Information notice 2
As per our previous notice and as you are aware, new sick leave arrangements for all employees of the Public Service are due to come into force from 1 January 2014. In particular, from that date paid sick leave will in non-critical illness circumstances, be reduced from 6 months full pay followed by 6 months half-pay in a 4- year (retrospective) period to 3 months’ full pay and 3 months’ half-pay in a 4-year period (retrospective). Critical illness will continue to be paid for 6 months full pay and 6 months half pay.
The staff panel of public service unions and the Government side participated in a conciliation conference on the 28.10.13, the negotiations included negotiations on the definition of critical illness and what will and will not be included in same.
There is some measure of agreement on the criteria to be applied to establish if an absence can be held to be due to a ‘critical illness’ this will not involve a list of such illnesses but, rather, there will be a list of requirements, such as being under medical care, furnishing required evidence, being medically unfit to return to work and to have at least one of the following:
The unions are endeavouring to have some elaboration of these listed criteria to take account of the particular circumstances of mental health, disability and pregnancy related illness.
It is set out that, the decision to award the extended paid sick leave is a management decision and not just a medical decision. This will allow managers to make a decision to award, in exceptional circumstances, even in cases where the medical criteria are not met. In doing so, managers will have to show why they are making this award, having considered the individual’s sick leave record and the potential impact on the workplace of an early return to work. It will be possible to appeal decisions, either on medical grounds, if a refusal is based on medical grounds or an appeal of a management decision, if a manager declines to use their discretion to award.
It is perhaps worth recalling that the start date of 1 January 2014 was a compromise finding at the first Labour Court hearing relating to the overall issue as management had, in 2012, sought immediate implementation of the new arrangements, which could have taken account of sick leave back to 2008, (because sick leave works on the basis of a 4 year “rolling” look back) while unions in opposing any change had sought that if there was to be a change it should not take place until 2016 so that sick leave from 2012 only would be taken into account. However, while the new arrangements will take account of sick leave since 2010, the existing arrangements also provide for a second ‘look –back’, in which sick leave in a previous 12-months’ period from the date of illness is taken into account in a manner that is advantageous to the staff member. This will be retained.
The way that this will be worked is as follows:
There will be a maximum of 183 days paid sick leave at either full or half pay in 4 years.
However, in a case where an officer has had less than 183 days’ sick leave in that period, a second ‘look-back’ over the previous 12 months from the date of illness is undertaken to determine at what rate the officer should be paid. For example, an officer who had, say, 123 days’ sick leave prior to 2013 but had no sick leave in 2013 will, if they take sick leave in 2014, be entitled to sick leave at full pay in 2014 of up to a further 60 days . This is because the overall limit of 183 days in 4 years is qualified to provide for up to 92 days at full pay in a 12-month period looking back from the date of illness.
Following the exhaustion of paid sick leave of the maximum of 183 days in 4 years, an officer is eligible to be paid at the rate of pension to which they are entitled at that point. Traditionally, this has been called simply ‘Pension Rate’. However, because of confusion between ‘Pension Rate’ and situations where people are retired due to ill health, this will, henceforth, be known as ‘Temporary Rehabilitation Pay, (TRP). Normally, this will only be payable for 18 months, within which time a decision is to be made about whether or not the officer concerned can return to work. A concern among pre-1995 employees was addressed in the unions’ submission to the Labour Court and the Court has ruled that TRP should not, in any case, be less than the illness benefit paid by the Department of Social Protection to Class A insured persons, (including Public Servants recruited since 1995).
The government negotiators have confirmed that schemes already negotiated and in place for Nurses/ midwives, which provide separate and enhanced leave with pay will remain in place as they currently are and will not be affected by the changes being introduced in January 2014. (These schemes are for Nurses/Midwives who have contracted MRSA, TB, a blood borne disease or have been the victim of an assault at work, or an injury at work).
Some issues are outstanding and were not agreed at the LRC, and as agreement has not been reached on these matters, they will now be referred to the Labour Court. The Government negotiators have been advised of this referral. A date for the Labour Court hearing has not been confirmed at the time of going to press. The Public Services Committee have been advised, that legislation is being introduced to accommodate the alterations to the sick pay scheme and that this legislation will be in place by 1st January 2014.
In addition to these negotiations, the HSE have issued a Circular setting out their understanding of the changes that will occur.
The INMO and other Unions representing workers in the health service have requested that this Circular be withdrawn as it is inaccurate and does not reflect the on-going negotiations or matters that have already been agreed between the parties.
This INMO information notice cannot be definitive as matters have not as yet reached a conclusion. When the process concludes the unions and management will issue circulars that reflect the final document setting out the revised sick pay scheme for the Public service. In the meantime members should not agree or implement any changes as the process has not concluded and the issued HSE circular is not based on the final text, therefore not accurate and it is not agreed with the trade unions.
As agreed at the INMO Conference last May, regional workshops will be held when these matters have concluded and INMO members will be fully briefed on all of the changes that apply in respect of the Sick Pay Scheme.
Thank you for your attention to this lengthy notice.
Phil Ni Sheaghdha,
Director of Industrial Relations