Reworking of public service sick leave is a victory for Howlin
ANALYSIS:Labour Court decision will affect potentially all personnel in the sector
THE REFORM of sick leave represents the greatest change in the conditions of employment for serving public service staff in years.
Other major changes introduced by the Government, including those to pensions and annual leave, will hit new entrants more than serving personnel.
However, the changes to be introduced following the binding Labour Court recommendation yesterday will affect potentially all 300,000 personnel in the sector.
Serving staff could also be hit by changes to allowances which are likely to be announced by the Government next week.The introduction of the reforms represents a victory for Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin. He has publicly argued the current €550 million bill for sick leave in the public service was “unsustainable” and that changes had to happen.
The new scheme also represents a victory for those who have argued the Croke Park agreement can bring about substantial reform in the public service. The public service trade unions had opposed the plans put forward by the Government.
They had maintained there was no need to change the existing arrangements for sick leave. They contended management already had the tools to address any mismanagement or abuse of the system.
Following the Labour Court recommendation they can take comfort from the introduction of new arrangements for those with critical illnesses – who will continue to be covered by the existing provisions of six months on full pay and six months on half pay. However, there is likely to be more tough talking in the months ahead on the proposed new protocol that will define what should be covered by the provision for critical illness.
Sceptics may also point out that the new arrangements for certified sick leave will not come into force for nearly 18 months.
The new limits on uncertified sick days will come into force at the end of the summer.
The Government yesterday welcomed the Labour Court recommendation. However, it signalled strongly to senior management in the public service it expected them to tackle absenteeism rates among staff.
The Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Brian Hayes, said this problem had to be rooted out.
The Government was unable yesterday to indicate how much will be saved by the new measures in cash and work days.