Speaking in the Dáil this morning, Sinn Féin spokesperson on Workers’ Rights, Louise O’Reilly TD, warned the Tánaiste that a lack of access to timely and free GP care will undermine the government’s sick leave bill.
She called on him to allow for limited periods of self-certification until universal GP care is introduced.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“Tánaiste, by now you will have received a copy of the Pre-Legislative Scrutiny report from the Enterprise, Trade and Employment Committee on the sick leave bill.
“The committee debate on the need for immediate medical certification to obtain sick pay was robust. There was broad agreement that medical certification to qualify for sick pay was an essential requirement to maintain the integrity of such a scheme, as is the case in EU countries which operate sick leave schemes.
“However, the concern of many members of the committee was the fact that, 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 in order to qualify for sick pay, in a state without timely access to free GP care, imposes a significant financial burden on a worker; and this is before you factor in that it can often take over a week 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.
“This could result in employees attending work when they are sick, or else taking unpaid leave to cover the duration of their illness – totally undermining the purpose of a sick pay scheme.
“Sinn Féin proposed that, until there is universal GP care in this state, workers be allowed limited periods of self-certification, or a rebate scheme be put in place where workers can recover costs of medical certification.
“Unfortunately, the Tánaiste refuses to see things from the perspective of workers and, as with his remote working bill, he is pulling a fast one where he wants to appear as if he is providing an additional workers’ right but making that right almost impossible for low and middle income earning workers to access.”