higher earners equally have mortgages and other loan commitments to meet, often higher than the norm, and will suffer a more disproportionate effect on their family’s income as a result. Many of my colleagues in Hidden Hearing, for example, are the sole earner in their family.

“I am sure many other long-established companies with a loyal workforce are in the same position, with a senior management team that is very skilled, having numerous years’ experience in their sector.

“Our business employs 120 people, the bulk of whom are highly qualified audiologists providing an important healthcare resource across Ireland. Regardless of the sector, talented people with experience and knowledge are hard to replace, and their loss is most disruptive to business and service provision.

“Those earning a higher level of income pay higher taxes, all the more unfair when it appears that in time of difficulty they become the cohort to receive nothing. The annual tax take from Hidden Hearing and our employees is in the region of €7m.

“I believe in the interest of fairness to all employees, employers and taxpayers that the salary bands must be reviewed to support the many sectors where the majority of employees merit salaries reflecting the expertise and training of their professional roles.”

Flawed Scheme

Marc O’Dwyer, CEO of Big Red Cloud, said the Pandemic Unemployment Payment is more valuable to some employees than the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, particularly in cases where employers are unable to provide additional payments within the scheme limits.

He added: “In our experience from talking to our customers throughout the country, this differential is in many cases causing employees to tell employers that they would prefer to be laid off, rather than being retained on the payroll. It’s a flaw in the scheme which we believe is having an adverse effect on the numbers taking up on the wage subsidy scheme.

“The other big ‘elephant in the room’ is that whilst the wage subsidy is not taxed through payroll, it will be taxed in the employees end of year return. I don’t think there is a general awareness of this fact, and it’s likely to become a political hot potato at the end of the year.”

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