While some companies choose to pay for sick leave in Ireland, up to now, employees had no legal right to be paid while on sick leave from work. This is due to change soon with the Statutory Sick Leave Bill 2022
What is the new Statutory Sick Leave Bill 2022?
Legislation on new Sick Leave Bill 2022 is expected to be enacted early in the year. This will provide for an entitlement to a minimum period of paid sick leave for all employees in the event that they fall ill or sustain an injury which prevents them from being able to work. Employees will be entitled up to 3 paid sick days in 2022, 5 days in 2023, 7 days in 2024 and eventually up to ten days in 2025, or two weeks, of sick leave pay per year. This will be in addition to any other leave such as annual leave, parental leave, or maternity or paternity leave.
Will all employees be eligible for the new sick leave pay?
Yes, full time employees and part time employees will be eligible after been employed by the Company for at least 6 months.
How much are employees entitled to?
In accordance with Sick Leave Bill 2022, employees will be paid at 70% of normal earnings up to €110 per day, from the first day of illness.
[Note, currently and going forward, if an employee is unable to work due to illness/injury, they can apply to the Department of Social Protection (DSP) for the Illness Benefit. There is a 3-day waiting period for the Illness Benefit and should the employee provide a sick cert to the employer from day 1, they will now be entitled to sick pay from the Company for the 3-day waiting period.]
Are employees entitled to sick pay if absent due to COVID-19?
Employees who test positive or are asked by a GP/HSE to self-isolate due to COVID-19, are eligible to apply for the COVID payment via mywelfare.ie. If the employers has a sick pay scheme and pay the employee, they should ask the employee to sign over their Illness Benefit to the employer for the length of time the sick pay continues.
If an employer reduces employee hours or closes the business and have temporarily laid off employees or reduced their hours, they should direct employees to www.mywelfare.ie to understand their rights during lay-off and short-time working.
Can employees get Illness Benefit and sick pay at the same time?
Although employees may apply for Illness Benefit whilst also getting sick pay, the employer should ask employees to sign over any Illness Benefit payment to them for as long as the sick pay continues.
Do I need to put a policy in place regarding sick leave and sick pay?
Employers should have a sick leave policy, ideally in their Employee Handbook, outlining what is expected from the employee should they be unable to come to work due to illness/injury. If an employer provides payment for sick leave, this should be included in the Employee Handbook and it must also be clearly outlined in an employee’s Contract of Employment.
What should a sick leave policy include?
A sick leave policy should outline how the Company deals with absences due to sick leave including when, how and whom the employee must notify if unable to come to work, whether a sick cert is/may be required, whether payment will be made, etc. Should the Company pay for sick leave, the rules should be clear on Company’s criteria and eligibility to receive sick pay, sick cert, maximum length of sick pay, etc.
Additionally, the employee’s Contract of Employment should include the rules on sick leave and sick pay.
Should employers request a medical certificate?
Employers can include language in their policy that a medical certificate ‘is’ or ‘may be’ required after absences due to illness/injury for a specific period (e.g., 2 or 3 consecutive days) and weekly thereafter. The cert should include the reason for the absence and likely date of return to work.
What if an employee is off sick for a long period, can they be terminated?
In the event that an employee is frequently off sick or if their illness means they can no longer do their work, in some cases, the law can protect them from unfair dismissal so it is prudent for employers to get advice from a qualified HR professional to ensure they follow fair procedures and natural justice before making a mistake.
What if an employee suffers an injury at work?
An employee who is injured at work may receive sick pay from their employer or if no sick pay policy is available, they can apply for Injury Benefit. This is a weekly payment from the DSP if unfit for work due to an accident at work or an occupational disease, and they have enough PRSI contributions. If the employer provides sick pay, they can ask the employee to sign over to them any Injury Benefit payment from the DSP for as long as the Company sick pay continues.
What happens if an employee is off sick during public holidays?
If an employee works full time and on sick leave during a public holiday, they can apply for sick pay or Illness Benefit for the public holiday they miss. Alternatively, the employer may treat them as not being on sick leave on the public holiday and pay them as normal for that day. In this case, they will not count the public holiday as a sick leave day.
If an employee works part-time, they are entitled to time off work for the public holiday provided they worked for the employer at least 40 hours in total over the previous 5-week period.
What happens to an employee’s annual leave when they are off sick?
If an employee becomes ill during their annual leave and submits a medical certificate for the days they are ill, these sick days will not be counted as annual leave days. Instead, they can use the same number of days as annual leave at a later date. An employer cannot insist that they take annual leave on days they are off on certified sick leave.
Employees can build up their annual leave entitlement while off on certified sick leave and if on long-term sick leave and cannot take their annual leave due to illness, they can carry it over for up to 15 months after the end of the year it was earned. If they terminate their employment within these 15 months, they can receive a payment for their unused annual leave accrued during their certified illness.
What happens if an employee is sick during public holidays?
A full time employee who is on certified sick leave during a public holiday, is entitled to benefit for the public holiday they missed up to 6 months in cases of long term illness. If they are a part-time employee on sick leave during a public holiday, they would be entitled to time off work for the public holiday provided they worked for their employer at least 40 hours in the previous 5-week period.
However, they are not entitled to the public holiday if they are absent from work immediately before the public holiday and have been off work for more than 26 weeks due to an ordinary illness or accident, or for more than 52 weeks due to an occupational accident.
How should you manage an employee’s return-to-work?
Depending on the length of absence, and the nature of the illness or injury, it may be prudent for the employer to request the employee to receive a return-to-work medical certificate confirming that they are free to come back to do their normal duties on a full-time or part time basis without accommodation or if there are concerns, what accommodations could be considered. This would be the case if the employer feels that their return may further impact the employee’s health such as standing for long periods if the employee had a leg injury/operation. All employees should be interviewed upon their return to work following an illness or injury that concerns the employer whether or not they are fit to return to work and if a return-to-work medical certificate is not required by the employer, they should be asked to self-certify that they are fully able to return to their normal duties and declare whether or not they require accommodation.
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