Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Questions (541)

Danny Healy-Rae


541. Deputy Danny Healy-Rae asked the Minister for Social Protection if Covid-19 illness payments affect entitlements to full sick leave; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [37856/20]

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Written answers (Question to Social)

In March of this year, under the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Act 2020 (No. 1) and subsequent regulations, the Government, provided for entitlement to illness benefit for persons who have been diagnosed with Covid-19 or are a probable source of infection with Covid-19.

The rate of payment of the enhanced Illness Benefit payment in respect of Covid-19 is higher than the normal maximum personal rate for a limited period. The measures were designed to ensure that where a registered medical practitioner or a HSE medical officer diagnoses a person with Covid-19 or identifies him or her as a probable source of infection of Covid-19, the person can comply with medical advice to isolate, while having their income protected. This is essential to limit and slow down the spread of the virus, to keep the number of people affected to a minimum, and to reduce a peak of cases which would cause extreme pressure on the health system.

The enhanced rate of Illness Benefit was brought in as a short-term public health measure and is not a long-term income support payment. It is payable for 2 weeks where a person is isolating as a probable source of infection of Covid-19 and up to 10 weeks where a person has been diagnosed with Covid-19. The purpose of the enhanced Illness Benefit payment in respect of Covid-19 is to encourage people to not go to work due to financial constraint when they should be in isolation.

In a case where a person continues to be ill beyond 10 weeks, standard Illness Benefit may be paid for an extended period, based on the person’s continued eligibility. Illness Benefit is the primary income support payment for people who are unable to attend work due to illness of any type. Additional payments may also be made in respect of a qualified adult and qualifying children.

There is currently no entitlement to statutory sick leave in Ireland. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment is currently engaged in a public consultation process on the introduction of statutory sick pay. Any entitlement to sick leave and payment for that sick leave is a matter between an individual employer and their employees and should be set out in the contract of employment. Many employees agree to mandate Illness Benefit payments to their employer where they receive full or partial pay when unable to attend work due to illness – this is a matter between the employer and the employer.

I trust that this clarifies the matter.