Statutory Sick Pay Issue Continues In The Dail

The issue of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) has once again been raised, and with the budget drawing ever closer, it will be a matter of particular interest to employers.

As reported in the IRN, recent surveys indicate that the SSP scheme would come at the expense of jobs, while a Dail motion on the scheme sheds light on the nature of the ongoing debate.

Last week Fianna Fail put forward the suggestion that the SSP proposal be scrapped, which was subsequently amended to allow for continued consultation on the proposal and passed in its amended form. Amidst the debate, several Labour deputies called for a measured discussion on SSP that is grounded in fact.

 Minister Joan Burton also moved to correct a misconception that the current three day waiting period for sick pay to take effect (i.e. an employee does not receive sick pay for the first three days of illness) would not be carried over to a SSP scheme. This could be problematic as the absence of a waiting period could leave the scheme open to abuse by employees.

Fianna Fail Deputy Eamon O’Cuiv, also mindful of this, has called for employees to be responsible for the first five days of sick leave, which the Fianna Fail Deputy said could change the attitude of employees who are furnished with sick certs by GPs for one week, saving two days’ sick leave expense.

Deputy O Cuiv also pointed to a problem in the public service of medical certs restricting employees from returning to work even if they are fit to return before the expiry of the cert that was issued, e.g. a cert issued for one month to an employee who can return after three weeks cannot return to work in the event they become sick and in turn liability issues arise.

Sinn Fein stated their opposition to the SSP proposal and promoted a significant increase in employer PRSI contributions for employees earning over €100,000 to 15.75% – keeping in line with the party’s €100,000 salary cap principle – that it suggested would raise €91.5m, similar to the €89m figure Minister for Social Protection, Joan Burton, indicated SSP could save the Exchequer.

The primary fear of employers is that the schemes will be detrimental to their business and will set them back in terms of employment. A Chambers Ireland Cost of Employment Survey showed 87.2% of respondents said the transfer of responsibility of sick pay to the employer would have a negative effect on their business; 42.2% said it would prevent job creation; 37.9% said it would lead to job losses; and 39.1% said it would make their business less competitive.

In tandem with this the ISME state that in a survey carried out by them 96% of surveyed companies anticipate job losses; 94% said SSP would increase their cost base. This survey also showed that 94% of companies feel absenteeism levels will increase with a statutory scheme.

This has been opposed by Deputy Nash who has cited the example of the Netherlands which reduced its absenteeism rate from 8% to 4% following the introduction of a statutory sick pay scheme.

One thing is for sure, as we get closer and closer to the budget this issue is sure to rage with the Government looking for savings and employers looking to ensure their business remains viable and does not encounter further barriers to operating.



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