Civil servants seek reversal of curbs on sick leave arrangements

PSEU conference hears some staff forced back to work prematurely over financial stress

Prior to the economic crash, public service staff were entitled to six months’ sick leave on full pay, followed by six months on half pay. In 2014 that was reduced to three months on full pay followed by three months on half pay. File photograph: iStockPhoto

Prior to the economic crash, public service staff were entitled to six months’ sick leave on full pay, followed by six months on half pay. In 2014 that was reduced to three months on full pay followed by three months on half pay. File photograph: iStockPhoto

 

Civil servants are seeking for the Government to reverse curbs on sick leave entitlements which were introduced several years ago.

Delegates at the annual conference of the Public Service Executive Union (PSEU) in Galway maintained that staff were being forced on some occasions to return prematurely due to severe financial stress.

Prior to the economic crash, public service staff were entitled to six months’ sick leave on full pay, followed by six months on half pay.

However, in 2014 that was reduced to three months on full pay followed by three months on half pay.

The reforms were introduced in 2014 by then minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin, who argued the previous sick leave arrangements were costing €500 million per year and were “unsustainable”.

Danny Kelly of the PSEU’s Revenue branch said the new arrangements “placed too much of a restriction on staff who develop serious health issues”.

He said he was aware of two colleagues who had to return to work too early as they felt they had no option due to reduced pay.

“Nobody chooses to be seriously ill and we can’t punish staff when they are at their most vulnerable.”

A pay cut

Francis McHugh of the Department of Social Protection described the cut in sick pay as a pay cut and the restriction on sick leave as an attack on the terms and conditions of public servants.

He accused the Government of trying to diminish the right to be sick which, he maintained, was an integral part of the human condition.

He said the Irish Constitution stipulated that the State should safeguard with special care the economic interests of weaker sections of the community.

He said this echoed the views of 18th-century US thinker Benjamin Franklin, who argued the primary responsibility of Government was the care of the sick, the aged and children.