Government should reconsider cynical amendment to Labour’s Sick Pay Bill

23 September 2020

Speaking during the Dáil debate on Labour’s Sick Pay Bill, Labour Justice spokesperson Brendan Howlin called on the government to reconsider the use of a delaying amendment that he described as cynical, and a device used when there is no moral argument against a proposal but simply a tactic used to delay it.

Deputy Howlin said:

“Sick pay is a moral imperative. It was a moral imperative before Covid-19 but it is absolutely one now. Despite the Tánaiste’s comments in today’s Irish Times, and as long as these provisions are not enacted, the lack of statutory sick pay remains a fundamental weakness in our all-out fight to defeat this awful virus.

“The Government amendment to delay our Bill is a device we have seen before. When a Government has no moral argument to make against a proposal, it seeks to kick it down the road. The last time I remember this device being used was when I introduced the Labour Party’s Civil Unions Bill and there was no counter argument of any substance from the then FF-PD government. The need for these sick pay measures is now

“Ireland is among the small minority of five EU nations yet to provide for statutory sick pay. Work is a bargain between employer and employee. In my judgment, the bargain goes well beyond a transactional arrangement to simply provide an agreed amount of cash for hours worked. There is a bond. In return for a person’s work an labour, if that person becomes ill, surely the responsible employer will wish to support that employee and loyal worker, to ensure he or she is provided for and can come speedily back to work.

“The Minister for Justice expressed sympathy but it is of little value to the people who need paid sick leave or paid parental leave. These are families, for example who have a sick child and whose employer wants them to stay away from work. They need a statutory buffer to ensure the basic household needs are met as they do the right thing and so there is not incredible pressure of them to go into work when they might be extending the virus and infecting their work colleagues. That is not what we need now. 

“I call on the Government to reconsider their cynical amendment, and to allow the Bill to pass on Second Stage this week so we can tease out any concerns and have any discussions that are required on Committee Stage.”

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