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pandemic legacy All workers to qualify for sick pay worth 70pc of wages under new laws

The Cabinet signed off on the new statutory scheme yesterday

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Tánaiste Leo Varadkar

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar

All workers will be entitled to paid sick leave for the first time under new laws due to come into force in September.

The Cabinet signed off on the new statutory scheme yesterday that Tánaiste and Enterprise Minister Leo Varadkar said must become a legacy of the pandemic.

Workers will be entitled to 70pc of their wages up to €110 a day for three days when the legislation is enacted later this year.

This will rise to an entitlement of five days' paid leave in 2024, seven days in 2025, and 10 days in 2026.

It will be paid by their employer.

An employee must get a medical certificate to avail of the sick pay and have worked for their employer for a minimum of 13 weeks to qualify.

The new law will reduce the gap between public sector and private sector workers' entitlements.

A lack of paid sick leave in sectors including food processing came to the fore during the pandemic.

Unions claimed that workers in meat factories where there were numerous outbreaks of Covid-19 were turning up for work despite being sick because they could not afford to stay out.

This is because they could only claim illness benefit or enhanced Covid illness benefit at lower rates than their pay.

"The pandemic exposed the precarious position of many people, especially in the private sector and in low-paid roles, when it comes to missing work due to illness," Mr Varadkar said.

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"No one should feel pressured to come to work when they are ill because they can't afford not to."

He said Ireland is one of the few advanced countries in Europe not to have a mandatory sick pay scheme.

"And although many, we think approximately half, of employers do provide sick pay, we need to make sure that security, that safety net, is there for all workers, regardless of their job," he said.

He said he understands that many businesses are struggling with additional costs because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the aftermath of Covid and Brexit.

"That is why we have chosen to phase this in, in this way," he said.

"We have made a big effort to design the scheme so that it's easy to use, fair and affordable for employers.

"We've done a lot of consultation on this, with representatives from both the employee and employer side and although I know some will think it goes too far and others that it doesn't go far enough, I think it has struck a fair and reasonable balance."

Speaking at the Siptu biennial conference, division organiser Greg Ennis said it does not go far enough at the Siptu biennial conference.

Speaking on a motion on sick pay, he said workers had to choose between going to work and isolating and losing at least a third of their pay during the pandemic.

He said meat barons may be able to survive on two-thirds of their pay, but workers above the minimum wage cannot.

The daily earnings threshold of €110 in the scheme is based on 2019 average weekly earnings of €786.33 and equals an annual salary of €40,889.

It can be revised by ministerial order in line with inflation and changing incomes.

Meanwhile, senior Siptu official John King, who fronts the public service division, revealed that public servants are likely to return to a shorter working week from July 1.

The Government is expected to adopt the proposal put forward by an independent body.

Pressure is mounting on the Government to review the current public sector pay deal due to surging inflation.

Mr King said a letter had been sent to the Government requesting a review clause in the Building Momentum agreement is invoked.

"I think we all know where inflation is at and it's true to say that inflation has eroded the value of the agreement," he said.

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