Entrepreneurs deserve the same benefits and protections afforded to all employees – Doherty

-   Regina Doherty TD

Small and medium businesses are the backbone of our economy and deserve the same benefits and protections afforded to all employees, a Fine Gael Minister has said.

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty has today highlighted the supports available to entrepreneurs around the country who provide jobs and services in our communities as part of Fine Gael’s #SelfEmployedWeek.

Minister Doherty said: “Fine Gael is committed to creating a supportive environment for entrepreneurship. We recognise the importance of small and medium businesses and the need to provide an income safety net to employees and self-employed alike.

“We have sought to encourage enterprise and, particularly, have sought to introduce a new deal for the self-employed when it comes to their access to benefits.

“In March 2017 the Treatment Benefit scheme was extended to some 450,000 self-employed people and their dependent spouses for the first time.

“This included small business owners, farmers, tradespeople, freelancers, contractors and professionals.

“It meant that people who work for themselves and pay PRSI at class S now get the same regular dental and optical examinations, free of charge, that previously were only available to employees.

“Over 330,000 treatment benefit claims have been made by the self-employed since the start of 2018.

“Entitlement to Invalidity Pension was extended to self-employed people from December 2017.

“For the first time, this gave the self-employed access to the safety-net of income supports if they become permanently incapable of work as a result of illness or disability, without having to go through a means test.

“To date, 867 customers whose social insurance record included self-employed (“Class S”) PRSI contributions have benefitted from this support.

“From November 2019 Jobseeker’s Benefit will be extended to the Self-Employed.

“It will provide a social insurance support to self-employed contributors who lose their businesses and, hopefully, provide them with the breathing space and support they need as they re-assess their next steps.

“The equalisation of the Earned Income Tax Credit with the PAYE Tax Credit is also part of Fine Gael’s self-employed agenda.

“We have made progress in recent years, for example, for 2019 you may claim an Earned Income Tax Credit of €1,350, increased from €950 in 2017 and €1,150 in 2018.”

Minister Doherty continued: “We have also taken further measures to support all hardworking people and make life easier for families.

“We have introduced paid paternity leave, extended free pre-school to 2 years for all children, increased maternity leave and benefits for mothers of premature babies, extended free GP care for the over 70s and under 6s, introduced a GP card for carers and medical cards for children with severe disabilities.

“We have also reduced the tax burden on working families.

“But we still have more to do. We will roll out free GP care for 6-12 year olds, starting with under 8s in Summer 2020, under 10s in 2021 and under 12s in 2022.

“From November, we will introduce an additional two weeks paid leave for each parent, supporting hard pressed parents to spend more time at home with their children and ease the burden of juggling the work-life balance.

“We will extend paid leave to seven weeks for each parent.

“From September, both parents will be entitled to 22 weeks unpaid leave per child up to the age of 12 years.

“This is an increase of 4 weeks. Next Year, we will increase it by another 4 weeks.

“Since 2015, the Home Carer’s Tax Credit has been increased to €1,500 per annum, up 85% in 4 years. This recognises families where one parent stays at home to care for a child or a dependent. We will continue this.”

Minister Doherty concluded: “Self-employed people have historically gotten a raw deal when it came to PRSI related benefits, receiving little in terms of support in the event of illness or disability, or even routine medical costs.

“But Fine Gael is committed to creating a supportive environment for entrepreneurship, including providing an income safety net to employees and the self-employed alike.

“This is so important as enterprise needs to be encouraged, and Fine Gael have sought to introduce a new deal for people who run their own businesses, so they can access benefits in their time of need.

“Self-employed people cannot be expected to pay PRSI and get so little in return compared with employees, and Fine Gael will continue to work towards enhanced benefits for people who run small businesses or farms all around the country.”

ENDS

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