Workers need sick pay certainty

14 October 2021

Labour employment spokesperson Marie Sherlock has urged government to urgently progress sick pay for all. As public health officials reiterate the importance of staying at home if people are experiencing symptoms, Senator Sherlock said the lack of statutory sick leave is a fundamental flaw in our continued fight against the pandemic.

Senator Sherlock said:

“Ensuring sick pay for all is not just a vital question of worker’s rights; it is the essential missing piece in our strategy against Covid-19. At any other time, we would have an obligation to ensure every worker has a right to paid sick leave. But during a pandemic, we have a special duty to guarantee sick pay as soon as possible in the name of public health.

“Labour first introduced a Bill to provide sick pay for all last September but government has continued to kick the can down the road and delay our proposals. The heel dragging from government is unbelievable, having promised a general scheme to be brought forward in October, nothing has come to the Oireachtas committee for pre-legislative scrutiny. The longer we delay in providing for this right, the more parents, especially working mothers, will be put in impossible situations between their work obligations and the need to care for their children.

“Private sector workers are entirely dependent on the benevolence of their employer to pay them when they are ill; and we understand that only a minority currently choose to do so. Those worst affected tend to be on lower income and in certain essential sectors: for instance, SIPTU’s Big Start survey has identified that just 16% of childcare workers have paid sick leave.

“In the context of week where we had a supposedly ‘bonanza budget’, we shouldn’t make the mistake of viewing paid sick leave as an extravagance, especially when we are fighting to overcome a pandemic. Across the EU, 22 countries already have a statutory right to sick pay, as does the UK. Ireland is one of only five EU members that doesn’t recognise this essential right. We need to support workers to stay at home when they feel sick.”

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