With the winter months comes an increase in coughs, colds and other illnesses resulting in an increase in sickness-related absence. Here, we offer our expert guide to sick leave and sick pay…

In Ireland, there is no legislation to state that employees must be paid while they are on sick leave. Instead, this is left to the discretion of each employer.

Employers can decide what policy they want to have on sick leave and sick pay. This policy, along with all other policies and terms and conditions should be given to the employee within two months of the commencement of employment.

What should an employer do if they have an employee who is out on sick leave? How should they properly manage this absence?

Firstly, it is vitally important to have a clear and precise policy which sets out the procedure to be followed in the event that an employee is out sick.

Best practice states that this policy should contain information on whether sick leave will be paid by the employer or not, set out who the employee needs to contact and when this contact should be made, e.g. you should notify your direct manager by phone call prior the time you would normally start work.

The employee should explain the nature of their illness and when they expect to be back to work.

The policy should also set out when the employee is expected to provide medical certification e.g. after 3 consecutive days absent due to illness, the employee must provide the employer with a sick certification from a medical practitioner. This cert should state how long the employee will be absent for.

It is very important to monitor that these procedures are followed by the employee. If the employee does not follow these procedures correctly, they will be on an unauthorised absence and will subsequently be subject to disciplinary procedures.

Unauthorised absences occur, for example, where the employee does not contact their direct manager in the timeframe set out in the employee handbook or where they do not provide a sick cert in the time set out in the policy.

Upon an employee’s return from an authorised absence due to illness, it is advisable to conduct a return to work interview with the employee.

Details of this interview should also be set out in the policy. These meetings are important, as management can uncover if the employee is having any problems, resulting in the absence, which the company can help the employee with.

Providing this support to the employee may prevent more absences due to illness in the future.

If you have any questions in relation to sick leave and sick pay, please call our expert advice line on 01 855 50 50