Tuesday 16 January 2018

Employers reject sick leave pay plan as 'dash for cash'

Michael Brennan Deputy Political Editor

EMPLOYERS have rejected plans to make them pay for workers' sick leave as a "dash for cash".

Currently, the State pays the cost of sick leave for workers who are absent for more than three days -- and the total bill amounted to €876m last year.

But Social Protection Minister Joan Burton is now planning to get employers to cover the cost of a month's sick leave to save up to €89m.

At the start of her consultation process yesterday, employers' group IBEC quickly indicated it was "absolutely opposed" to any type of statutory sick pay scheme. IBEC's director of industrial relations Brendan McGinty said it was all about a "dash for cash" by the State.

"For the life of me, I can't see how a statutory pay scheme will lead to the creation of one other job or encourage employers to manage absences more," he said.

Many employers voluntarily pay their staff sick leave for up to 26 weeks but others do not and the State instead provides €188 a week in illness benefit.

The consultation forum held in Dublin yesterday heard that Ireland was out of line with other countries. In Britain, employers fund 28 weeks of sick pay while in the Netherlands they pay for two years.

Ms Burton's department is arguing that the PRSI rate that employers pay to help fund sick leave is among the lowest in Europe -- and that the social insurance fund has a €1.5bn hole.

Ms Burton said she wanted to reform the system so there was "co-responsibility" between employers and the State to get people back to work quickly after illness.

The new proposals would exempt employers or the State from paying the first three days of sick leave -- with employers paying the first four weeks after that and then the State taking over for up to two years.

Exchequer spending on illness benefit more than doubled in the past 10 years from €330m to €876m.

Irish Independent

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