- There is a clause in the contract of employment that incorporates a sick pay scheme. Employees then have a right to same; or
- If there is no formal sick pay scheme in place, and it has become normal practice for the company to pay an employee when absent through illness, a right to such sick pay entitlements may be established through custom and practice; or
- If the company is covered by a registered agreement which provides for sick pay benefits this would then be legally binding; or
- If the industry was covered by a Joint Labour Committee, the company may be obliged to comply with this provision.
Points of Interest
Control Mechanisms should be put in place for sick leave schemes. These are quite simple and usually reflect the culture of the organisation. For instance some Organisations will have informal policies in place pertaining to sick leave and others will have formal. Regardless of the type of policies formal or informal these may include points such as:-
- The type of sick leave i.e. is it up to the discretion of the company? If it is up to the discretion of the company, this conveys a message that there is no absolute right to the employee for sick pay.
- Are only long service employees entitled to sick pay? If this is case, what is the length of time i.e. 6 months/1year, etc?
- When the employee is ill, whom should they notify in the company of their absence, and before what time?
- Are payments only made for certified illness? If so, when will the employee be required to submit medical certificates? The norm is usually that the certificate will be requested on the third day of the illness and then certificates should be furnished on a weekly basis thereafter. Additionally the company may request certificates for absences from work on Friday and the following Monday. Payments would not normally be paid for the first thee days of any illness.
- What will be required on the certificates? Certificates should include the date of commencement of sick leave; nature of the illness (which is at the discretion of the doctor), the probable date of resumption of duty, the name, address and stamp of the doctor;
- Casual sick leave (which is uncertified sick leave) - will payments be made for this leave? If so will employees need to state an explanation, verbal or written, stating the nature of the illness and to whom? Some Organisations curb the amount of casual sick days by stating the amount allowed in a year. A year can be based on a calendar year or on a 12 month rolling basis within a 3-year period. This practice would not be recommended.
- What is the length of time that sick payments will be made? Some companies will only pay sick leave for a short number of weeks. An example would be that employees may receive full or basic pay for 4 weeks (less Social Welfare), then half pay for an additional 4 weeks pay from the Company and then sick pay will cease. (time-frames are only an example). From this point on employees will only receive payments from the Department of Social and Family Affairs. This can be based on a yearly period or on any rolling year in a three-year period, etc. This fixes the number of days that payment will be made to employees.
- What happens with the event of an accident at work? Conditions for payment should be established in the event of this occurring. e. (a) the accident should be reported immediately, (b) medical treatment should be sought straight away, (c) sick leave policies should state that payments by the employer are not obligatory and without prejudice, (d) payments made are not an admission of liability or negligence on the part of the company/employer.
- The company may request an employee to be referred to a company doctor. If the company wishes to avail of this they should state this in the sick leave policy. g. In all cases of sick absences the company reserves the right to refer the case to a Doctor nominated by the Company. This may involve a medical examination of the employee.
In the case of employees returning to work after a long period of absences the company may wish the employee to attend for examination by the company doctor. E.g. Before returning to work after serious or prolonged sickness, the company may refer the employee for examination to a company doctor.
When will payments not be made?
- Failure to furnish certificates.
- Illness caused by substance abuse.
- Illness/injury caused by dangerous sports (i.e. martial arts, mountaineering, skiing, parachuting, flying as a hobby, hang gliding, etc)
- Illness/Injury arising from failure to abide by company health and safety rules.
- Failures to comply with regulations of sick leave policy i.e. reporting absence, attending company doctor etc.
- Illness/Injury caused whilst working for another employer.
- Illness during strike period in which the employee is participating in.
- What is the measures put in place for employees abusing the sick pay scheme? Normally this will result in the cessation of sick leave payments, followed with a disciplinary hearing. In severe cases this may also result in the employee being suspended from the sick pay scheme for a period of time, and or certificates being requested on each absence. This should be built into the company policy for sick leave.
- Can annual leave be used in place of sick leave?
This normally occurs when there is no payment for sick leave or where the employee has used up all their entitlements. However, this is not allowed under Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997. If employees are ill on holidays and have supplied a medical certificate stating that the employee will then retain their annual leave entitlements to be taken at a later stage. When they have already received holiday pay they will not be entitled to holiday pay again. Also, if the company allow an employee to take a day's leave when they do not want to come to work because they are feeling unwell this will undermine the requirement for the employee to have to give advance notice for holidays.
- Is it important to monitor and record absenteeism?
Without a doubt, yes. Ensuring the absenteeism is recorded and monitored will show patterns, trends and levels of employee(s) absenteeism which, will need to be addressed. Absenteeism may also show up areas of difficulties within your work force. For instance if individuals are out sick on a constant basis this may well be valid, however it may show that individuals are preferring not to come into work during a specific period each time. This can either be abuse of the sick leave or a cause such as the employee avoiding work due to harassment/bullying taking place. High levels of long-term or casual absenteeism will require an investigation to be put into place.
- Return to work interviews
This is a good practice as it allows the company to talk to someone each time they are absent to ascertain why they are out from work. It also means the employee cannot simply stroll back into work after being sick and no comment being passed.
View the full document here including a sample Sick Leave Record Form. You can also download the document below: