Sick Pay Debate Takes New Turn

Peninsula Team

June 24 2012

Statuory Sick PayThe debate over the controversial employer funded sick pay issue has taken a new turn. In an article in today's (24th June) Sunday Times, the paper has allegedly received a departmental report which seems to be leaning towards a proposal where an employe must attend a Company nominated Doctor to obtain their Medical Cert in order to qualify for payments. In the Article it states that proposals were made at a consultation seminar organised by the Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton in February. One of the proposals made at the seminar was that of requiring employees to obtain and independent medical assessment (from a specialist unit) or attend a Company nominated GP in order to qualify for payments. The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME) and Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) have both laid claims to putting forward these proposals at the seminar, with Mark Fielding of ISME stating he was amongst those pushing for a system of employer nominated GPs, and Brendan McGinty of IBEC stating he argued for the Independent Medical Assessment Unit. The rationale behind this is that Employers have expressed concern over how easily obtainable Medical certificates are for employees, and how willing GPs are to certify employees off sick and unable to attend work, as 85% of sick certs say the employee cannot do any work at all. This newly proposed system will require employees to attend examinations from people trained in the area, and with the expertise to make an evaluation on their likelihood of attending work. The article also suggests that the proposal (submitted by Dame Carol Black, Britain's National Director for Health and Work) is that the service will be free for workers after an employee has been sick for over four weeks, and that employers may be required to pay to use the service at an earlier stage of the sickness. In finishing, the article also highlights the feeling that some employers feel the battle to halt the introduction of Statutory Sick Pay in Ireland has been lost however the new battleground is that of the issue of Sick Certs and the ease at which an employee can obtain certs. With over €500m to be saved in the upcoming budget it certainly seems like the Department of Social Protection are set to drive this introduction of Sick Pay, and with illness benefit having risen from €330m in 2001 to €865m in 2011, it seems highly likely that they will press on.

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