In The Contract of Employment, I proposed that more attention should be focused on the fact that the contract of employment is a two-way relationship and that the onus should be as much on the Employee as the Employer to make it work to the satisfaction of both parties. One of the key responsibilities of employees is to turn up for work on time and as scheduled in the contract and NOT to call in sick without very good reason.
Government are attempting to detach the department of Social Welfare from it’s obligation to pay sick pay to absent employees by extending the period of eligibility to four weeks out of work before SW payments apply. They are also attempting to put the onus on the Employer to pick up the tab for the first four weeks of the illness. This has caused much unnecessary angst among the various employer bodies.
Under current employment legislation in Ireland, there is no legal obligation on the employer to pay sick pay – it is adequately covered by the clause “Sick Pay is at the discretion of the Employer”. So why should any employer pay for days that staff do not attend work ? I think this is a great question that demands active consideration, particularly in our current financial circumstances.
Imagine a world where sick pay did not exist, where you only get paid for the hours that you work and where this rule applied to all employees. The immediate and lasting impact of this implementation would be greatly enhanced productivity and massive payroll savings. Positive action by the government would make a significant contribution towards the €2bn savings per annum so demanded by the troika.
This sick-pay free zone world already applies to thousands of self-employed entrepreneurs and hourly paid workers who out of necessity, work through all kinds of illnesses to keeps the breadcrumbs on the table. If nobody got paid for a “sickie”, you can bet your bottom dollar that the disgraceful practice of taking sickies out of a sense of entitlement to same would evaporate overnight.
The discretion of the Employer can of course always be exercised in genuine cases of extreme hardship or particular misfortune. Actively addressing the rampant abuse of sick pay entitlement currently in practice would save this county a small fortune and yes, it would significantly reduce the requirement for Agency Workers to step into the breach for colleagues absent, in many cases, just because they know they will get paid for it.