Sick leave and sick pay
In general, you have no legal right to be paid while you are on sick leave from work, but this is due to change from 2022 – see ‘Upcoming changes’ below. Until then, employers can decide their own policy on sick leave and may decide to pay you while you are off sick. Your employer must give you written information about their sick leave policy.
If you cannot work because you are sick or injured, and you have enough PRSI contributions, you can apply to the Department of Social Protection (DSP) for a payment called Illness Benefit.
If you do not have enough PRSI contributions, you should contact the DSP’s representative (who used to be called the community welfare officer) at your local health centre. They will assess your situation.
The Government has announced a new Statutory Sick Pay Scheme. The draft scheme will introduce:
- Paid sick leave for up to 3 sick days in 2022. This is planned to increase to 5 days in 2023, 7 days in 2024 and 10 days in 2025.
- A rate of payment for statutory sick leave of 70% of normal wages to be paid by employers (up to a maximum €110 per day).
- A right for workers to take a complaint to the WRC where they are not provided with a company sick pay scheme.
To be entitled to paid sick leave under the new scheme, you must be working for your employer for at least 6 months. You will also need to be certified by a GP as unfit to work.
Legislation to bring the changes into effect is expected in early 2022.
COVID-19 sick pay and sick leave
If you are sick or if you have been asked to self-isolate due to COVID-19 find out more about your Employment rights during the COVID-19 restrictions. The Government has also stated that self-employed people will be able to get either Illness Benefit or Supplementary Welfare Allowance.
If your employer has had to reduce your hours or close the business and you have been temporarily laid off, you can get information in our document on lay-off and short-time working.
Rules about sick leave and sick pay
Can I get Illness Benefit and sick pay at the same time?
You can apply for Illness Benefit while you are also getting sick pay. But if your employer already provides sick pay, they will probably ask you to sign over any Illness Benefit payment to them for as long as the sick pay continues.
Will my employer provide sick pay?
If you are not sure whether you can get sick pay, you should ask your employer or look at your contract of employment.
Your contract of employment should clearly state the rules on sick leave. It may:
- Limit the length of time you can get sick pay (for example, one month’s sick pay in any 12-month period)
- State that if you are sick and unavailable for work, you must contact a specified person by a certain time
If you do not get sick pay although it is in your contract or terms of employment, you can complain under the Payment of Wages Act. Use the online complaint form on workplacerelations.ie.
When do I need a medical certificate?
Your employer may ask you for a medical certificate from your GP when you are on sick leave. For example, you may have to provide a medical certificate if you are off sick for more than 2 days in a row. The medical certificate should state the date you are likely to return to work. If you are likely to be off sick for a long time, your employer may need weekly medical certificates.
What can I do if I lose my job?
If you are often off sick or if your illness means you can no longer do your work, you may lose your job. In some cases, the law can protect you from unfair dismissal.
What help can I get after an accident or injury at work?
If you have an accident at work and you do not get sick pay, you can apply for Injury Benefit. This is a weekly payment from the DSP, which you can get if you are unfit for work due to an accident at work or an occupational disease, and you have enough PRSI contributions.
Under the Medical Care Scheme, you can claim certain medical costs that are not paid by the HSE or covered by a Treatment Benefit Scheme. You can find out more about these payments in our document on the Occupational Injuries Benefit Scheme.
If your employer provides sick pay, they will probably ask you to sign over to them any Injury Benefit payment from the DSP for as long as the sick pay continues.
If you suffer an injury at work, you can seek compensation from your employer by making a personal injury claim through the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB).
You can read more about this in our document on health and safety in the workplace.
What happens if I am off sick during public holidays?
If you work full time and you are on sick leave during a public holiday, you can get sick pay or Illness Benefit for the public holiday you miss. Alternatively, your employer may treat you as not being on sick leave on the public holiday and pay you as normal for that day. In this case, they will not count the public holiday as a sick leave day.
If you work part-time and you are on sick leave during a public holiday, you are entitled to time off work for the public holiday provided you worked for your employer at least 40 hours in total over the previous 5-week period.
However, you are not entitled to pay or time off for the public holiday if you are on sick leave immediately before the public holiday, and either of the following apply:
- You have been off work for more than 26 weeks due to an ordinary illness or an accident
- You have been off work for more than 52 weeks due to an occupational accident
What happens to my annual leave when I am off sick?
If you become ill during your annual leave and get a medical certificate for the days you are ill, these sick days will not be counted as annual leave days. Instead, you can use the same number of days as annual leave at a later date. An employer cannot insist that you take annual leave on days you are off sick, if you have a medical certificate for those days.
You can build up your annual leave entitlement while you are off sick, as long as you have a medical certificate. If you are on long-term sick leave and cannot take your annual leave due to illness, you can carry it over for up to 15 months after the end of the year it was earned. If you leave your job within these 15 months, you should get payment instead of the leave you did not take due to illness.