Sick leave in Ireland
One of the terms of employment which must be provided to an employee within two months of commencing employment relates to sick leave. This is set out in the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994. Your terms of employment must clearly set out the conditions which apply when an employee is incapable of working due to sickness or injury.
What should a sick leave policy contain?
As a minimum a sick leave absence management policy should contain the following:
Whether you offer a sick payment scheme.
Information on the notification and certification requirements.
That you as an employer can request the employee to attend a doctor nominated by you in order to be medically assessed.
Let's look at each of these in turn.
A sick pay scheme.
In the past there was no obligation on an employer under Irish employment legislation to pay an employee who was on sick leave. It was at the discretion of the employer whether to make a payment to an employee on sick leave or not. If an employee was receiving payment from the employer while on sick leave there was a requirement to sign over any illness benefit received for the duration of receipt of sick payment from the employer. This has changed since January 2023 under new legislation.
See New Statutory Sick Pay Scheme here
What about Illness benefit?
If an employee has the required social insurance contributions they may apply for Illness benefit. If they do not have the required amount of social insurance contributions they should contact the local representative of Department of Social Protection at their local health centre for an assessment regarding eligibility.
What about medical certificates ?
How soon do you want to be notified ? Ideally you require to be notified as soon as possible before the employee is due to commence work. This is to allow you make alternative working arrangements. The sick employee should notify their manager, or whoever is next in the management chain. Notification details should include, the fact that you are unfit for work and the anticipated return date.
A medical certificate is usually required on the third working day. You can select whatever date suits you.
Decide on the frequency of the certificates. They are usually required weekly, or monthly in the case of long term illness.
Define clearly short term absence, long term absence and unauthorised absence. Unauthorised absence is covered in your disciplinary procedure.
What about protracted long term absences?
When the absence continues beyond a set period, (say 3 months for example) you should review matters and examine the probability of a return to work .
In this context you should call in the employee for a discussion on their future employability. You must let them know that their ability to carry out their work is being reviewed and that this will affect employment.
Ask the employee for suggestions on what you can do as an employer, to facilitate an early return to work.
Before you make any decision to terminate the employee's contract of employment you must follow fair procedures and allow the worker an opportunity to have their side heard.
A medical examination will be an invaluable asset in your decision making.
Remember your conditions of employment should contain a requirement to attend a doctor of your choice for the purpose of being medically examined.
Returning to work
When an employee informs you that they are returning to work after a long term absence, you should request a “fit to resume doctor's note”.
If you can, you should try to facilitate a partial return to work when required by the employee.
You should interview any employee who has been of work on sick leave, regardless of the length of absence. You will find that it can deter the worker who wants to “pull a sickie” when they have to sit with you or their manager and explain their sudden recovery.
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