Another month, another batch of helpful bulletins from Martina and the Citizens Information gang in Bray…
This month, the subjects covered are apprenticeships, force majeure leave, the press ombudsman and how the treatment benefit scheme works for the self-employed.
Know Your Rights: Apprenticeships
I’m leaving school soon but I don’t want to go to college. What other options do I have?
You could consider looking for an apprenticeship. An apprenticeship involves on-the-job training with an employer. It will prepare you for work in a specific area or craft such as construction, engineering, motor or electrical. You can find information about different types of apprenticeships on the website apprenticeship.ie.
Apprentices get an allowance while training on the job. Their employer pays a recommended apprenticeship wage. The rates of pay can vary, depending on the apprenticeship and on your employer. Generally, rates will rise as you gain more skills.
During off-the-job training, a craft apprentice allowance is paid. The allowance is calculated in relation to the take-home wages paid in each trade sector. Sometimes, you will also get a contribution towards travel or accommodation costs.
It can take two to four years to complete an apprenticeship.
To be accepted, you must be at least 16 years of age and have a minimum of grade D in any five subjects in the Junior Certificate or equivalent. Some employers may require higher educational qualifications. If you don’t have the required grades, you can still be registered by an employer as an apprentice if you satisfactorily complete an approved pre-apprenticeship course.
To secure an apprenticeship, the first step is to find an employer who employs apprentices in the specific craft or occupation that you are interested in. The website apprenticeship.ie lists websites that advertise apprenticeship vacancies.
If you are interested in taking up an apprenticeship, contact the Apprenticeship Section of your local Education and Training Board (ETB) for advice.
Further information is available from the Citizens Information Service below.
Know Your Rights: Force Majeure Leave
I left work early because my grandmother fell ill suddenly. Can I take a half-day as force majeure leave?
If you are absent for only part of a day on grounds of force majeure, it may still be counted as a full day of force majeure leave.
If you have a family crisis, the Parental Leave Acts 1998 and 2006 give an employee a limited right to leave from work. Force majeure leave is paid leave that is granted to an employee and it arises where, for urgent family reasons, the immediate presence of the employee is indispensable owing to the injury or illness of a close family member. In general it should not be leave that an employee could plan for. You can obtain force majeure leave in relation to the illness or injury of:
Your natural or adopted child (or a child you are acting in loco parentis for)
Your spouse or partner (provided you are living together)
Your brother or sister
Your parent or grandparent
Another person who resides with you in a relationship of domestic dependency
You are entitled to up to three days of force majeure leave in any 12-month period or five days in any 36-month period.
If you are taking force majeure leave, you must notify your employer as soon as possible and make an application in writing as soon as you return to work. This must include the date of the leave, the reasons it was necessary and your relationship to the injured or ill person. The notice must also be signed by you as the employee.
You are protected against unfair dismissal for taking force majeure leave or for proposing to take it. If you have a dispute regarding force majeure leave, you should make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission within six months of the dispute. The time limit may be extended for up to a further six months if there is a substantial cause that prevents the complaint being brought within the normal time limit.
Further information is available from the Citizens Information Service below.
Know Your Rights: Press Ombudsman
I want to complain about an article that was in a national newspaper recently. How can I do this?
The Office of the Press Ombudsman deals with complaints against publications that are members of the Press Council of Ireland. This is done free of charge without having to go to court. You can make a complaint about any article that personally affects you. You can also complain about the behaviour of a journalist. The article or the behaviour must be in breach of the professional standards and behaviours set out in the Code of Practice for Newspapers and Periodicals.
You must first make your complaint to the editor of the newspaper or magazine which published the article, explaining why you think the Code has been breached. If you don’t get a response or you are not happy with the response, you can complain to the Office of the Press Ombudsman within three months of the publication of the article or the behaviour of the journalist. The complaint must be made in writing by email or post and must:
Show how you are personally affected
Indicate which parts of the code of practice have been breached and why
Include a dated copy of the article
Include copies of correspondence between you and the editor
The Office will first seek to have your complaint resolved through conciliation and/or mediation. This usually takes four to six weeks. If the matter is referred to the Press Ombudsman for a decision, it may take a further two weeks.
If the decision is in your favour, the newspaper or magazine must publish the decision unless it is appealed. If you are not happy with the decision, you can appeal to the Press Council of Ireland within two weeks.
You can get detailed information on how to make a complaint to the Press Ombudsman at citizensinformation.ie or from the Office of the Press Ombudsman.
Further information is also available from the Citizens Information Service below.
Know Your Rights: Treatment Benefit Scheme & The Self-Employed
I run a small business and pay Class S PRSI. My wife works part-time. Are we both entitled to medical benefits under the Treatment Benefit Scheme?
Since 27 March 2017, the Treatment Benefit Scheme has been extended to cover self-employed people who have paid sufficient Class S PRSI contributions. The scheme is run by the Department of Social Protection (DSP) and provides dental, optical and aural services to qualified people. You should contact the DSP or your treatment provider to check your eligibility before proceeding with any treatment. The number of PRSI contributions required depends on your age.
Your wife may qualify in her own right if she has enough contributions. If she doesn’t have enough, she may still qualify for Treatment Benefit on your social insurance record. To do this, you must qualify for Treatment Benefit and she must be dependent on you. To be considered dependent she must:
Have a gross income of €100 or less per week or
Earn more than €100 per week and have been dependent on you before entering or resuming insurable employment (at Class A, E, H, P or S) or
Not be getting a social welfare payment (except Disablement Pension, Supplementary Welfare Allowance, Carer’s Benefit or Child Benefit) or
Have a Carer’s Allowance or State Pension (Non-Contributory) and have been dependent on you immediately before getting this payment
Benefits under the scheme include an annual oral examination by private dentists on a DSP panel. Most dentists are on the panel so you shouldn’t have difficulty finding one. The scheme also provides for a free eyesight test but does not include sight tests for computer screens or driving licences. Half the cost of medically required contact lenses and hearing aids, up to a maximum amount, may also be covered. Opticians, optometrists or hearing aid suppliers providing the treatment or hearing products must have a contract with the DSP.
You can get detailed information on the Treatment Benefit Scheme on welfare.ie.