Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Questions (84)

Clare Daly

Question:

84. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will withdraw the provision which counts pregnancy related sick leave as sick leave in the public service, as this is a discriminatory measure against women workers. [23942/14]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Public)

The new Public Service Sick Leave Scheme came into effect from 31 March 2014 for the generality of the Public Service. The Scheme is set out in the Public Service Management (Sick Leave) Regulations S.I. 124 of 2014 and, generally, applies to all public servants. The new Sick Leave Scheme was introduced, following the enactment of the Public Service Management (Recruitment and Appointments)(Amendment) Act 2013 by the Oireachtas, to reduce the very high and unsustainable cost of sick leave in the public service.  The new provisions allow staff access to the following paid sick leave:

- maximum of 92 days on full pay in a rolling one year period;

- followed by a maximum of 91 days on half pay in a rolling one year period;

- subject to a maximum of 183 days paid sick leave in a rolling four year period.

Temporary Rehabilitation Remuneration (TRR - previously Pension Rate of Pay) can be granted where an individual has exhausted the limits for sick pay provided there is  a realistic prospect of that person returning to work. The maximum period for which TRR can be paid is 547 days under ordinary sick leave arrangements. In addition, in order to provide support for public service employees the new Critical Illness Protocol (CIP) was put in place as part the scheme. This allows an employee, who suffers a critical illness or serious physical injury, access to 12 months of paid sick leave on the same basis as the previous sick leave scheme (i.e. 183 days on full pay in a rolling one year period, followed by 182 days on half pay subject to a maximum of 365 days in a rolling four year period).  In such cases TRR is for also available for 12 months with a further possibility of 2 years depending on the severity of the illness.

The need to protect women during pregnancy and ensure that they are not discriminated against was reflected in the design of the new sick leave scheme.  In that context, the public service continues to operate its provisions for pregnancy-related illness in accordance with a European Court of Justice ruling (ref: McKenna case C-191/03) in relation to the application of sick leave provisions to staff who are absent on pregnancy-related sick leave. This means that a female employee will not be taken off pay while on pregnancy related sick leave. In addition, the CIP provides specifically for pregnancy-related illness. Where a pregnancy related illness is serious it will also be covered by the CIP.  One of the criteria for awarding of CIP more generally is 2 consecutive weeks of hospitalisation, however, this requirement is reduced to two days for pregnancy related illness in accordance with Labour Court recommendation (ref: LCR 20667). Moreover, the provision, which allows management discretion to award CIP, can be used where a woman is very unwell requiring extended sick leave in excess of that available under standard sick leave arrangements due to pregnancy-related illness. The inclusion of this provision enables management within organisations, on the basis of medical evidence, to provide the additional support available under the CIP where an employee may require access to extended sick leave over and above the normal arrangements on account of pregnancy-related illness. Pregnancy related illnesses are also discounted for consideration of promotion and higher duty allowances.