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Employers’ guide to Ireland’s new Sick Leave Act

The law in Ireland is changing. Here is what employers need to know to stay compliant. Need more help? Contact our team today.

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What is the Sick Leave Act?

Prior to the Sick Leave Act (which became law in July 2022) Irish employees had no legal right to be paid when on sick leave. This act is changing all that with the introduction of a Statutory Sick Pay Scheme. The law will come into operation by Ministerial Order which is expected in Autumn 2022.

What does that mean for employers?

Under the Statutory Sick Pay scheme, your employees will be entitled to paid sick leave for up to 3 sick days per year. This will increase to 5 days in year 2, 7 days in year 3 and 10 days in year 4.

What will it cost me?

Employers must pay statutory sick leave equivalent to 70% of normal wages (up to a maximum €110 per day). Employees have the right to take a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) if you don’t provide a company sick pay scheme.

Who is entitled to the scheme?

To be entitled to paid sick leave under the new scheme, your employee must be working for you for at least 13 weeks. They will also need to be certified by a GP as unfit to work.

Do I need to change my contract?

You may need to update your employment contract(s) to reflect the new rules on sick leave, if you do not already have a sick pay policy.

At Small Business Payroll, we can help you tailor your contract to include specific clauses. For help creating or updating an employment contract, contact our team.

When can I ask for a medical certificate?

You can ask your employee for a medical certificate from their GP when they are on sick leave. For example, you may require an employee to provide a medical certificate if they are off sick for more than 2 days in a row. The medical certificate should state the date when they are likely to return to work. If your employee is likely to be off sick for a long time, you may ask for weekly medical certificates.

What happens if an employee is sick during a public holiday?

If an employee works full time and they are on sick leave during a public holiday, they are entitled to sick pay for the public holiday they miss. Alternatively, you may treat your employee as not being on sick leave on the public holiday and pay them as normal for that day. In this case, your employee can’t count the public holiday as a sick leave day.

If an employee works part-time and they are on sick leave during a public holiday, they are entitled to time off work for the public holiday provided they have worked for you at least 40 hours in total over the previous 5-week period.

Note: An employee is not entitled to pay or time off for the public holiday if they are on sick leave immediately before the public holiday, and either of the following apply:

How does sick leave impact annual leave?

If an employee becomes ill during their annual leave and they get a medical certificate for the days they are ill, these sick days will not be counted as annual leave days. Instead, your employee can use the same number of days as annual leave at a later date. As an employer, you cannot insist that an employee take annual leave on days they are off sick, if they have a medical certificate for those days.

An employee can build up their annual leave entitlement while they are off sick, as long as they have a medical certificate. If they are on long-term sick leave and cannot take their annual leave due to illness, they can carry it over for up to 15 months after the end of the year it was earned. If they leave the job within these 15 months, they should get payment instead of the leave they did not take due to illness.

For help navigating the new Sick Leave Act for your carer or other help staying compliant to changes in the law, contact the team at Small Business Payroll.