Irish public-sector sick pay halved

Sick pay for public servants in Ireland is to be cut by half in a bid to tackle their €550 million sickness absence bill.

The Labour Court has approved proposals to halve the entitlement for the country’s 300,000 public servants, which is currently full pay for the first six months of illness and half pay for the next six-month period.

The number of acceptable days an employee can take off sick without certification from a doctor will also be slashed from seven days every 12 months, to seven days per 24 months.

The Irish government has set a target of saving €25 million this year, after figures showed that the state pays €488 million for certified sickness absence and €63 million for uncertified illness among civil servants annually.

Members of the coalition cabinet have said that they want to drive down sickness rates in the public sector to similar levels seen in the private sector, as the struggling economy cannot afford to sustain such costs.

Brendan Howlin, minister for public expenditure and reform, said that the new restrictions would also improve productivity.

“The reformed arrangements will result in increased productivity, reductions in absenteeism and a significant reduction in the cost of sick leave in the public service,” he explained.

The Labour Court added that the cut in self-certified sick leave entitlement should be implemented “as soon as practicable” – which could be this September.

The fall in sick pay for certified absences, to three months on full pay and three months on half pay, will take effect from January 2014.

But the court confirmed that public servants suffering from a critical illness – such as heart attack, cancer or serious injury – will continue to receive six months full pay then six months half pay.