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Sick Leave Bill 2022: What will this mean?

By: Cliona Kenny | Posted on: 05 May 2022

On Tuesday 29th March, the Sick Leave Bill 2022 was approved by Cabinet and is now being considered by Dáil Éireann. The Bill, once enacted, will ensure that Ireland will join the ranks of developed European countries who make statutory provision for employees who fall ill on a workday. This article written by Cliona Kenny, Solicitor, CKT and Jack Nyhan, Intern gives an overview of the Bill.

Background

Currently, it is estimated that only 50% of employees in Ireland have a scheme in the workplace to enable them to take paid sick leave.¹ However, Ireland remained in the minority in Europe as a country which did not ensure mandatory statutory paid sick leave for its citizens. In a candid statement, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, highlighted both the impact of Covid-19 and the need for paid sick leave. The contrast between those with and those without paid sick leave became strikingly apparent during these difficult times. The lack of paid sick leave is most widely felt in lower income jobs and Minister Varadkar conveyed that “No one should feel pressured to come to work when they are ill because they can’t afford not to.”

What will the Sick Leave Bill 2022 provide if adopted:

The Bill proposes to provide paid sick leave to every employee who falls ill or injured on a day when they would ordinarily work. The employee will be paid for each statutory leave day taken up to three days a year. The Bill proposes that the employee will be paid 70% of their daily wage, up to a maximum of €110 daily by their employer. This will not exclude the employer from offering the employee more beneficial terms for paid sick leave. Employers who cannot afford to pay this leave, such as small businesses who have already been adversely affected by the recently unprecedented difficulties such as Brexit and the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, can apply to the Labour Court for an exemption in these cases. The Court will first consider if the employees consent to this exemption and if not, the Court may consider the application for exemption should the payment of sick leave under the Bill cause the business hardship and result in job losses. These exemptions can last for a period of up to one year.

Requirements for the Bill to apply:

  • The employee must work for the employer continuously for at least 13 weeks prior to taking statutory paid sick leave.
  • An employee requesting paid sick leave must provide their employer with a doctor’s certificate as proof of illness.

Future Amendments:

The Oireachtas have highlighted that the intention of the legislature is to increase the amount of paid sick leave days annually to allow for employers to plan and progress with the legislation. Although the number of sick pay days cannot be reduced below 3 days annually, it is intended that the sick pay days be increased in the following sequence:

Year 2022 – 3 days

Year 2023 – 5 days

Year 2024 – 7 days

Year 2025 – 10 days

However, these amendments are said to be subject to conditions, such as the economic forecast, at the time and will be at the discretion of the Minister.

Conclusion

Although there is no enactment date set, the Sick Leave Bill 2022 is consistent with a long line of advancements made by the government in the hopes of improving social security for employees in the State. Ireland has shown innovation in recent times with the introduction of paternity leave, parental leave and social security benefits for the self-employed. This new Bill will ensure security for lower income workers in Ireland. Although only at the Committee Stage in Dáil Éireann, the Bill appears to be much anticipated and is widely regarded as very welcome step.

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¹ https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/News-And-Events/Department-News/2022/March/2022033001.html
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