You may get Illness Benefit from the Department of Social Protection (DSP) if you cannot work because you are sick or ill. You must be aged under 66, covered by the appropriate class of social insurance (PRSI) and satisfy the PRSI conditions.
Illness Benefit is not linked to your employer's policy on pay for sick leave (your employer can decide their own policy on sick pay and sick leave). More information is available in our document about sick leave and employment.
Whether your employer pays you or not while you are out sick from work, you should claim Illness Benefit from the first day of your illness – see 'Rules' below. If you get sick pay from work, you should ask your employer what administrative arrangements are in place while you are claiming Illness Benefit.
If your income is too low to meet your needs while you are waiting for a decision on your claim for Illness Benefit, you may be entitled to basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance, which is a means-tested payment.
It was announced in Budget 2021 that the number of waiting days for Illness Benefit will be reduced from 6 days to 3 days on new claims (from the end of February 2021).
COVID-19 and enhanced Illness Benefit
COVID-19, also known as coronavirus, is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways.
When a worker is told to self-isolate by a doctor or has been diagnosed with COVID-19, they can apply for a COVID-19 enhanced Illness Benefit payment of €350 per week.
COVID-19 enhanced Illness Benefit has different 'Rules' than normal Illness Benefit. Find out more about getting COVID-19 enhanced Illness Benefit.
You must apply for Illness Benefit within 6 weeks of becoming ill. No payment is made for the first 6 days of illness, which are known as waiting days. (Note that Sunday is not counted as a waiting day.) The only time that the 6 waiting days are not applied is if you were getting certain other social welfare payments within 3 days of the start of your illness. Waiting days do not apply if you are diagnosed with COVID-19 or if you are medically required to self-isolate.
Whether you qualify for payment or not, you should always submit a claim for Illness Benefit when you are certified unfit for work. You may be entitled to PRSI credited contributions for each week you are ill, and these could help you qualify for future social welfare payments.
Social insurance (PRSI) contributions
To qualify for payment of Illness Benefit you must satisfy the following two conditions:
- You must have at least 104 weeks of PRSI contributions paid since you
first started work
- 39 weeks of PRSI contributions paid or credited in the relevant tax year,
of which 13 must be paid contributions.
If you do not have 13 paid contributions in the relevant tax year, then 13
paid contributions in one of the following tax years can be used
- Either of the two tax years before the relevant tax year
- The last complete tax year (before the year in which your claim for Illness Benefit begins)
- The current tax year
26 weeks of PRSI contributions paid in the relevant tax year, and 26 weeks of PRSI contributions paid in the tax year immediately before the relevant tax year.
The relevant tax year is the second-last complete tax year before the year in which your claim for Illness Benefit begins. For example:
|If your claim begins in:||The relevant tax year is:|
- Only PRSI contributions paid at class A, E, H and P count towards Illness Benefit.
- If you were getting long-term Jobseeker's Allowance, Pre-Retirement Allowance, Invalidity Pension, Carer's Allowance or Carer's Benefit immediately before applying for Illness Benefit, you do not need to have 13 paid contributions.
- If you were getting Occupational Injury Benefit (OIB) immediately before applying for Illness Benefit you may use the tax year that applied to your OIB claim or the tax year that applies to your Illness Benefit claim, whichever is more beneficial.
To help you qualify for Illness Benefit, you may combine your Irish PRSI contributions with social insurance contributions from a country covered by EU Regulations (and the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which are covered under a bilateral agreement).
How long is Illness Benefit paid?
Illness Benefit is paid for a maximum of:
- 2 years (624 payment days) if you have at least 260 weeks of social
insurance contributions paid since you first started work
- 1 year (312 payment days) if you have between 104 and 259 weeks of social insurance contributions paid since you first started work
Before your payment is due to stop, you will be contacted by the Department telling you when payment will stop and giving you further information on options available:
- If you are ill, likely to be permanently incapable of work and satisfy the PRSI conditions, you may qualify for Invalidity Pension
- If you do not qualify for Invalidity Pension and you have a disability that is expected to last for a year or more, you may qualify for a means-tested Disability Allowance
- If you do not qualify for any other payments and your income is too low to meet your needs, you may qualify for a basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance
- If your Illness Benefit is ending because you are turning 66, you may be eligible for a State Pension. You should apply 3 months before your 66th birthday.
