There is new legislation in the making which will provide for paid sick leave for all employees. The goal is to phase it in over the next four years leading to ten days’ sick leave by 2025.
The right to paid sick leave will be enforceable, like other employment rights, through the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
The right will be to statutory sick leave which is currently defined as “entitlement of an employee to be paid statutory sick leave payment by his or her employer in respect of a statutory sick leave day”.
The entitlement will require the employee to have at least 13 weeks of continuous service and will commence at three statutory sick leave days per annum. The number of sick days may be varied by the government by way of regulations but can never be reduced below three sick days per annum.
Statutory sick leave days can be consecutive or non-consecutive and the employee must provide a sick certificate from a registered medical practitioner.
It is important to note that these statutory entitlements can be significantly increased in the contract of employment itself and many employees have extensive sick pay schemes as part of their contract of employment. Big employers such as the HSE and government departments, the teaching professions etc. have existing sick pay schemes far in advance of this proposed statutory scheme.
The obligations under the legislation, when introduced into law, will not apply to an employer who provides a better sick pay scheme than that being introduced. The comparison must be made over a reference period set out in the scheme and will consider
- How long an employee must be working before sick pay is payable
- The period for which sick pay is payable
- The number of days that an employee is absent before it is payable
- The amount of sick pay payable
- The reference period
An employer can apply to the Labour Court to be exempt from the statutory sick pay obligations in certain circumstances such as severe financial difficulty affecting the business and the employees of the business consent to the application.
When an employee is on statutory sick leave, he is considered to be still in work for the purpose of other employment rights and her contract.
Regarding employees on probation an employer can suspend the period of probation whilst the employee is on statutory sick leave and can allow the employee complete the probation period at the end of the sick leave.
An employee cannot be penalised for taking leave under the scheme.
An employer must make records of statutory sick leave taken by each employee and these records must be kept for four years. The particulars to be kept include
- The period of employment of the employee
- The dates and times of the sick leave
- The rate of statutory sick leave payment
Any failures by the employer can lead to a complaint by the employee to the WRC who have the power to award compensation that is just and equitable in the circumstances but shall not exceed 20 weeks’ remuneration.
As is the case with other statutory employment rights complaints must be made within 6 months of the transgression and an appeal from the WRC to the Labour Court is allowed.
The bill is making its way through the legislative process at the moment and amendments to the bill cannot be ruled out.