PAID SICK LEAVE AND IMPROVED PARENTAL LEAVE TO TACKLE COVID-19 IN NEW BILL from Labour Leader Alan Kelly

Noel Dundon

Reporter:

Noel Dundon

Email:

nd@tipperarystar.ie

Alan Kelly

Labour Leader Deputy Alan Kelly

“There is no right to paid sick leave in Ireland and it is an enormous hole in the protections which workers need to prevent them from being forced to go to work while sick." - Deputy Alan Kelly.

Labour Party Leader Alan Kelly, and Employment Affairs spokesperson Sen. Marie Sherlock have  published a new bill to bring in paid sick leave and cover for parents when their child's school or childcare provider is closed due to an outbreak of COVID-19.

The Sick Leave and Parental Leave (Covid-19) Bill 2020 is a newly proposed law that if passed would ensure workers who fall sick continue to get paid for up to six weeks. The bill also provides for paid ‘force majeure’ parental leave where a school or childcare provider is closed because of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Labour Party Leader Alan Kelly said:

“There is no right to paid sick leave in Ireland and it is an enormous hole in the protections which workers need to prevent them from being forced to go to work while sick.

“Ireland is an outlier in Europe in not having paid sick leave, and it has been highlighted by NPHET and the acting Chief Medical Officer as a problem in controlling outbreaks. If an employer does not provide sick pay, then a worker will be liable to a serious drop in income. The Covid-19 enhanced illness payment is paid at roughly half the average weekly wage, while the regular illness benefit payment of €203 may be all that is available to a worker in other circumstances, if they qualify.

“The pandemic has exposed many injustices and inequalities across our society for everyone to see. The COVID outbreaks in meat processing plants has put a spotlight on the working conditions in many sectors especially among low paid and non-unionised workers.

“The current rules on sick pay and illness benefit act as a disincentive for workers to comply with public health guidelines as they may be left with reduced or no income. This Bill would create a level playing field.

“That is why the Labour Party is proposing a right to paid sick leave of up to six weeks at the same rate as annual leave. This is the recovery time for a moderate to severe case of COVID-19 according to the WHO. Six weeks is a fraction of the sick leave arrangements which trade unions have delivered for workers across the public sector."

Senator Marie Sherlock said:

“The Labour Party is also proposing a special COVID-19 parental leave for situations where a school or early years provider is forced to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak. this Bill would introduce a temporary extension of so called ‘force majeure’ leave so that parents can take paid time off to look after their kids if they are sent home from creche or school because the need to isolate or because the setting has had to close. This is another crucial step in providing the clarity and stability to working parents and their families across the country.

“In such a case an employee who is the parent or adoptive parent of a child will be entitled to paid COVID-19 parental leave, at full pay so long as the child is unable to attend the school or pre-school, so long as the presence of the employee is required at their home in order to care for the child.

"We need these measures brought into place as soon as possible, as they are vital in fighting the pandemic."