Theatre Forum Business Planning During a Period of Closure

03 Apr 2020

Theatre Forum hosted a live webinar on 31st Match in response to the introduction of two Irish government support schemes; COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment and The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme.

On March 31st, Theatre Forum reconvened the Emergency Members’ Meeting webinar to continue their ongoing support and bring expert advice to the sector during these difficult times of closure. We must note a special thanks to Theatre Forum and the entire speaking panel for organizing & bringing this session to everyone working at home. 

These sessions prove to be invaluable  for many in the arts sector during these uncertain times and we must continue to share resources and information to those who need it most.

This session was held in response to the recent introduction of the two government support schemes available for both individuals and employers affected by Covid-19. In our last blog post we briefly introduced these new schemes and so this session gave us the opportunity more about these benefits from the experts.

Some positive news of late has seen the introduction of both the Covid 19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment & the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme, although there still remains grey areas and misinformation around these payments. 

Theatre Forum invited specialists from UHY Farrelly Dawe White to provide information and answer questions to both individuals and  businesses on what schemes are available to them to combat the loss of income & staffing during this pandemic. 

Information gathered from Revenue.ie*

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COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment - For individuals

COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment is a new social welfare payment of €350 a week for employees and self-employed people who have lost employment due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

This new payment is available for those who have lost their jobs or have been temporarily laid off due to the pandemic. It is also available for self-employed individuals who have stopped trading due to the pandemic. 

*This is available on the conditions that individuals were in employment immediately before Friday 13th March 2020.

To qualify for these payments you must have been genuinely made unemployed and not done so voluntarily, unless you’ve taken leave to mind children due to the closure of childcare facilities.  Theatre Forum has highlighted a few situations where applications have been refused due to the following reasons:

  • Individuals are not yet unemployed when applying

  • Individuals are still on employers payroll 

  • Wrong bank details & PPS numbers on applications

This process is able to be completed online and for revenue’s records you may need a letter from your employer to confirm your unemployment to support your application.

These payments are scheduled to be paid for up to 12 weeks and are paid at a flat rate. If you have a spouse/partner and child dependents you may be eligible for a higher rate of claim on a jobseekers payment so do enquire for your own unique circumstances.

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Temporary COVID-19 Wage Subsidy Scheme- For employers

Many businesses are being  faced with the stark reality of temporary closure and are being left with no alternatives other than reducing staff hours and laying off staff to reduce cash flow during downtime. 

To combat this The Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme will be available to employers who keep employees on the payroll throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning employers can retain links with employees for when business picks up after the crisis. Losing staff will have huge effects on the sector and rebuilding will be very important to retain and develop relationships with audiences when doors open once again.

Registering for the scheme will allow businesses to retain employees on their payroll and employers will be refunded up to a maximum €410 per qualifying employee a week. This can be used to supplement wages of staff members who have been reduced to fewer working days and will top them up accordingly. It is to be noted employers should not pay more than the usual net weekly wages of an employee and no financial gain should be made from the scheme. In this instant it was advised by FDW to set aside monies for potential overpayments during the scheme that revenue may claw back in due course.

To qualify for this scheme there must be a self-declaration of a decline in turnover  exceeding 25%. The advice for assessment is to be careful, make sure you have a case & document everything! Take board meeting minutes, supply budgets, compare performance from this time last year etc.  The most important thing is to be consistent with your evaluation and make note of everything during the process. A question came to the panel about cash reserves and eligibility for this scheme and the answer is businesses won’t be refused or expected to dip into reserves to pay staff expenses due to this pandemic. 

Employers should note that they should only keep employees on the payroll who are eligible for the scheme. Many part time employees who do little hours may further benefit from the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment and would receive larger payments if made unemployed.

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Make sure to keep up to date with the latest and keep an eye on Theatre Forums, website and socials. The next meeting will be shortly announced and is worth attending for those looking for any advice or guidance during these uncertain times.

To check out the full webinar for more information & other guest speakers please click here.

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