Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade, and Employment, Louise O’Reilly TD, has said the government decision to increase the number of paid sick leave days from three to five is welcome, but reiterated her long standing criticism that deficiencies in the scheme mean many workers will not access any leave.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“Today’s reports that the government has increased the number of statutory paid sick leave days from three to five is welcome, however, structural deficiencies in the scheme mean many workers are still unable to access this form of leave.
“Since the beginning of the legislative journey to deliver paid sick leave I have been clear that unless the scheme is agile and accounts for the condition of our public health service then the demands the scheme places on workers means they cannot utilise this leave.
“The demand for the provision of medical certification in order to qualify for sick pay is a significant barrier for a number of reasons.
“While Sinn Féin do not oppose certification as a qualifying criterion, we do oppose it in circumstances where workers do not have access to timely and free GP care.
“Medical certification is an essential requirement to maintain the integrity of any sick pay scheme, as is the case in other EU countries which operate sick leave schemes, however, unlike most of our European peers’ workers here do not have access to timely and free GP care.
“As a result, demanding a worker immediately obtain medical certification to qualify for sick pay imposes a significant financial burden on a worker, and this is before you factor in that it can often take weeks to obtain a GP appointment.
“In these circumstances, demanding immediate medical certification will result in some workers being unable to access the sick pay scheme because of a lack of access to timely and free GP care.
“Similarly, asking low paid workers to pay €70 or €80 for a GP visit in order to recoup 70 percent of gross earnings up to a cap of €110 is also off-putting for workers.
“When the legislation was before the Dáil, Sinn Féin proposed that until there is universal GP care workers should be allowed limited periods of self-certification.
“Until these anomalies are addressed employees will attend work when they are sick or else, they will take unpaid leave to cover the duration of their illness – such a situation totally undermines the purpose of a sick pay scheme.”