Will pandemic payment give me PRSI stamp as retirement looms?

Q&A: Dominic Coyle

Many lorry drivers, along with workers from a range of other  sectors, have been forced out of work due to the Covid-19 crisis. Photograph:  Chris Furlong/Getty Images

Many lorry drivers, along with workers from a range of other sectors, have been forced out of work due to the Covid-19 crisis. Photograph: Chris Furlong/Getty Images

 

My husband and I are both due to retire in the next couple of years. My husband works as a lorry driver across the continent. He is not a full-time employee and with this Covid-19 shutdown, his job is gone – at least for the moment. I also work, for a retailer, who has also had to shut down.

If one of us is claiming the €350 temporary Covid 19 payment, is the Government issuing them with a PRSI stamp? I am worried because it is vital that we keep up our quota for contributory pension requirements in the future.

Ms N.C., email

This is exactly the sort of worry that people up and down the State are having to deal with right now. A couple of weeks ago, you were in employment and your husband, although not a full-time employee, was also working full-time. Now, out of nowhere and through no fault of your own, neither of you has a job, however temporarily that position may be.

This raises two big issues.

First, clearly, there is the need to get some money coming in for day to day necessities. Covid may have put a stop to a lot of discretionary spending but food and bills still need to be sorted. Second, for a couple like you, close to retirement, there is the ongoing concern to ensure that you have paid enough social insurance stamps to secure a full State pension in retirement.

For employers who can keep their staff on the books – even if temporarily laid off – a sum of up to €410 a head, depending on circumstances, is payable through the temporary wage subsidy. It is applied for by and paid through the employer.

Where the employer cannot afford to or does not keep you on the books, you can claim a Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, which is paid at a flat rate of €350.

It sounds as though you are going to be claiming this second unemployment benefit. That clearly helps on the first side of the equation. But what about your pension?

I cannot find anything specific on this subject. But that’s nothing to be concerned about. Government departments are scrambling to put flesh on a whole series of supports and initiatives rolled out on the past week or so for individuals and businesses.

Revenue has confirmed that in the case of the temporary wage subsidy, PRSI “entitlements will not be broken, and employees will get insurable weeks or credited contributions”.

And the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, which manages the Pandemic unemployment payment, tells me that it does too.

“The Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is an expedited form of the jobseeker’s payment and payment through it rather than jobseeker’s will not prejudice a person’s existing entitlement to social insurance benefits.”

As it stands, anyone with a PRSI record – which you clearly have – who is made unemployed in the normal course of events outside our current crisis would claim Jobseekers Benefit. And part of that benefit is a credited PRSI contribution for each week that you are on benefit.

This is simply another form of enhanced unemployment payment and will not work any differently when it comes to allocating a PRSI stamp against your record for each week that you are in receipt of the payment.

At present, the pandemic unemployment payment is set to run for 12 weeks (it was originally six weeks). I would expect that if the crisis continues beyond that date, so too will the payment and the PRSI stamp.

You should have no need to worry about your PRSI stamp at this point which is good as I am sure there are plenty of other things to occupy your mind, given your current circumstances.

Please send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2, or email dcoyle@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice. No personal correspondence will be entered into.

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