Frontline healthcare workers are to receive a special, once-off tax-free payment of €1,000 in recognition of their work in dangerous and challenging conditions during the pandemic, and for the thousands of lives saved as a result of their efforts.
The Government has also agreed to designate a once-off public holiday on Friday March 18, 2022 in recognition of the efforts of the general public, volunteers and all workers during the pandemic, and in remembrance of people who lost their lives due to Covid-19.
The new public holiday will be followed by a day of remembrance and recognition to take place over St Patrick’s weekend.
From next year there will be a new permanent public holiday established in celebration of Imbolc/St Brigid’s day.
This will be the first Monday in every February, except where St Brigid’s day, the first day of February, happens to fall on a Friday, in which case that Friday, February 1 will be a public holiday.
Announcing the new public holiday, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment Leo Varadkar said:
“This will be held on Friday, March 18 and means we will have a four-day weekend because March 17, St Patrick’s Day, is also a public holiday.
“It will also recognise, and say thank you, to the volunteers, the Irish people, and to all the workers who gave their all in the fight against Covid.
“We decided to make this decision now on a public holiday, rather than wait until the pandemic is over, because so many have already given so much.
“It also roughly marks the second anniversary of the beginning of the pandemic in Ireland."
Mr Varadkar said the payment of €1,000 for eligible frontline health workers, which will also include relevant staff in private sector nursing homes and hospices that were affected by Covid-19, is "in recognition of their work in dangerous and challenging conditions during the pandemic, and for the thousands of lives saved as a result of their efforts".
Speaking about the public holiday to mark Imbolc/St Brigid’s day, Mr Varadkar said this will be the first Irish public holiday named after a woman.
"It marks the halfway point between the winter solstice and the equinox, the beginning of spring and the Celtic New Year.
"The creation of a tenth public holiday will bring Ireland more into line with the European average and it is one of five new workers’ rights that I am establishing this year.
"The others are the right to statutory sick pay, the right to request remote working, new rights around redundancy for people laid off during the pandemic, and better protection of workplace tips," he continued.
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said while "no monetary amount could truly reflect the dedication of healthcare staff on the frontline" the Government believes it is appropriate "that a once-off tax-free payment of €1,000 be provided for all eligible public service healthcare and ambulance workers, in recognition of their efforts".
"The payment, combined with the commemorative events which will be undertaken and the additional public holiday represent a balanced and timely recognition of the collective national effort that has been undertaken in response to the pandemic," the Minister continued.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly TD lauded the expertise and dedication of frontline workers during the pandemic.
"I am delighted to be in a position to confirm this payment to frontline public sector healthcare workers.
"It is a small token of the appreciation and gratitude that my colleagues in Government and indeed, the Irish people as a whole have for your ongoing efforts to protect us all from the worst impacts of Covid-19."
The workers eligible for the payment will be public service health and ambulance workers; those seconded or assigned to the HSE, for example, Defence Forces staff seconded/assigned to HSE testing centres and supernumerary students who were required to perform training in clinical sites.
Staff in private sector nursing homes and hospices affected by Covid-19 are also eligible for the payment.