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Ireland: towards the introduction of a statutory paid sick leave entitlement in 2021
Planet Labor, 17 November 2020, n°12229 -

On 16 November, the Irish government launched a consultation process with the social partners with a view to introducing a statutory sick pay scheme by the end of 2021, where employers would be legally obliged to pay staff on sick leave. Trade unions, employers’ organizations and public authorities have until 18 December to submit their responses and provide their views on, inter alia, the appropriate minimum rate of payment, the minimum scheme duration period, employers’ participation in the compensation, as well as the number of waiting days and the amount of company subsidies. Ireland is one of the few remaining European countries not to have legislated a statutory sick leave scheme. The measure was included in the recently elected (2020) Centre-Right-Green coalition government’s programme. The executive is now seeking a scheme offering “protection for vulnerable and low-paid workers” while being “fair and affordable for employers, many of whom have faced great difficulties this year,” explained Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar. Legislation currently does not provide for the right to sick leave or the right to sick pay. The State has however introduced a Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit as part of the wider Illness Benefit scheme. This benefit pays applicants €350 per week, which although more generous than the standard Illness Benefit still leaves many workers experiencing a shortfall in income. While collective bargaining and company agreements have enabled certain employees to benefit from the right to paid sick leave, the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the fragility of the Irish system for precarious and low-paid workers with some continuing to work within Covid-19 clusters, for fear of losing all their earnings.