Varadkar promises ‘pandemic dividend’ for workers

Tánaiste pledges statutory sick pay, flexible working and living wage

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar has promised benefit for workers.

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar has promised benefit for workers.

 

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar tonight promised a “pandemic divided” for workers in the shape of flexible working, occupational pensions for all, statutory sick pay, a living wage and new regulations about tips which would benefit workers in the hospitality industry.

Speaking to the business and employers group Ibec, Mr Varadkar said he wanted to build “a new economy that is more inclusive, more secure” and a “just society”.

“In my remaining 15 months in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, I want to work with Ibec, worker representatives and others to implement the series of reforms I have started,” said Mr Varadkar.

Economy

“It’s also about building a new economy that is more inclusive, more secure. A just society – the move to a living wage, statutory sick pay, occupational pensions for all workers, flexibility in the work place, remote working and more opportunities for promotion, training, education, research and gender equality.

“I want to make sure that the last 18 months have not been in vain and that we secure a pandemic dividend. We must keep a close eye on competitiveness, personal and business taxation, while building better, quality jobs. An environment in which businesses can prosper, but workers too.”

Mr Varadkar went on to outline his ideas for flexible working “so that people have a choice to work from home or in the office, so long as the work gets done and business and service needs are met”.

He also said there would be “occupational pensions for all workers, including an auto-enrolment system”; statutory sick pay, which will be phased in; a living wage, which he said was “an important part of improving the terms and conditions of lower paid workers”.

He also said he intended to introduce “clear regulations around tips and gratuities to benefit workers and customers”.

Officials said that Mr Varadkar hopes to introduce statutory sick pay in 2022, the living wage on a phased basis later that year or in 2023, and with auto-enrolment to occupational pensions schemes following on from that.

Under the coalition agreement with Fianna Fáil, he is due to move to the Taoiseach’s office at the end of next year.

Mr Varadkar also renewed his commitments to spending increases and tax cuts in the budget, suggesting that indexing tax credit and bands was not in itself a tax cut – but rather that not increasing them would be a tax increase. He said that this was a matter of “fairness”.

Move

“Given the economic figures that are informing our pre-budget discussions, I am confident that we are in a position to – and need to – include a pension, welfare and personal income tax package in next month’s budget,” he said.

“For me, it’s a question of fairness. As we see a return to inflation and a rise in the cost of living, we need to protect people’s standard of living – pay increases, tax reform, worker and pension increases.”

Mr Varadkar also signalled that a move to raise Ireland’s 12.5 per cent corporation tax – as urged on Ireland by many international partners – was possible, but only when the Government was sure what it was moving to.

“Ireland’s industrial policy framework for over half a century includes a stable and low rate of corporation tax,” he said.

“Were we to move away from this, we would need to be certain about what we are being asked to agree and implement.”