The Cabinet has signed off on proposed new laws on sick pay, that will make it mandatory for all employers to offer a minimum level of cover. The Sick Leave Bill 2022 will now be published and will begin its passage through the Houses of the Oireachtas.
The new laws will start to come into effect as soon as enacted and will be phased in over a four-year period in order to minimise the burden on businesses as they recover from the pandemic. Currently Ireland remains one of few European economies that does not have a mandatory sick leave entitlement.
All workers will be entitled to 10 days paid sick leave by 2026 under plans which have been approved by Cabinet. Under the Sick Leave Bill 2022, approved by Cabinet last month, workers will be covered for three days from this year, and this will rise to five days in 2024, seven days in 2025 and 10 days in 2026.
It is estimated that only half of employees have sick leave provided for through their terms and conditions, with a gap between the public and private sectors. However, an employee must obtain a medical certificate to avail of statutory sick pay and it will only cover 70% of wages, subject to a maximum daily threshold of €110. The cost will be paid by the employer. The scheme is being phased in to help employers manage any additional costs.
“The pandemic exposed the precarious position of many people, especially in the private sector and in low-paid roles, when it comes to missing work due to illness,” said Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar. “No one should feel pressured to come to work when they are ill because they can’t afford not to.”
Senior SIPTU official Greg Ennis said the provisions being announced by Mr Varadkar do not go far enough and their introduction may be seen as an opportunity in some sectors to drop existing occupational schemes.
Mr Varadkar’s approach to dealing with this issue has been too slow, he added. “It’s also extremely limited in its structure with regard to getting into 10 days sick pay over four years. It’s not nearly good enough.”
Last year employers’ group IBEC told an Oireachtas committee that the introduction of statutory sick pay, in the manner proposed, would give rise to a disproportionate and excessive cost burden to employers.
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