Oireachtas committee recommends the right to statutory sick pay for all employees

entrance into hospital emergency department

The Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment has recommended that all employees be entitled to statutory sick pay, regardless of their length of employment with a particular employer where an employer can request medical certification.

The Committee has on, Wednesday February 9th, published its pre-legislative scrutiny report of the General Scheme of the Sick Pay Bill.

The proposed Bill will provide for a minimum level of protection to low paid employees. It will create an entirely new right to sick pay, and this will be legally enforceable through the Workplace Relations Commission and the Courts.

The Bill aims to increase the social protections and rights for workers while retaining the policy focus of supporting the smaller business who may find this legislation challenging and costly to implement.

The Joint Committee accepts this aim and welcomes the opportunity to strengthen employee rights and supports, particularly from the financial and health challenges the pandemic has placed on workers and their families in recent years.

Launching the report, Committee Cathaoirleach Maurice Quinlivan TD said: “Ireland is an outlier as one of the few advanced countries in Europe with no mandatory sick pay scheme. At present, there is no statutory obligation on an employer to pay for a medically certified absence of an employee due to illness. While many employers do provide such sick pay, employees who do not receive such sick pay are disadvantaged.”

The report makes the following recommendations:

– The Committee recommends all employees therefore be entitled to the right of statutory sick pay to ensure workers employed on all forms of employment contracts receive the same protections under the terms of this new Bill.

– Statutory sick pay will be phased-in over a four-year period, starting with three days per year in 2022. By way of Regulation, this will rise to five days payable in 2023 and seven days payable in 2024. In 2025, the final year of the phasing, employers will pay ten days per year. Statutory sick pay will be paid by employers at a rate of 70% of an employee’s wage, subject to a daily maximum of €110.

– Where Medical certification is required to qualify for statutory sick pay, some form of rebate of the cost of such certification should be made available to ease the financial burden on employees, particularly those who are low paid.

– In the case of businesses – particularly small businesses – provision be made for, an exemption from the sick pay requirement for businesses that can demonstrate to the Labour Court that they cannot genuinely afford to make the payment. This would be similar to a provision in relation to the payment of wages under the Minimum Wage Act 2000 (Section 4).

– There should be a minimum rate of sick pay to address the particular needs of low-paid workers specified in the Act, further clarity is provided in the Act in relation to the amount of sick pay payable, in particular –how the specified 70% of employee’s wage is calculated.

– Legislation should provide for consultation with the social partners in relation to the implementation of its provisions.

Read the report and its recommendations in full on the Committee’s webpage.