Pay for workers who self-isolate to be examined by Government officials
Unions,employers meet Government about coronavirus arrangements
Ictu General Secretary Patricia King leaving Government Buildings on Friday after talks on Coronavirus. Photograph: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie
Government officials are to examine the possibility of making financial assistance available to private sector workers affected by the coronavirus.
The Government on Thursday announced State employees affected would receive special leave with pay but talks between unions and employers on Friday examined what could be done for private sector workers.
Unions have warned that some private sector workers without contractual provision for sick leave may not be able to afford to self isolate.
On Friday morning Government officials met with representatives of the trade union movement and employers’ groups. Patricia King the general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions said: “Officials are gone off to consider if they can build a proposal that they can put to us over the coming hours or days
“Everyone is if they view that all workers should be enabled to self isolate”, she said .
“We are to consider what the options are and see if we can build a solution. “
“We will reconvene either later today or over weekend. Everybody understands the issue has to de dealt with .”
Maeve McElwee of the employers’ group Ibec said everyone saw the urgency of the matter. She said the talk on Friday morning had been positive with lots of suggestions .
Ian Talbot of Chambers Ireland said the big challenge was “we want people to feel financially that they are comfortable to declare that they are sick and leave the workforce and make sure this containment phase we are it operates properly. “
Earlier this week Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said workers affected by the coronavirus who have to self isolate in line with medical advice should receive income support. Mr Varadkar said that this would require “flexibility and responsiveness” by employers and in the Government’s social protection schemes.
In a letter to the Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty on Thursday Ibec proposed that a special payment at the level of job seekers benefit should be put in place for a two-week period.
Job seeker benefit at the full rate is set at just over €200 per week.
On Wednesday Ms King told Mr Varadkar in a letter that some workers affected by the coronavirus would not be be able to afford to self isolate by staying away from work.
She called on the Government to uphold the net incomes of workers hit by the Covid 19 outbreak either through the social welfare system or the provision of special temporary payments.
State employees will receive special leave with pay if they have to self-isolate in line with medical/HSE advice and where flexible working arrangements are not possible. This is largely on foot of a Civil Service circular dealing in part with infectious diseases dating back to 1976.
In a guidance document issued on Thursday the Department of Public Expenditure also said that special leave with pay would apply for public service personnel who had a medical diagnosis of Covid -19 infection.
It said flexibility for alternative working arrangements, such as home working, was to be encouraged where possible.
“This may enable employees who are not ill to continue working.”
The special leave with pay will cover basic pay and fixed allowances only. It will exclude premium payments.
Any special leave with pay granted for the purpose of self-isolation or any diagnosis of Covid-19 will not be counted as part of the employee’s sick leave record.
The Department of Public Expenditure said that where staff were granted special leave with pay “the officer will be expected to comply at once with any directions which may be given by his Department and to take all practicable steps to resume duty as soon as possible. Otherwise, unless adequate reason is shown for non-compliance, the question of withholding pay will arise”.
“The general principles applying to the management of sick leave, for example the requirement of employees to contact managers, and for ongoing contact with employees who are on special leave for this purpose, will apply.”