Organisation of Working Time (Amendment) (Carryover of Annual Leave) (Covid-19) Bill 2020: First Stage

I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 to allow for employees to carry over untaken leave in a year where it was not reasonably practicable for an employee to take some or all of the leave to which the employee was entitled as a result of the effects of Covid-19.

To avoid any confusion, I was looking to come in on Questions on Promised Legislation.

I beg the Deputy's pardon.

It is okay. I knew I was on the list for this item.

I thank the Tánaiste and the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to introduce this Bill. I thank also the staff of the Office of the Ceann Comhairle and the Bills Office who worked very hard to help me with this. I am delighted to discuss my Bill in the House.

Covid-19 has ripped through our society and economy and has wreaked havoc on workers and their families. Many workers, especially front-line and essential service workers such as suppliers, shop and supermarket workers, workers in food processing and meat factories, nurses, doctors and gardaí, have been working around the clock since March to help us get through the Covid-19 crisis. They are working today and will be working throughout Christmas.

Unfortunately, for many of these workers, this means they have been unable to use up all their 2020 annual leave due to the workplace demands the pandemic has brought. As a result, countless workers could lose several days of annual leave once the year ends. It is for this reason I bring this Bill before the House. The Bill seeks to allow workers to carry over annual leave from 2020 which they were unable to take due to the effects of Covid-19 on the worker, the employer or the wider economy or society and to use that leave in 2021 and-or 2022. Put simply, this means that where workers could not take their leave due to Covid-19, they will be facilitated with a carryover of that leave into 2021 and-or 2022. I see no reason the Government should object to such a proposal given that we have seen similar changes in Britain, where they have amended their working time legislation to allow workers to carry over leave not taken due to Covid-19 into the next two leave years.

These are extraordinary times and as such they call for extraordinary measures. This legislation is intended to be only temporary but it seeks to give back to workers and to help those workers who have worked non-stop throughout the Covid-19 crisis and who have not been able to take their annual leave. I am sure I speak for everyone in the House when I say that no businesses or Government agency would want to see workers' untaken annual leave lapse at the end of this year. The Government has been quick to implement emergency measures and a number of supports to cover a range of matters but has been very slow in looking out for workers. Workers have accrued their leave and are entitled to take it. Sinn Féin wants to ensure that workers' annual leave rights are preserved. If they cannot take their leave in 2020 due to Covid-19, they should have a legal right to carry it over into 2021 and-or 2022, when, it is to be hoped, we will have a vaccine and will be able to move about with some semblance of normality.

I hope that when the Second Stage debate is taken, all those Deputies who stood up to give a round of applause to front-line and essential service workers earlier this year will support it. The Bill seeks to give workers something that will be of real benefit to them. There is a reason we get annual leave. It is not necessarily because employers love workers, it is because workers sometimes need a rest in order that they might continue to do their work. I commend the Bill to the House.

Is the Bill opposed?

Question put and agreed to.

Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

Question put and agreed to.