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Emergency legislation aims to amend rules on sick pay

The Government is to introduce emergency legislation in the Dáil to amend the rules on sick pay, which will see Illness Benefit rise from €203 per week to €305.

It will be available from the first day of illness rather than after six days as at present, and conditionality will be waived to allow the self employed to receive it.

There will be no minimum number of PRSI contributions, but medical certification will be required.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said the objective was to ensure that workers would not be afraid to self-isolate on financial grounds.

Speaking at a press conference this evening, he said that the new legislation would be in the Dáil next Thursday.

He also said that the Seanad would have to be recalled because of this.

The issue of sick pay for workers affected by Covid-19 was discussed by the Cabinet sub-committee, chaired by Mr Varadkar, at a meeting today.

In response to the announcement of the measures, Irish Congress of Trade Unions General Secretary Patricia King said: “It was of the utmost importance to uphold the net incomes of all affected workers.”

She added that there “is an onus on employers to pay their employees, and that this should not fall entirely on the State”.

ISME – the Irish SME Association – said the changes announced by the Government will “greatly assist in ensuring employees are willing to self-isolate”.

The Construction Industry Federation has said it welcomed the Government’s commitment to provide sick pay as a measure to reduce the negative impact of the coronavirus on employees, the self employed, businesses and the wider economy.

It said the package will give some comfort to those affected by the virus and is an important part of the Government’s containment strategy.

CIF added that the Government must continue to engage with specific sectors of the industry on how best the package is deployed.

Special arrangements for school staff who may need to self-isolate

The Department of Education has announced special arrangements for school staff who may need to self isolate as a result of a COVID-19 diagnosis.

It has also confirmed that school employees will continue to be paid if their school is closed following HSE advice as a result of the virus.

In a circular sent to schools, the Department said that any employee obliged to self isolate will be paid and the days will not be counted as part of the employee’s sick leave record. Substitution costs will also be paid.

If an employee who is not ill is advised by health authorities to self-isolate then the employer should consider alternative working arrangements it said, such as working from home.

The Department said that if this is not possible then special leave with pay may be granted.

It has told schools that medical advice and HSE guidelines should be followed regarding any return to work.

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