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Ged Nash TD / ‘Paid sick leave bill would create a level playing field’

Ged Nash
Ged Nash TD, of The Labour Party. Photo Credit: Kathy Gilroy-Barry.

A new bill, proposed by the Labour party, would see parental leave provided for parents if their child’s school or childcare facility is suddenly forced to close due to a Covid-19 outbreak.

Labour TD for Louth Ged Nash, also the party’s spokesperson on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, says the bill will also ensure workers are provided with paid sick leave for up to six weeks, should they fall ill.

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The Sick Leave and Parental Leave (Covid-19) Bill 2020, first published on Tuesday (September 1) is a newly proposed law that if passed would ensure workers who fall sick continue to get paid for up to six weeks.
“There is no right to paid sick leave in Ireland and it is an enormous hole in the protections which workers need to prevent them from being forced to go to work while sick,” Deputy Nash said.
“Ireland is an outlier in Europe in not having paid sick leave, and it has been highlighted by NPHET and the acting Chief Medical Officer as a problem in controlling outbreaks. If an employer does not provide sick pay, then a worker will be liable to a serious drop in income.
“The Covid-19 enhanced illness payment is paid at roughly half the average weekly wage, while the regular illness benefit payment of €203 may be all that is available to a worker in other circumstances, if they qualify.”
During last week’s sitting of the Oireachtas Special Committee on Covid-19, the acting Chief Medical Officer Dr Ronan Glynn stated that economic restraints should not be a barrier to anyone who fears coming forward to take a Covid-19 test.

“We need to ensure that anyone who does test positive and has to isolate, or contacts who have to restrict their movements, that they don’t have any fear about their employment after the 14 days and indeed that they’ll be given adequate compensation for the 14 days that they are off work,” he said.

 

“Economic circumstances simply should not be a barrier to people coming forward and getting tested.”

 

The new Labour bill proposes that workers should have a right to paid sick leave of up to six weeks at the same rate as annual leave.

“The pandemic has exposed many injustices and inequalities across our society for everyone to see. The COVID outbreaks in meat processing plants has put a spotlight on the working conditions in many sectors especially among low paid and non-unionised workers.
“The current rules on sick pay and illness benefit act as a disincentive for workers to comply with public health guidelines as they may be left with reduced or no income. This Bill would create a level playing field,” Deputy Nash continued.

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“This is the recovery time for a moderate to severe case of COVID-19 according to the WHO. Six weeks is a fraction of the sick leave arrangements which trade unions have delivered for workers across the public sector.”

As part of the new bill, the Labour Party are also proposing a special COVID-19 parental leave for situations where a school or childcare provider is forced to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

“This Bill would introduce a temporary extension of so called ‘force majeure’ leave so that parents can take paid time off to look after their kids if they are sent home from creche or school because the need to isolate or because the setting has had to close. This is another crucial step in providing the clarity and stability to working parents and their families across the country,” he said.

“In such a case an employee who is the parent or adoptive parent of a child will be entitled to paid COVID-19 parental leave, at full pay so long as the child is unable to attend the school or pre-school, so long as the presence of the employee is required at their home in order to care for the child.”

“We need these measures brought into place as soon as possible, as they are vital in fighting the pandemic.”

On Tuesday, a primary school in Dublin sent home one of its senior classes after a student tested positive for Covid-19. In an email to parents, the school asked students in the class to remain home and restrict their movements for 14 days, as a precaution.

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