Sick pay scheme not intended to place ‘undue cost’ on employers

Department of Enterprise says new plan for workers aims at being ‘fair and affordable’

The Government last year announced plans for new laws to give employees the right to paid sick leave. Photograph: iStock

The Government last year announced plans for new laws to give employees the right to paid sick leave. Photograph: iStock

 

Any move to introduce a statutory sick pay scheme that would place a new financial burden on employers must be balanced with the need to support the viability of the business sector, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has said.

It suggested that jobs would have to be protected and that it was aware of the potential impact of additional costs on small and very small businesses.

The Government last year announced plans for new laws to give employees the right to paid sick leave. The department launched a public consultation process on the issue last November which received nearly 120 submissions.

In a note to the Oireachtas committee on enterprise and employment in recent days, the department said the Government’s planned new statutory sick pay scheme would be aimed at being fair and affordable. It said it was not intended to involve placing undue costs on employers.

The department said the Government recognised “that this is a very difficult time for employers, with ongoing Covid-19 restrictions and Brexit-related impacts”.

‘Burden of costs’

“The intention is to develop a scheme that is fair and affordable and that does not place an undue burden of costs on employers. “

“Any move to introduce a statutory sick pay scheme which will place a new financial burden on employers must be balanced with the need to support the viability of the business and enterprise sector, thereby protecting jobs.”

The department told the Oireachtas committee that it was “particularly conscious of any extra costs on micro-enterprises and small businesses”.

It said the public consultation process had involved “significant engagement and a total of 118 submissions were received”.

“There is a wide range of views and suggestions from a good mix of industry sectors and also from individual employees who wrote in a personal capacity.”

The department said that “some of the issues identified cut across other Government departments, such as taxation issues and illness benefit, and an interdepartmental group has been set up to deal with these matters”.

‘Social partners’

“The Tánaiste [Leo Varadkar] also continues to engage with the social partners on the development of the scheme through the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) subgroup on Employment and Enterprise. The Tánaiste intends to publish the General Scheme of a Bill in the near future, with a view to having the Bill enacted and up and running by the end of the year.”

At the start of the consultation process last November, Mr Varadkar said: “Ireland is one of only a small number of European countries in which there is no legal obligation on employers to provide for sick pay, in the way they do annual leave for example. This needs to change and I am committed to introducing a statutory sick pay scheme that works for employees and employers as quickly as possible.”

The Irish Times reported in January that the Government’s plan for a new scheme for sick pay was designed to “set a minimum floor” for the benefit, with initial plans that could see employers asked to cover pay for two weeks but that this was likely to be capped at a maximum amount.