Varadkar considering additional sick pay for self-employed workers
Additional sick pay for the self-employed is on the cards ahead of this year's Budget, the Herald has learned.
Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar is considering introducing extra benefits for tens of thousands of self-employed people in a bid to bridge the gap with PAYE workers.
However, the Fine Gael politician believes taxpayers should pay more by way of social insurance in order to gain access to such additional benefits.
Research commissioned by Mr Varadkar found more than four out of five self-employed people opted for long-term illness benefit as the number one consideration that needs to be extended.
This was followed by the benefits available for business people when they face short-term illness and unemployment.
Significantly, the study found that the vast majority of those surveyed would be willing to pay a higher rate of PRSI if it meant they would receive additional benefits in return.
Mr Varadkar has confirmed the findings of the report will be considered in the context of Budget 2018.
He said the self-employed will be entitled to claim a number of new benefits, including the invalidity pension, by the end of the year as a result of a decision taken as part of last year's Budget.
These are on top of new benefits in dental and eye treatment.
Mr Varadkar confirmed he wants to see additional benefits rolled out in the next Budget, expected in October.
"We are already tackling one of the top demands for illness cover by giving self-employed people access to the invalidity pension later this year, without a means test," Mr Varadkar said.
"For the first time they will have access to the safety net of state income supports if they become permanently unable to work through illness or disability.
"There will be no increase in PRSI for this.
"The results of this survey will guide new policy developments in the short term - including Budget 2018 - and the longer term."
Mr Varadkar has already indicated that reform of the tax system will be a key plank of his campaign to become Taoiseach.
Central to his plan will be an overhaul of PRSI and USC, so as to ensure more benefits are given to taxpayers.
He wants to instead introduce a system of "social insurance", which is used in many other European countries.