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Government paid out €1billion on sick days last year

Irish workers claimed for 26 million days off in 2010, according to new figures.

Image: RLHyde via Flickr

THE GOVERNMENT WAS left with a bill of almost €1billion euro for workers’ sick leave last year, it has emerged.

Irish employees claimed sick pay for a total of 25.9million days in 2010, costing the Government €942.8million in illness benefit. The average time off work was ten weeks, according to statistics revealed by the Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton.

She said: “An analysis carried out by the Department as a once-off exercise indicated that, in 2010, illness benefit was paid in respect of 25.9 million claim days arising from claims from across the public and private sectors.”

She added that payouts had risen by €23.1million since 2009, when the total cost was €919.7million.

The Minister added that it was impossible to say how much of the money went to employees in the public sector, and how much to those in the private sector.

Labour TD Gerald Nash, who received the figures in answer to a parliamentary question, told TheJournal.ie: “Everyone is entitled to illness benefits, but there is a fear the system could be exploited.”

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He added that the Government needs to introduce a system to identify where the most sick days are being claimed, saying:

We’re spending a very significant part of the restricted social welfare budget on illness benefit. I would be concerned that the Department doesn’t have the capacity to distinguish between private and public sector sick days. I would like to see the Department working on a system to analyse it on a sector by sector basis, to identify where there are problems and why those problems are resulting in excessive payments.

Illness benefit is compensation for lost pay when an employee is unable to work, based on PRSI contributions. It is paid directly to the employee or – if they are already entitled to sick pay from their job – to the employer. No payment is made for the first three days off work.

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Michael Freeman

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