The Government is “examining” the issue of women on maternity leave who are not eligible for the temporary wage support scheme.
Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said his department is assessing ways to resolve the problem facing women across the country.
Mr Donohoe said the description of payroll in the primary legislation led to the issue, as employees need to submit a payslip from January and February to access the scheme.
Speaking in the Dail, Fianna Fail’s Michael McGrath asked Mr Donohoe whether the issue can be fixed on an administrative basis by Revenue, or whether it requires a change in primary legislation.
Mr Donohoe said: “I’m very much aware of this as an issue and of course the intention of this legislation was to treat all of our citizens and all of our employees equally.
“It is the case, because of the description that we have of payroll in the primary legislation and the date, has created this issue.
“I’m examining this with the Department of Finance and with the Revenue Commissioner, to identify if there is a way of resolving it, but I’m not at the moment in a position to be able to inform the House that there is, but we are currently examining it.”
I'm very much aware of this as an issue and of course the intention of this legislation was to treat all of our citizens and all of our employees equallyPaschal Donohoe
He was probed further on the matter by Sinn Fein’s David Cullinane, who asked whether the minister could use the same administrative mechanism that raised the wage subsidy from 70% to 85% for some employees last month.
“Surely the same mechanism can be used by you instructing Revenue to deal with the issue for women on maternity leave?” Mr Cullinane added.
“I think there is cross-party consensus in this chamber minister, including from your own party, that this is unacceptable, it’s discriminatory and it needs to be sorted.”
Mr Donohoe, however, rejected the idea, adding that his department are assessing ways to address the issues.
He added: “Maybe you could tell me that if it does turn out that legislation is needed to deal with this issue, would you support the formation of a new Government that you’re not in, to allow us to deal with this matter?”
Mr Cullinane responded: “I don’t think, with respect, smart-aleck answers about Government formation cuts it when we’re dealing with women on maternity.”
Mr Donohoe also told the Dail that the new economic normal will be “very different from the old”.
“Behavioural changes, including the need to maintain social distancing measures, will mean that recovery will be gradual,” he added.
“Activity in some firms – including in the hospitality sector – is likely to be below capacity for some time to come, and this will necessitate supports, although these must be tailored and targeted and Government will not keep unviable firms on life-support.
“Certain firms or business models that were viable pre-Covid-19 may no longer be viable.
“The priority for Government must be to support those that will be in a position to succeed in this new normal.”
Mr Donohoe also said it is an “inescapable reality” that there will be a cost to the State from measures put in place to address Covid-19.
Meanwhile, it was confirmed on Wednesday that all physical court sittings are to be limited to two hours daily.
It comes as TDs and ministers have been advised to not spend more than two hours per day inside the Dail chamber.
In a statement, the Courts Service said it was unaware, until the matter became public on Tuesday, “of what appears to be additional safety considerations beyond those already published”.
A further 16 coronavirus deaths were confirmed on Tuesday, bringing the total in the country since the outbreak began to 1,561.
The total daily tally of new infections was 51, bring the total number of cases in Ireland to 24,251.