Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Bosses 'should pay for sick leave'

Joan Burton has said employers will gain most from plans to alter sick pay arrangements

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton has defended moves to force employers to pay for workers' sick leave, saying they stand to gain most from the new measures.

The minister wants to introduce a statutory sick pay scheme for companies, meaning they will be responsible for footing the bill instead of the Government.

And she said while she understands some employers might be apprehensive about the cost burden, it will ultimately lead to happier and more hardworking staff.

"I think the ultimate beneficiaries of this approach will be the employers who will have a more productive workforce," said Ms Burton.

"We want people in their most productive years and if they do have intervals of illness, our systems will help them get back to work and be able to resume earning."

Unlike many other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries including the UK, Australia, France, Germany, Norway and Poland, Irish employers are not obliged to make any contributions.

The State currently pays an illness benefit to employees who are unable to work due to illness. Workers are entitled to about 188 euro per week for up to two years, provided they have made sufficient PRSI contributions.

But Ms Burton said she hopes to introduce statutory sick pay by the end of 2012, which would see the complete abolition of the illness benefit and responsibility being transferred to employers.

The Irish Business and Employers Confederation has condemned Ms Burton's plans for sick pay, saying employers already contribute enough through their PRSI payments.

Director Brendan McGinty said: "Putting additional social welfare costs onto employers is simply an extra tax on employment, at a time when jobs should be the priority."

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