SIPTU Head of Organising, Darragh O’Connor, said: “The Covid-19 emergency has been incredibly difficult and childcare is one of the worse hit sectors. Approximately 4,500 childcare services have closed, resulting in 25,000 staff no longer working.

“However, owner managers working on the ground can currently only access the €350 per week Pandemic Unemployment Payment which contrasts to a directly employed manager who can avail of a wage subsidy of up to €585 per week. Our members believe that the contribution of these managers to this vital public service should be fairly recognised.”

He added: “The Department of Children and Youth Affairs has attempted to respond to the challenges of the Covid-19 crisis in a fair manner. However, action must be taken to ensure that owner managers are treated with equality under the Wage Subsidy Scheme.

“The crisis has also made clear the inadequacy of the current childcare funding model. We need a new funding model which recognises the contribution of staff and owner managers by ensuring them decent wages while providing an affordable service for parents and high-quality outcomes for children.”