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Sick Leave

New sick pay scheme to guarantee all workers up to 10 days paid leave by 2026

Cabinet approved the Sick Leave Bill 2022 yesterday, which will legislate for a statutory sick pay scheme in Ireland for the first time.

EMPLOYEES WILL BE entitled to 10 days of paid sick leave every year from 2026 under new legislation. 

Cabinet approved the Sick Leave Bill 2022 yesterday, which will legislate for a statutory sick pay scheme in Ireland for the first time. 

Currently, there are discrepancies around Ireland in pay for sick leave, with most public sector workers receiving it but less certainty for those in the private sector.

Employers will be required to pay 70% of an employee’s wage on a sick day with a cap of €110.

The scheme will be phased in over four years and eventually provide for 10 days of paid sick leave in 2026, rising from three days when the bill is enacted, five days in 2024, and seven days in 2025.

The timeline has shifted slightly since the government first announced details of the proposed scheme last year when it said there would be 10 days of sick leave by 2025.

Workers in Ireland are already able to apply for Illness Benefit, but it typically does not cover payment for the first three days of illness.

It’s intended that the new paid sick leave scheme will fill the gap and reduce instances of employees attending work while sick.

An employee must have a medical certificate to avail of statutory sick pay, which is subject to the employee having worked for their employer for a minimum of 13 weeks.

When entitlement to sick pay from their employer ends, employees who need more time may qualify for illness benefit, subject to their PRSI contributions.

In a statement, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the pandemic “exposed” the precarious position of many workers around missing work because of illness, especially in the private sector and low-paid roles.

He said nobody should feel pressured to attend work while ill because they can’t afford not to.

“Ireland is one of the few advanced countries in Europe not to have a mandatory sick pay scheme and although many, we think approximately half, of employers do provide sick pay, we need to make sure that security, that safety net, is there for all workers, regardless of their job,” Varadkar said.

It has to be one of the legacies of the pandemic. It will be available to all workers, regardless of their illness.

“I fully understand that many businesses are struggling at the moment with additional costs because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as the aftermath of Covid and Brexit and the disruption both have brought,” he said.

“That is why we have chosen to phase this in, in this way. We have made a big effort to design the scheme so that it’s easy to use, fair and affordable for employers.

“We’ve done a lot of consultation on this, with representatives from both the employee and employer side and although I know some will think it goes too far and others that it doesn’t go far enough, I think it has struck a fair and reasonable balance.”

The lack of statutory sick pay in Ireland has been raised for years as a deficiency in workers’ rights.

In 2020, ICTU Head of Social Policy and Employment Affairs Laura Bambrick, writing for The Journal, said that it “took a pandemic to shed light on the big failings in how we protect workers against loss of income”.

“In Ireland, with few exceptions, workers have no right under employment law to be paid by their employer if absent from work because of sickness,” she said.

Sick pay is viewed as a perk that employers can decide to include or not in a contract of employment.

“As a result, workers, mainly in non-unionised jobs in the private sector, are forced to continue working when sick or to turn to social welfare.”

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