New regulations on statutory sick pay and remote working proposed

While some changes to sick pay were announced as part of Budget 2021, other changes and access to remote working are currently under consideration by the government

In Budget 2021, the government signalled a change to the rules around payment of Illness Benefit to insured employees who are medically certified as ill. The number of waiting days for Illness Benefit will be reduced from 6 days to 3 days on new claims from the end of February 2021. This will provide more State support for employees when they are ill, and will provide a reduction in cost for employers who already make some level of payment to employees during the first week of illness.

COVID-19 enhanced illness benefit of €350 per week remains available as an income support to any employee with COVID-19 symptoms or required to self- isolate.

The government has now confirmed its intention to reform Ireland’s statutory sick pay laws and introduce some form of statutory obligation on employers to provide sick pay, and make it a compulsory part of the terms and conditions of all employment contracts. It plans to evaluate the costs associated with such a move, particularly for small and medium sized enterprises, consult further, and publish regulations for March 2021.

The discussion is likely to focus on the employer  paying the employees’ normal pay for a period of two weeks, deemed a more manageable cost than a six week period.

Legal right to request remote working

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar TD has announced that the government is looking at providing people with the legal right to request remote working in their employment. 

He acknowledged that many people want a form of blended working, where they can work from home, in the office or in a 'remote hub' on different days. Similar to the right to request part-time working, consideration is been given to a legal right to request home working or remote working, but not an entitlement to be given it.

He made reference to the recent consultation on remote working. In our submission, CIPD Ireland argued that the debate should move on from focussing only on the location of where works get done under remote working, and consider the concept of flexible working which allows wider consideration to also include when and how works get done.

Overall, the views shared in the consultation covered the themes of occupational health and safety – workstation set-up and mental health; equality; tax, financial incentives and insurance; employment conditions; organisation of working time and the right to disconnect; broadband; data protection and cybersecurity; Covid-19; and finally training, both upskilling and management training. These themes will be used to inform guidance on working remotely from the Department, most recently updated under Guidance on Working Remotely.