It is ‘cruel and discriminatory’ to cut people’s Pandemic Unemployment Payment if they are not comfortable returning to work in pubs and restaurants, according to People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith.
It comes after the Department of Social Protection confirmed that anybody who refuses to return to their old job faces being cut from the payment.
Indoor dining reopened to fully vaccinated people and recovered COVID patients yesterday; however, many businesses have still not reopened their doors.
The Restaurants Association of Ireland that around a quarter of businesses will either remain shut or stick with outdoor dining only for now.
Some have warned that they can’t find the staff to reopen, while others have said they are waiting until their staff are fully vaccinated.
In a statement to The Hard Shoulder today, the Department of Social Protection said people who refuse to return to work face losing their Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP).
“Where a person refuses an offer to return to their previous employment or refuses an offer of suitable employment, the entitlement conditions for PUP will not be satisfied,” it said.
‘Cruel and discriminatory'
People Before Profit TD Bríd Smith told the show that the rule is ‘cruel and discriminatory.’
“I think it is completely wrong,” she said. “I don’t see why young people – and they are mainly young people who work in pubs and restaurants – who haven’t had access to the vaccine rollout should be forced back to work and if they are not comfortable about going back and they are fearful for their health that they should be cut off the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.
"We have been through 20 months of hard aul going for everybody and it has cost the country a lot of money but the last few weeks until people are fully vaccinated shouldn’t break the bank and I, as a taxpayer, and many others would feel that it is only right to protect young people if they’re not comfortable about going back.
"Cutting them off the PUP is cruel and it is also discriminatory because they haven’t been vaccinated but they are being told to go into what they perceive as a dangerous situation.
“I have to say, if I had a son or daughter who was due to go back to work without the vaccination into a busy pub or restaurant, I wouldn’t be at all happy about it and I would be advising them not to do it.”
She said the payment must be offered to all hospitality workers until they have had the chance to get the vaccine.
“They are now being told now you must go back even though you are not vaccinated,” she said.
“They don’t feel safe and don’t feel comfortable about bringing the disease home to either their flatmates or their families.
“I think it is totally unfair and discriminatory to tell them you must go back to work and if you don’t like it, you are going to get cut.”
She said there is only “a tiny minority” of people who would refuse the vaccine and then refuse to go back to work.
“Those who refuse the vaccine are probably those who don’t think COVID is a problem,” she said. “They are usually COVID-deniers, the two things go hand in glove.
“The people we are talking about here are young people who are fearful of going to back to a pub or a restaurant.”
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