If you return to work, you must have a minimum of 13 reckonable PRSI contributions paid before you may requalify for Illness Benefit. (All other qualifying conditions must also be satisfied.)
If you were on Illness Benefit for 1 year only, you may requalify with fewer than 13 contributions, if additional contributions bring your total PRSI contributions paid up to 260. (So, for example, if you had 250 contributions when your Illness Benefit expired, you could work and pay 10 contributions to requalify.)
Transfer from Carer's Benefit or Carer’s Allowance
If you transfer from Illness Benefit to Carer's Benefit or Carer's Allowance and then back to Illness Benefit, your Illness Benefit will not be paid at a lower rate than that you were paid previously.
Work and Illness Benefit
You cannot work while you are getting Illness Benefit (you can do voluntary work in some cases). If you have a current Illness Benefit claim and have been getting Illness Benefit for at least 6 months, you can apply for Partial Capacity Benefit (PCB). The PCB scheme allows you to return to work (if you have a reduced capacity to work) and continue to receive a social welfare payment. A Medical Assessor (who is a doctor employed by the Department) will assess the restriction on your capacity for work, and the personal rate of PCB paid is based on this assessment. You cannot take up work until you have written approval to do so from the Department.
You cannot undertake a training or educational course or do voluntary work without prior, written approval from the Department. You must apply to the Illness Benefit section for this approval. Participants on SOLAS training courses can retain Illness Benefit but they cannot get a training allowance or training bonus at the same time.
|Blind Pension||If you are getting Blind Pension, you may also get Illness Benefit if you are ill and unable to work and you satisfy the PRSI conditions.|
|Carer's Allowance||If you are getting Illness Benefit and you satisfy the conditions for
Carer's Allowance, you may get half the personal rate of Carer's
Allowance along with your Illness Benefit payment.
It may also be possible for you to get an Increase for a Qualified Adult for someone on your Illness Benefit claim while they get a half-rate Carer's Allowance for caring for you or someone else.
|Disablement Benefit||If you are getting Disablement Benefit, you may also get Illness Benefit if you are ill, unable to work and satisfy the PRSI conditions (provided that the Disablement Benefit payment does not include an increase for Incapacity Supplement).|
|Domiciliary Care Allowance/Carer's Support Grant||Illness Benefit is payable if you are getting Domiciliary Care Allowance and/or the Carer's Support Grant.|
|Working Family Payment (WFP) and Back to Work Family Dividend (BTWFD)||If you are receiving Working Family Payment (WFP) and become ill, payment of WFP may continue with Illness Benefit for up to 36 days (6 weeks). Similarly if you become ill while you are getting Back to Work Family Dividend, payment of BTWFD may continue with Illness Benefit for 36 days (6 weeks).|
|Widow’s, Widower’s or Surviving Civil Partner’s Pension (including occupational widow’s/widower’s pensions) and One-Parent Family Payment, Deserted Wife's Allowance/Benefit or Prisoner’s Wife's Allowance||If you are getting any of these payments at the full rate, you cannot get Illness Benefit at the same time. However, if you are getting a reduced rate of one of these payments and become ill, you may qualify for a reduced rate of Illness Benefit (so that the combined amount of both payments is not greater than the rate of Illness Benefit to which you are entitled).|
Payment of Illness Benefit abroad
You can continue to get Illness Benefit if you go to live in another country covered by EU Regulations. You must tell the Department in advance (otherwise you may lose your payment, or your payment may be delayed). You must continue to send medical certificates from your doctor abroad and you should also keep the Department informed of any change in your circumstances. You may be called for medical assessment while living abroad (this is arranged by the Department with the Social Security Office of the country you are in). You must attend for a medical assessment when asked, or your Illness Benefit will be suspended.
