Report highlights urgent need for sick pay for all

16 February 2021

Labour spokesperson on employment affairs Senator Marie Sherlock has praised the report issued by the Irish Cancer Society and the ESRI on returning to work following a cancer diagnosis. Highlighting the need to legislate for statutory sick pay, Senator Sherlock called on the Government to reconsider the Labour Party’s Sick Leave and Parental Leave (Covid-19) Bill 2020 which would give all workers a legal right to sick pay.

Senator Sherlock said:

“This important research should underpin any policy attempts to protect employees who receive the devastating news that they have cancer. The employment landscape needs to address the fact that, unfortunately, approx. 40,000 people in Ireland get cancer each year. Fortunately, more and more people either survive or live with cancer, and we need a policy framework in place that can adapt to this.

“The report highlights a number of policy areas that could be addressed to make life easier for those suffering from cancer. The statutory right to sick pay is one such suggestion, a key policy priority of the Labour Party. We introduced a Bill to address this last year that would make sure no worker would be out of pocket if they fall ill. We want to do away with the enormous financial implications of bad health.

“We were all moved by the testimony of Galway East advocacy champion Ann Marie Davy who showed how so many people are currently falling through the social welfare safety net – as she didn’t have enough PRSI contributions to access illness benefit. We know the current system discriminates against young workers who are new to the world of work or those returning after a long period out of the workforce. This is just wrong and needs to be addressed by Government.

“The important role that trade unions play to advocate and represent those sick at work is crucially highlighted throughout this report. We are all well aware of the importance of unions for collective bargaining and ensuring fair terms and conditions, and often the supportive role unions play can be overlooked. In an employment landscape that has not caught up with the reality of modern health projections, unions are critical in representing those sick at work.

“I want to thanks the Irish Cancer Society and the ESRI for this vital report. One tangible action that the Government could implement in response is to provide for sick pay for all, to abate the financial worries that come with a diagnosis of ill-health. Workers should never be expected to choose between their wages and their health.”


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