Fine Gael Wicklow TD, Simon Harris, has today (Thursday) welcomed the recommended reforms for public sector sick pay which have been made by the Labour Court, saying they will help to address the huge difference in practice between the public and private sectors.
“I have been making the case that the Government needs to get its house in order when it comes to sick pay, which currently costs over €500 million per year. The rate of sick leave in the public sector has doubled in recent decades, and the current costs are completely unsustainable. A recent series of Parliamentary Questions which I submitted on the issue showed that, on average, people working in government departments are out sick nearly twice as often as those working in the private sector.
“The reforms outlined today will lead to a completely overhauled Sick Leave Scheme for the public service. This will help to increase productivity, reduce absenteeism and cut costs. This comes as a very welcome development at a time when we are facing more difficult decisions in relation to cutbacks and efficiencies within the wider public service.
“To me, this has always been an issue about management. Public service managers need to ensure their workers are only out sick when they need to be; just like people running small and medium businesses have to do every day of the week. These new arrangements, which will effectively see the number of paid sick days halved, will ensure this sort of prudent management is the norm.
“It is essential that we provide for people who are genuinely ill. If you are too sick to work, you absolutely shouldn’t be there. For that reason, a critical illness provision is to be introduced under the new arrangements.
“The challenge now is to make these reforms a reality. The Croke Park Agreement commits to reducing sick leave by 10%. So far, this target has not been realised. I hope now that senior managers within the public service can take up this challenge and greatly reduce the cost and instance of sick leave, which is currently such a burden on the public purse.”