If you go to live in another country covered by EU Regulations and become ill, you may apply for Illness Benefit from Ireland if you paid your last insurance contribution in Ireland or if you were getting Jobseeker’s Benefit in Ireland before you went abroad.
Illness Benefit is not paid in countries not covered by EU Regulations. However, if you go to a country not covered by EU Regulations to get approved treatment, your payment may resume when you return.
Reviews of Illness Benefit
Your Illness Benefit claim will be reviewed from time to time and you may be asked to attend for a medical assessment. This assessment will be carried out by a Medical Assessor, who is a doctor employed by the Department of Social Protection. The Medical Assessor will give an opinion on whether or not you are fit for work. You must attend for a medical assessment when asked, or your benefit will be suspended.
If your Illness Benefit is stopped, you have a right to appeal the decision - see ‘Where to apply’ below. If you are receiving credited contributions only and these are stopped, you can seek a review of the decision but you do not have a right to appeal it.
Usually no payment is made for the first 6 days of illness and no payment is made for any Sunday during your illness.
Illness Benefit rates are graduated according to your average weekly earnings in the relevant tax year. Average weekly earnings are calculated by dividing the total reckonable gross earnings (without deductions) in the relevant tax year by the actual number of weeks worked in that year.
Weekly payment in 2020 for claims started in 2009 or after:
|Average weekly earnings||Personal rate||Increase for an adult dependant|
|€300 or more||€203||€134.70|
|€220 - €299.99||€159||€87.20|
|€150 - €219.99||€131||€87.20|
|less than €150||€91.10||€87.20|
Spouses, partners and children
Taxation of Illness Benefit
Illness Benefit, both the personal rate and Increase for a Qualified Adult (excluding increases for child dependants), is taxable.
Illness Benefit is paid directly to you without any deduction of income tax. It is taxed by reducing your tax credits and rate band. Whether you are employed or unemployed, Revenue will take account of the amount of Illness Benefit paid to you when they adjust your tax credits or review the tax affairs of your spouse or civil partner.
How to apply
You must get an Illness Benefit claim form (IB1) and a medical certificate called a ‘Certificate of incapacity for work’ from your family doctor (GP). You fill in the IB1 form and freepost it to the Department of Social Protection - see 'Freepost' address below.
If you have coronavirus symptoms or you have been medically required to self-isolate, you should not visit an Intreo Centre or local Social Welfare Branch Office. The DSP has provided information about how to apply for Illness Benefit if you are affected by COVID-19 or you can call 1890 800 024.
You can also view an infographic about applying for Illness Benefit if you are affected by COVID-19.
Your GP completes the medical certificate. If you have coronavirus symptoms or you have been medically required to self-isolate, you should phone your GP, don't go in person. Your GP can provide one medical certificate to cover the duration of your illness. Some GPs can complete the medical certificate online. If your GP cannot send it online, you will get a paper medical certificate which you must fill in with your personal details and freepost it with your IB1 form to the Department.
You do not need to pay for the ‘Certificate of incapacity for work’ as the Department pays the doctor an agreed fee. However, you may have to pay for the doctor to examine you.
You should apply for Illness Benefit within 6 weeks of becoming ill. If you don't apply within this time you may lose some of your payment. If there is a good reason for a delay in applying, your payment may be backdated. If you wish to make a backdated claim for Illness Benefit, you need to complete part 3 of the IB1 claim form.
Hospital certs: if you are or have been an in-patient in a hospital, you should ask a hospital doctor to give you a pro forma letter which you can bring to your GP who will issue the claim form (IB1) and medical certificate (Certificate of incapacity for work) to you with no charge. If you’re still in hospital, a family member can bring the pro forma letter to your GP on your behalf.
You can get more information about applying for Illness Benefit.
Completed claim forms (IB1) and medical certificates (Certificate of incapacity for work) should be sent by Freepost to: Social Welfare Services, P.O. Box 1650, Dublin 1.
If you think you have been wrongly refused Illness Benefit, you can appeal the decision to the Social Welfare Appeals Office. You should appeal within 21 days of getting the decision.
Where to apply