The Sick Leave Act 2022 (the “Act”) provides Ireland’s first statutory sick pay scheme for employees was signed into law on 20th July 2022.
Before the Act was signed into law, employees in Ireland were not entitled to any statutory sick leave payment from their employer.
A phased roll-out
Under the Act, statutory sick pay will be introduced as part of a four-year plan and implemented on a graduated basis with an entitlement of 3 days paid sick leave at commencement. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has indicated that this will increase to 5 days in 2024, 7 days in 2025 and 10 days in 2026. This phased roll-out takes into account the current pressures on business in terms of rising costs, inflation etc.
Subject to PRSI contributions, once the statutory entitlement to sick pay period ends, employees requiring further time off may qualify for Illness Benefit from the Department of Social Protection.
Requirements for employees
The Act stipulates that employees must have 13 weeks’ continuous service with their employer before they have a statutory right to sick pay. The employee will also have to be certified by a GP as unfit to work.
Where an employee is on probation, is undergoing training or is employed as an apprentice, the employer may require that the probation, training, or apprenticeship be suspended during the period of statutory sick leave.
Employee entitlements under the Act
Subject to a maximum daily rate of €110, the statutory sick pay rate will amount to 70% of the employee’s wage. However, there is scope in the Act that this rate can be revised by Ministerial Order.
Importantly, following the period of statutory sick leave, an employee is to be treated as if he or she had not been so absent and thus sick leave should not affect any other rights or contractual benefits the employee receives as part of their employment. While the Act does not prevent more favourable sick leave provisions being made within the employment contract, it does prevent less favourable treatment.
The Act also states that employers ‘shall not penalise or threaten penalisation of an employee for proposing to exercise or having exercised his or her entitlement to statutory sick leave.’
WRC to handle complaints regarding employers contravening the Act
Where an employee believes that their employer has failed to comply with the provisions of the Act, an employee may make a complaint to the Workplace Relation Commission (WRC). If successful, an employee who makes such a complaint may be awarded up to 4 weeks’ remuneration. However, the Act does provide exemptions that can be granted where the employer is experiencing severe financial difficulty.
It will be mandatory that employers keep a record of any statutory sick leave taken by employees. Such records must be retained by the employer for a period of 4 years. Failure to comply with the record-keeping requirement may result in a fine of up to €2,500.
About the Author: Hugh Le Gear is a Solicitor on the Employment Team.