As you are aware, sick leave arrangements for public servants have been changed by the government. This change came about following the publication in November 2011 of the government’s Public Service Reform Plan.
The plan included the provision to review central sick leave policy in the public service. Meetings took place between public service management and the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU). The trade unions raised objections to the proposals, the matter was referred to the Labour Relations Commission and ultimately a full Labour Court hearing was held on the issue. The Labour Court, having heard submissions from all parties, issued its recommendations in July 2012.
The Labour Court recommended that “subject to the necessary legislation being enacted, the proposal on certified sick leave and the other matters covered by this recommendation should take effect from January 1, 2014”. This means that the government must now introduce legislation in order to change the current entitlements for certified sick leave.
Self certified leave
The self-certified sick leave arrangements are already in place and provide for seven days paid sick leave over a rolling two-year period. The next impending change relates to certified sick leave.
Certified sick leave
For most public servants, the current entitlement to paid certified sick leave calculates an employee’s entitlement over a rolling four-year period. Currently, under Circular 10/71 the employer provides, in any four-year period, six months certified sick leave at full pay and six months certified sick leave at half pay.
This entitlement is calculated retrospectively ; therefore, when a nurse/midwife avails of certified sick leave, the employer reviews the preceding four years to evaluate entitlement to paid sick leave.
|Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Labour Court submission on changes to certified sick leave arrangements|
The guiding principle for the new scheme in relation to access to paid certified sick leave is that the new scheme will apply from the date of commencement of proposed legislation except where an individual is absent already on sick leave on the date of the commencement of the new sick leave scheme.
Therefore, where an employee is already absent on long term sick leave, at the time of the commencement of the new sick leave scheme, on a continuous basis, that employee will continue to have access to full pay until a six-month period has elapsed. They will then have access to three months on half pay and rehabilitation pay for a period of 15 months thereafter, ie. the individual will automatically be treated in accordance with the critical illness provisions until such time as they return to work.
Where an employee is absent on short-term sick leave (ie, under four weeks) at the time of introduction of the new sick leave scheme and the period of short-term sick leave will bring them over three months in a rolling four-year period and thus would mean moving onto half pay under the new scheme, that employee will continue to have access to full pay for the period in question, provided it does not extend past the current six-month on full pay limit. Any further periods of paid sick leave arising after the employee returns to work will be calculated in accordance with the new scheme.
Where an employee goes on sick leave from or after the date of the commencement of the new sick leave scheme and already has a sick leave record where they have already had access to more than three months in a rolling four-year period, sick pay may be granted at half rate for a further period of up to three months (unless the critical illness provision applies). Thereafter the new scheme will apply.
Where an employee goes on sick leave from or after the date of the commencement of the new scheme and already has a sick leave record where they have had access to less than three months paid sick leave on a rolling four-year period, they may be paid at full pay, for as long as they remain within the three month limit.
After that they may be granted half pay for a further period of up to three months (unless the critical illness provision applies). Thereafter the new scheme will apply.
* This is an extract from the submission made by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, acting on behalf of the Public Service employers, to the Labour Court hearing, Tuesday, July 10, 2012
The new certified sick leave arrangements reduce the time period during which a nurse/ midwife will be entitled to full pay to a period of three months, and to half pay, again, to a period of three months, over a four-year retrospective period.
An important aspect for all public servants, including nurses and midwives, is the Labour Court’s recommendation that, “The other aspects of the management proposal on transitional arrangements should be accepted”.
This means that the date of the introduction of the new legislation, whether that is the January 1, 2014 or thereafter, shall be the date from which entitlement to certified sick leave and related pay shall be calculated.
The full text of the public service management’s submission to the Labour Court is copied for your attention and details the new arrangements recommended by the Labour Court that will apply on January 1, 2014, or later, if legislation is not in place.
Public servants, including our members who are employed in the public service, should be aware that following the introduction of this legislation, if an employee has accessed their entitlement to certified sick leave for a period exceeding three months on full pay over the previous four years, they may only be entitled to sick leave on half pay.
If all entitlement to paid sick leave (at full or half pay) has been exhausted in the four preceding years, the payment will not be sanctioned again until the period previously paid is excluded from the retrospective period that is being examined at the time of application for paid sick leave.
The method used to calculate an individual’s entitlement to certified sick leave will not change under the new rules, but the time for which sick leave can be paid will be halved (ie. six months to three months).
Critical illness cover
The exception to these rules will be critical illness cover. The Labour Court has recommended that critical illness cover should be provided for six months at full pay and six months at half pay.
The parties now need to agree a definition of ‘critical illness’ and management are due to submit their proposals to the Public Services Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in early September. If the parties cannot reach agreement on the matter, the matter can be referred back to the Labour Court for a definitive recommendation.
The INMO has already made a submission to the Public Services Committee regarding our concerns around the definitions of critical illness, particularly in relation to the occupations of nursing and midwifery.
Schemes previously negotiated in respect of assault at work for nurses and midwives and special provisions for occupationally acquired illnesses, such as MRSA, TB and blood-borne diseases, will not be affected by changes to public service sick leave entitlements.
Regular updates will be provided to INMO members following meetings in early September with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
Phil Ní Sheaghdha,
INMO Director of Industrial Relations