Labour says Government sick pay scheme leaves low paid workers short changed

Senator Marie Sherlock
30 March 2022

Labour employment spokesperson Marie Sherlock has today (Wednesday, 30th March) said the Government’s Sick Pay scheme is too timid and fails to sufficiently protect the thousands of low to middle income earning people who will be out of pocket, if out sick.

Senator Sherlock said:

“Finally, and at a snail’s pace, we seem to be moving towards paid sick leave for workers in this country and that is a positive step. However, it appears that the Government is ignoring the very clear recommendations, made on a cross party basis by members of the Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise and Employment, on certified sick leave and the enormous issues low and middle wage workers face paying for and accessing timely GP services.

“The reality is that a low wage worker could end up paying more to a GP than what they will get back in terms of 70% of daily pay for being out sick. For a minimum wage worker, that will be a certain reality. This Government is failing to protect and look after minimum wage workers.

“Ultimately, this legislation is a far cry from what Labour proposed as far back as September 2020 on foot of appeals by workers representatives of meat plant workers and early year workers in SIPTU and ICTU to provide a sick pay scheme for all.

“It does not represent a right to access sick pay from the start of employment. Seasonal workers, early years educators such as Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) workers and others who are employed for a part of the year will be forced to start 13 weeks before they are entitled to this paid sick leave. ECCE work is typically employed on 38-week contracts and so every September, every worker must wait 13 weeks before they can get paid sick leave. That is not right, and it is not fair.

It fails to ensure that workers will not be out of pocket. The Joint Oireachtas Committee on Enterprise Trade and Employment recommended that a minimum rate of pay be introduced. From the statement today, it’s not clear that it will be there. Serious questions remain over the Government’s reluctance to hardwire into the Bill the provision of ten days sick leave that is due to be paid in 2025. There are real concerns that the three days that the Government will make available from this year will remain at the mercy of ministerial regulation and that is not acceptable.”

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