Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Questions (227)

Seán Ó Fearghaíl


231 Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on correspondence (details supplied) regarding sick pay; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35263/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

I am aware of the concerns raised in the correspondence to the Deputy that transferring responsibility for the payment of employees' sick pay to employers will add to the cost of doing business. I have received similar views from a number of Chambers of Commerce and individual business people on the matter.

The Government is concerned about the extent of dependence on State-funded sickness benefit schemes and we need to examine ways in which to reduce this. The Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Joan Burton, who has policy responsibility for the sick pay scheme, held a consultative meeting earlier this year to discuss potential changes to the scheme in Ireland. However, no decision has yet been taken on the matter.

Proposals for a statutory sick pay scheme would impact on competitiveness and employment. The evidence of this impact will need to be weighed against the potential for savings in terms of reduced absence due to sickness. I will therefore carefully scrutinise any proposals which develop from this consultation phase and their impact on jobs and competitiveness, and I will contribute fully to the Budgetary process within Government.

In the meantime, I am actively addressing a number of the specific cost issues outlined in the correspondence to the Deputy. For example, the system of Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreements — including the removal of the Sunday premia payments from the scope of EROs — is being reformed through the Industrial Relations (Amendment) (No. 3) Bill which is being progressed through the Oireachtas. Upon enactment, the Bill will radically overhaul the system to make it fairer and more responsive to changing economic circumstances and labour market conditions.

Costs of professional services are being addressed through the Legal Services Bill and through actions to encourage professionals to supply price quotations to businesses in advance of providing services. I have also been examining the potential for Government Departments and agencies to reduce or freeze their charges to business. A number of Departments and agencies have agreed to reduce or freeze a range of charges arising from this exercise. A range of additional measures are being taken across Government through the Action Plan for Jobs to improve the operating environment for business.