News & Media

Foot dragging on Sick Pay for All unacceptable

7 June 2021

Statement by Senator Marie Sherlock
Seanad Whip and Spokesperson on Employment Affairs, Media, Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht

Labour employment affairs spokesperson Senator Marie Sherlock has urged the Tánaiste and Minister for Business to stop foot dragging and implement sick pay for all. Nine months after Labour published a bill to put sick pay on a statutory footing, Senator Sherlock said the lack of urgency on providing this urgent support is outrageous.

Senator Sherlock said:

“It is shameful that we are now hopefully reaching the tail end of the pandemic and sick pay for all is still not in place. There has been outrageous foot dragging by the Tánaiste on this fundamental protection for workers. The spin from him on this has been unreal – first he said plans would be published in March, after delaying the Labour bill for six months, then we were expecting it in May, now we are in June, and still no memo has been brought to Cabinet.

“While the Tánaiste may not be in any hurry, workers around the country are crying out for this. Research published by the Irish Cancer Society and the ESRI in February highlighted the challenges that employees face when trying to return to work after either surviving cancer or living with it. The report highlights a number of policy areas that could be addressed to make life easier for those suffering from cancer, statutory sick pay is one such suggestion.

“The pandemic really exposed the flaws in our legislation, with some workers being forced to choose between their wages and their health. The reality for most people is they can’t afford to be sick – bills still need to be paid, mouths still need to be fed. So we need to break this cycle of people having to choose between going into work while sick, or else losing a portion of their income. 

“As many as half of all private sector workers do not have a guaranteed right to be paid if they fall ill. This is in stark contrast to European standards. Across the EU, 22 countries already have a statutory right to sick pay, as does the UK. Ireland is one of only five EU members that doesn’t recognise this essential right. The Tánaiste should be embarrassed at his reluctance to put Irish workers’ rights on the same footing of others.

“The Labour legislation is there and ready to be progressed if there was the political will for this. The aim of our bill was to make sure that no person will be out of pocket when they fall ill. We want to do away with the difficult choice between going into work while sick, or else losing a portion of their income. We must ensure that workers are never expected to choose between their wages and their health.”