Sick Leave Act 2022
The lack of statutory paid sick leave quickly became a major health and safety issue during the pandemic, when evidence emerged that some employees continued to attend work with symptoms to avoid not being paid where no sick leave arrangements were in place. The Government was forced to address this issue as Ireland was one of the few European countries not to have a mandatory sick pay scheme.
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar, introduced the Sick Leave Act 2022 which will come into force from January 2023.
“Given the current challenging business environment and inflation in particular, I have concluded that the fairest and most appropriate approach is to introduce the entitlement on 1 January 2023.”
The Department are due to deliver the Statutory Instrument addressing the Act before the end of this year.
What will it mean?
Employees will have a right to paid sick leave for up to 3 sick days per year.
This will increase to 5 days in 2024, 7 days in 2025 and
10 days in 2026.
Sick leave days can be consecutive or non-consecutive.
Who will be entitled to the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)?
All employees that have worked for the employer for at least 13 weeks will be entitled to SSP.
How much is the employer expected to pay?
A rate of payment for SSP of 70% of normal wages to be paid by employers (up to a maximum €110 per day).
How will the scheme work?
Under the Act an employee must provide employer with a medical cert signed by a registered medical practitioner to avail of SSP. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in practice, as it puts the burden on the employee to provide a medical certificate. In contractual sick pay schemes, medical certs are not typically required for the first 3 days of sickness.
An employer who provides a sick leave scheme where the terms of the scheme are more favourable to the employee, the obligations of the Act will not apply to the employer.
Employers who cannot afford to pay the SSP may apply to the Labour Court for an exemption. Such an exemption may last for a period of not exceeding one year and not less than 3 months.
What are the potential implications if the rules are not adhered to?
The Act provides that employers shall not penalise or threaten penalisation of an employee for proposing to exercise or having exercised their entitlement to statu- tory sick leave. Penalisation is defined under the Act to include suspension, lay-off or dismissal, demotion or loss of opportunity for promotion, transfer of duties, change of location of place of work, reduction in wages or change in working hours, imposition or the administering of any discipline, reprimand or other penalty and coercion or intimidation.
Where there’s a contravention of the Act an employee can make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) where they believe their employer has failed to comply with the provisions of the Act. The Adjudication Officer may award compensation of such an amount as they deem just and equitable in the circum- stances, and such an amount cannot exceed 20 weeks’ remuneration.