Deficiencies in sick pay scheme show government has not learned lessons of the pandemic - Louise O’Reilly TD
Sinn Féin spokesperson on Workers’ Rights Louise O’Reilly TD has again warned the Tánaiste that a lack of access to timely and free GP care will undermine the government’s sick leave bill.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“It is being reported today that the government has signed off on the Tánaiste’s sick leave bill. Unfortunately, it has become clear that a key suggestion from the Oireachtas Enterprise, Trade and Employment Committee has been ignored in the final draft of the bill.
“Reports suggest that the Tánaiste’s legislation contains a demand provision of medical certification in order to qualify for sick pay.
“The experience of the pandemic has shown us that access to paid sick leave is an important instrument of public health – barriers like those in the proposals from government mean that access will be limited and will exclude workers on low incomes.
“While the Oireachtas committee agreed 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, we caveated this by referencing difficulties with the State’s GP services.
“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 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.
“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 government has refused to accept these arguments, and I have no doubt their actions will result in employees attending work when they are sick, or else taking unpaid leave to cover the duration of their illness.
“This totally undermines the purpose of a sick pay scheme.”