News & Media

Sick pay proposals are here - at last - but concerns remain for low-paid workers

9 June 2021

Statement by Senator Marie Sherlock
Seanad Whip and Spokesperson on Employment Affairs, Media, Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht

Labour’s employment spokesperson Senator Marie Sherlock has said that the memo from cabinet, while late, is welcome - but expressed serious concern over the impact of the Government’s sick leave proposals on low-paid and younger workers.  

Speaking after the Tánaiste’s announcement, Senator Sherlock said:

“While much of today’s announcement is welcome, it is also severely overdue. The Labour Party introduced a bill that would have guaranteed sick pay for all workers back in September. Nine months later, the Government has finally responded – but it looks like many workers will still have to wait. 

“We are particularly concerned that sick pay is to be set at 70% of earnings; this simply isn’t good enough for the lowest-paid workers in our society who rely on every cent they earn to make ends meet. 

“Ireland has one of the highest rates of low pay in the OECD, second only to the United States. If these workers fall ill, they should never have to choose between their health or their income. But for many, a 30% pay cut for taking legitimate sick leave will leave them in an impossible situation. 

Senator Sherlock continued: 

 “We are also concerned at the slow pace at which the Government intends to introduce the right to paid sick leave. The scheme will not be fully phased in until 2025, even though we are still currently in a global health emergency.  

“And while it is welcome that paid sick leave, once introduced, will be available from the first day of an illness, there will still be real barriers in place for lower-paid and younger workers especially. 

“We have to be aware that these plans only cover workers after six months on the job. Ultimately, this means that safeguards need to be put in place against abuse of short-term contracts by employers.  

“And as access to paid sick leave requires a doctor’s certificate, we also need to ensure that all workers can have timely and affordable access to GP services so that no-one is left out of pocket.  

“Overall, we welcome the Government’s decision – at long last – to begin to get serious about sick pay. However, there is much to be done to ensure this plan meets the needs of those who are most likely to rely on paid sick leave for their health and income security.”