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Saturday 17 February 2018

Public sector sick leave to be halved -- but not for another year

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

PUBLIC servants' sick leave entitlements are set to be halved, but it will be more than a year before the cuts are fully in place.

And the plan still has to be thrashed out with education unions, where sick leave arrangements are different from the rest of the public sector.

New rules are to be brought in, meaning state employees will only get full pay for half the time they used to.

The number of days they can take without a doctor's cert will also be cut in half.

However, some of the new provisions that were first signalled in the Budget by Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin will not be introduced through legislation until January 2014.

The key measure is to slash the amount of time state employees get full pay from six months to three months.

A proposal to reduce uncertified sick leave from seven days a year is expected to be in place earlier, from September.

The Labour Court, which rubber-stamped the sick leave plans yesterday, said more talks must take place on the scheme in education.

Teachers and lecturers are entitled to up to 12 months on full pay in any four-year period when they are sick, but do not get paid after this.

In contrast, most public servants get six months on full pay and six months on half pay, followed by a rate based on their pensions indefinitely.

The Irish National Teachers Organisation said a plan will have to be drawn up to roll it out in the country's 4,000 schools, as they are separate employers, without HR departments.

Fitness

Details will also have to be hammered out with a company called Medmark, which assesses teachers' fitness for work. A union spokesman said he did not believe the talks would delay the plan.

And the new plan does not include any measures to strengthen management powers to verify sickness absences.

The Irish College of General Practitioners recently admitted there are problems with the ease which workers are able to get doctors' certs.

In most of the public sector, medical officers are usually only called in to assess a staff member's fitness for work when the head of a department or agency raises concerns.

Mr Howlin put forward the sick leave proposals after claiming that public servants were taking sick leave like holidays.

He aims to make savings of €25m in the €550m-plus sick leave bill this year.

IMPACT general secretary Shay Cody said the changes were "inevitable" after the Government announced it would legislate on sick leave last year.

Employers' group IBEC said the focus must now shift to empowering managers to tackle the high absenteeism rate.

Irish Independent

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