Irish employees set to earn legal right to sick pay as government launches public consultation
Ireland is one of only three countries in the European Union with no statutory sick pay.
A consultation process on statutory sick pay for all employees in Ireland has been launched with a view to it being introduced by the end of 2021.
The public consultation was launched on Monday by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment following a commitment by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to bring Ireland in line with other OECD countries by providing for a statutory entitlement to sick pay.
As a statutory entitlement, it would mean than an employer, by law, must provide sick pay to an employee who is unable to work due to illness.
While many employers in Ireland already provide sick pay to employees, there is no statutory obligation for them to do so.
Where sick pay is not provided by an employer, the government pays illness benefit to eligible applicants under certain circumstances.
Ireland is one of only three countries out of the 28 EU member states that currently has no statutory provision for sick pay.
In most countries, the amount of statutory sick pay is calculated as a percentage of an employee’s gross wage, varying from 25% to 100%.
The period of time covered by statutory sick pay varies from a maximum of two weeks in some countries to a maximum of 180 days in Italy, 42 weeks in Croatia and 104 weeks in the Netherlands.
In the UK, statutory sick pay is paid by the employer in case of sickness for at least four consecutive days up to a maximum of 28 weeks.
The government says it is committed to designing a scheme that is fair and affordable for employers while also offering protection to workers, particularly low paid and vulnerable workers.
In the public consultation, the government says that the introduction would be a “positive step” in Ireland.
The experience of other countries, the government notes, is that the longer the period of sick pay, the more employers engage and the more they make efforts to improve health and safety in the workplace in an attempt to reduce levels of staff sick leave.
The government also points out, however, that there are potential additional costs for firms or industries with a higher incidence of absenteeism.
Employers and employees alike are encouraged to engage with the consultation and make their views on statutory sick pay known; a consultation questionnaire can be accessed here and the closing date for submissions is Friday, 18 December.