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Know Your Rights
I’m working part-time on a low wage. Do I qualify for any social welfare payments?

It depends on your personal circumstances. Many people work part-time before taking up full-time employment. If you are working part-time you can, in some cases, keep or apply for a partial social welfare payment, or you may qualify for additional supports.

If you work over 38 hours in a fortnight and you have children you may be able to claim Working Family Payment (WFP), formerly known as Family Income Supplement or FIS. WFP is a weekly tax-free payment for people on low pay.

You may be able to claim a jobseeker’s payment for the days you are not working. You can work part-time for up to three days a week and claim a reduced Jobseeker's Benefit or Jobseeker's Allowance payment. You may qualify for the Part-Time Job Incentive Scheme if you were getting Jobseeker’s Allowance and find part-time work for less than 24 hours per week.

However, one of the main conditions for getting a jobseeker’s payment is that you must be available for work and actively seeking work. This means that you must continue to look for work on the days you are unemployed. You must also be unemployed for at least four days out of seven consecutive days.

If you return to work after a period of unemployment, you may qualify for the Back to Work Family Dividend (BTWFD) which aims to help families move from social welfare into employment. The BTWFD and WFP can be paid together and the BTWFD is not taken into account in the means test for WFP.

If you are parenting alone and getting a One-Parent Family Payment, you are allowed to earn a certain amount each week and keep your payment. In some cases, people getting disability payments can do some work and keep a social welfare payment.

Know Your Rights
My partner and I have been unable to get a mortgage to buy our own home. Will we be eligible for the new Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan?

The new Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan provides mortgages to first-time buyers at reduced interest rates (2%–2.3%) to buy new or second-hand properties or to build a home. You can choose to fix the rates for the full term of the mortgage, so you have the same repayments for the whole time you are repaying the loan.

To qualify for a loan under the scheme:

You must be a first-time buyer aged between 18 and 70 years of age

Your income cannot be more than €50,000 (€75,000 for joint applicants)

You must have a deposit of at least 10% of the purchase price of the property

You must have evidence of two insufficient offers or refusals for a mortgage loan by two banks or building societies

You must have a satisfactory credit rating

The main applicant must have been in continuous employment (or self-employed) for at least two years

The property must not be over 175 square metres. If you are buying in Cork, Dublin, Galway, Kildare, Louth, Meath or Wicklow, the maximum market value of the property cannot be more than €320,000; in all other parts of the country, the value cannot exceed €250,000. You also need to show that you can afford the monthly repayments, which must be less than one-third of your monthly household income.

You can use the Home Loan Calculator on rebuildingirelandhomeloan.ie to work out how much you can borrow.

The Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan is available nationwide from local authorities. You must make an appointment with your local authority to submit your application form and supporting documents in person. You can also call the Rebuilding Ireland Home Loan help desk at (051) 349 720 for more information

Know Your Rights
What is parental leave? Can both parents take it?

Each parent of an eligible child may take up to 18 weeks of unpaid parental leave from work. Leave can be taken no later than the child’s eighth birthday. However, if your child has a disability or a long-term illness, you can take parental leave up to their 16th birthday. If you adopt a child between the ages of six and eight, you can take leave for that child up to two years after the date of the adoption order. (Your contract of employment may also provide for an extended age limit.)

You can take 18 weeks of leave per child in one continuous period or in two separate blocks of a minimum of six weeks. If taken in two separate blocks, there must be a gap of at least 10 weeks between the two periods of leave per child. However, if your employer agrees, you can separate parental leave into periods of days or even hours.

Taking parental leave does not affect your other employment rights. Apart from the loss of pay and pension contributions, your position remains as if no parental leave had been taken. This means, for example, that while on parental leave you will continue to accumulate your annual leave entitlement. While you are on parental leave, a public holiday that falls on a day when you would normally be working is added to your period of leave.

When you return to work after taking parental leave, you can ask for a change in your work pattern or working hours for a set period. Your employer must consider your request, but is not obliged to grant it.

Both parents have an equal entitlement to 18 weeks’ parental leave each. Unless you and your partner work for the same employer, this leave is non-transferable; you can only claim your own parental leave entitlement of up to 18 weeks per child. However, if you both work for the same employer and your employer agrees, you may transfer up to 14 weeks of your parental leave entitlement to each other.

Know Your Rights
My friend has been offered free screening for cancer. She says it’s a national free screening programme. How can I take part?

The National Cancer Screening Service provides free screening programmes to help detect or prevent several types of cancer.

BowelScreen – The National Bowel Screening Programme aims to detect bowel cancer at an early stage in people who have no symptoms. It offers free screening every two years to men and women aged 60 to 69. If you are in this age group, you can ring BowelScreen on Freephone 1800 45 45 55 to check your details are on the register. If you are on the register, you will receive an invitation to take part in the BowelScreen programme.

CervicalCheck – The National Cervical Screening Programme tests women aged 25 to 60 for changes in the cells of the cervix. Early detection and treatment can prevent cervical cancer. If you are aged between 25 and 60 and have never had a CervicalCheck smear test, you can simply make an appointment with a GP practice or clinic registered with CervicalCheck. You can find one in your area by visiting cervicalcheck.ie or by calling Freephone 1800 45 45 55. A letter of invitation is not needed to make an appointment and attend for a first test.

BreastCheck – The National Breast Screening Programme invites women to a free mammogram (x-ray of the breast) every two years. The screening has been available to women aged 50 to 64 but is being gradually extended over the next few years to include all women aged 50 to 69. If you have not received an invitation you can check if you are registered by visiting breastcheck.ie or by calling Freephone 1800 45 45 55.

Screening can help prevent or detect cancer at an early stage in people who have no symptoms. If you have any specific concerns or symptoms you should visit your GP (family doctor).

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