Sick Pay Given Statutory Protection as Sick Leave Bill Passed by Oireachtas

As of 13 July 2022, the Sick Leave Bill 2022 has been passed by the Oireachtas and will come into force later in the year once the Minister signs a commencement order.

This legislation will bring Ireland into line with other developed states across Europe who provide statutory protection for those employees who cannot work due to illness.

The need for such legislation was highlighted during the Covid-19 pandemic in particular as currently, there is no legal requirement for employers to pay when an employee is out with an illness.

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, welcomed the development:

“This is a really important new employment right, that all workers will now have, no matter what their illness or job. Many employers pay sick pay, but the pandemic really highlighted the vulnerability of some workers, especially in the private sector and those on low pay. We’re also been behind our European counterparts on this, with Ireland being one of the few advanced countries without such a scheme.”

What the new Legislation entails:

  • The scheme will be rolled out over 4 years. Employees will be entitled to 3 days’ paid sick leave per year in year one. This will increase to 5 days in year two, 7 days in year three, and 10 days in year four.
  • Employees will receive 70% of their normal daily wage subject to a daily maximum of €110.
  • These provisions can be reviewed at Ministerial level in order to deal with inflation rates and increased incomes over time.
  • The scheme will be enforced through the Workplace Relations Commission and the Irish Courts system.

Requirements for employees in order to qualify: 

  • The employee must have worked for the employer for no less than 13 continuous weeks prior to seeking sick pay.
  • An employee seeking to avail of sick pay must have a valid medical certificate (i.e. certified by a GP as unfit to work).

Consequences for the employer:

  • Employers are not to treat differently those who take or apply for sick pay.
  • Employers are advised to review their standard employment contracts urgently.
  • If an employer offers a sick pay scheme which is as favourable as the statutory provision, then the employer is not under any new obligation.
  • If an employer offers a sick pay scheme more favourable than the statutory provision there is no obligation to adjust their existing scheme.
  • If an employer offers a sick pay scheme less favourable than the statutory scheme then it will be “deemed to be so modified” so that it is not less favourable.
  • An employer who cannot afford to pay workers in accordance with the scheme can apply to the Labour Court for an exemption. This exemption will last for a minimum of 3 months and up to 1 year.

Conclusion:

The passing of the Sick Leave Bill by the Oireachtas is a further example of Ireland’s commitment to provide a modern statutory framework which will protect the rights of employees. In recent years, the legislature has introduced acts governing paternity benefit, parental leave benefit, enhanced maternity benefit, treatment benefit and the extension of social insurance benefits to the self-employed. The Sick leave Bill 2022 will undoubtedly be a significant development in the law protecting workers in this state, particularly those in the low-income sector. The Bill aims to not impose any unrealistic obligations on employers through its 4-year implementation period as outlined above. This will give employers sufficient time to plan and budget if they do not have an adequate sick pay scheme in their standard employee contract.

For more information on this topic please contact Patricia Canty of our employment department on 021-7300200 or by email to pcanty@jwod.ie