Ireland Introduces New Statutory Sick Leave Law
On 20 July 2022, the Sick Leave Act 2022 (“the Act”) was signed into law. Effective January 1, 2023 employees in Ireland shall be entitled to statutory paid sick leave.
Currently, sick leave is provided only via an agreement between the employer and the employee. There is no statutory requirement to provide sick leave.
The statutory sick pay scheme will be rolled out over 4 years. According to section 5(2) of the Act, employees will be entitled to a statutory payment from their employer for the first 3 days of illness effective January 1, 2023. This shall increase to 5 days in 2024, 7 days in 2025, and 10 days in 2026.
Statutory sick pay will be paid by employers at a daily rate of payment to be prescribed by ministerial regulations. The rate will be 70 % of an employee’s wage, subject to a daily maximum of €110, which can be revised in line with inflation and changing incomes.
Employees shall be eligible for the paid sick leave benefit after the completion of 13 weeks of continuous service with the same employer.
Employees who wish to avail of the sick leave benefit must provide their employer with a certificate from a registered medical practitioner in advance and the certificate must state that the employee named is unfit to work due to their illness or injury.
The leave must be taken on a working day on which an employee would ordinarily work but is incapable of doing so due to illness or injury. The leave shall be taken on consecutive days or non-consecutive days.
Additionally, once the entitlement to statutory sick pay from the employer ends, employees who haven’t recovered and are still unfit to return to work may qualify for Illness Benefits.
Illness Benefit is a weekly payment that employees may get if they are unable to work due to an illness. Employees must be under 66 years of age and meet the social insurance (PRSI) requirements to get qualify for illness benefits.
In accordance with section 9 of the Act, if an employer already provides a more favorable sick pay scheme to their employees as per an agreement between employer and employee, they will not be obliged to comply with the statutory sick pay rules. An employer will have to demonstrate that any discretionary or pre-existing scheme is definitely more favorable than that provided for in the law.
An employer shall keep proper records and maintain them for 4 years including information in relation to each employee who has availed sick leave. The following information must be included in the records:
- The employee’s period of employment
- The dates of statutory sick leave in respect of each employee
- The rate of statutory sick leave payment in relation to each employee.
An employer who fails to maintain accurate records may be convicted and subject to a fine of up to €2,500. In certain circumstances, an employer whose business is experiencing severe financial difficulties may apply to the Labour Court for an exemption to pay sick leave. If an exemption is granted, it will be for a minimum of 3 months and up to 1 year.
Employers must get ready to implement a sick leave policy, and if one already exists, they must review their contracts, company handbooks, and policies to ensure that it complies with the provisions of the Act.