Once-off public holiday on Friday 18th March this year, followed by Day of Remembrance & Recognition
New recurring St. Brigid’s day public holiday
€1,000 tax-free recognition payment
The Government has agreed to designate a once-off public holiday on Friday 18th March 2022 in recognition of the efforts of the general public, volunteers and all workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, and in remembrance of people who lost their lives due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Government has also agreed to give a recognition payment of €1,000 (tax free), for eligible frontline health and ambulance workers. An equivalent payment will be provided for relevant staff in private sector nursing homes and hospices that were affected by Covid-19.
This is a balanced package of measures that will benefit all workers across the economy, while also recognising in particular the efforts of healthcare workers.
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 1st day of February, happens to fall on a Friday, in which case that Friday 1st February will be a public holiday. The designation of public holidays falls to the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar TD under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.
Announcing the new public holiday, Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment Leo Varadkar said: “A once-off public holiday, a Day of Remembrance and Recognition, will be held in memory of the more than 9,000 people who have died on the island of Ireland with Covid. This will be held on Friday, March 18th and means we will have a four-day weekend because March 17th, 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.
“Frontline healthcare workers will also 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.
“From next year, Ireland will have an extra public holiday at the start of February to mark Imbolc/St Brigid’s day. It will be observed on the first Monday of February except where the 1st of February falls on a Friday in which case it will be observed on that day. This will be the first Irish public holiday named after a woman. It marks the half-way 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.”
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Michael McGrath said:
“Collaboration and solidarity have been the hallmark of our national response to Covid-19. All sectors of our economy and society have made, and continue to make, important contributions to helping our country through the pandemic. While no monetary amount could truly reflect the dedication of healthcare staff on the frontline, the Government believes it is appropriate, at this time, 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. I want to thank them for their dedication and commitment during this extraordinary period. 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 for Health Stephen Donnelly TD said:
“It has been my privilege as Minister for Health during this most challenging period for our health service to witness first-hand the commitment, expertise and dedication of our frontline workers. 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.”
Notes for Editors
The measure will be ring fenced to staff ordinarily onsite in Covid-19 exposed healthcare environments.
Those workers eligible for the payment will be:
- Public service health and ambulance workers;
- Those seconded or assigned to the HSE (e.g. 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
A pro-rata arrangement will apply for eligible part time staff.
These payments will not be subject to income tax, USC or PRSI.
Legislation for public holidays
Employees are entitled to a paid day off on the occasion of a public holiday. This in addition to any other paid leave like annual leave. Where employees have to or choose to work a public holiday, they are entitled to double pay or additional day of paid leave so it will benefit all employees.
This new public holiday of Imbolc/St Brigid’s Day means that all four of the traditional Celtic seasonal festival will now be public holidays – Bealtaine (May), Lunaghasa (August) and Samhain or Hallowe’en (October/November).
The legislation which provides for public holidays is the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 (OWTA) which is under the policy remit of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. There are currently nine public holidays which are listed under section 2 of the second schedule of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. The new St. Brigid’s day public holiday will bring the number of public holidays in Ireland to 10.
The power to introduce an additional public holiday is provided for under paragraph 1(G) of the second schedule and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (the Tánaiste) may introduce a new public holiday by regulation. Two once-off public holidays were introduced previously under the Act via Statutory Instrument. These are;
- S.I. No. 10/1999 - Organisation of Working Time (Public Holiday) Regulations, 1999 which designated the 31st of December 1999 a public holiday in recognition of the Millennium, and,
- S.I. No. 419/2001 - Organisation of Working Time (National Day of Mourning) Regulations, 2001 which designated the 14th of September 2001 a national day of mourning for the victims of the September 11th attacks.
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