Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has promised a “pandemic dividend” for workers in the form of flexible working, occupational pensions for all, statutory sick pay, a new living wage and new regulations about tips to benefit workers in the hospitality industry.
In comments made to business and employers group Ibec, Mr Varadkar said he wanted to build “a new economy that is more inclusive, more secure” and a “just society”.
“In my remaining 15 months in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, I want to work with Ibec, worker representatives and others to implement the series of reforms I have started,” said Mr Varadkar.
“It’s also about building a new economy that is more inclusive, more secure. A just society — the move to a living wage, statutory sick pay, occupational pensions for all workers, flexibility in the work place, remote working and more opportunities for promotion, training, education, research and gender equality.
“I want to make sure that the last 18 months have not been in vain and that we secure a pandemic dividend. We must keep a close eye on competitiveness, personal and business taxation, while building better, quality jobs. An environment in which businesses can prosper, but workers too.”
Mr Varadkar also discussed his ideas around flexible working “so that people have a choice to work from home or in the office, so long as the work gets done and business and service needs are met”.
Mr Varadkar also said there would be “occupational pensions for all workers, including an auto-enrolment system”.
He said statutory sick pay will be phased in while he said a living wage “an important part of improving the terms and conditions of lower paid workers”.
He has also pledged to introduce “clear regulations around tips and gratuities to benefit workers and customers”.
Statutory sick pay
According to officials, Mr Varadkar hopes to introduce statutory sick pay in 2022, the living wage on a phased basis later that year or in 2023, and with auto-enrolment to occupational pensions schemes following on from that.
“Given the economic figures that are informing our pre-budget discussions, I am confident that we are in a position to – and need to – include a pension, welfare and personal income tax package in next month’s budget,” he said.
“For me, it’s a question of fairness. As we see a return to inflation and a rise in the cost of living, we need to protect people’s standard of living — pay increases, tax reform, worker and pension increases.”