Supports for people unable to work
Q. What social welfare supports are there for people who have to take time off work due to illness?
There are a number of illness related social welfare (SW) payments. If you have an accident at work or an accident while travelling directly to or from work (on an unbroken journey) you would be eligible to apply for Injury Benefit if you are off for at least six days (not including Sundays or public holidays).
If you are working as an employee and have enough PRSI paid, you will generally go on to Illness Benefit first. This payment is not available to self-employed people. It is paid for a maximum of two years. Illness Benefit is not linked to your employer's policy on pay for sick leave. 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.
Q. Does an employer have to pay sick pay if an employee is out sick?
In general, you have no legal right to be paid while you are on sick leave from work. Currently it is at the discretion of the employer whether or not sick pay is paid. Employees should check what it says in their contract of employment. This is due to change in 2022 and legislation will have to be enacted to bring in a legal entitlement to some paid sick leave.
Q. What changes are proposed in 2022?
Firstly, it is important to state that this is a draft scheme. Changes may take place before it is enacted. At present it is planned that the draft scheme will introduce:● Paid sick leave for up to three sick days in 2022. This is planned to increase to five days in 2023, seven days in 2024 and 10 days in 2025.
● A rate of payment for statutory sick leave of 70 per cent of normal wages to be paid by employers (up to a maximum €110 per day).
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.
Q. Can you 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.
Q. What happens if someone is still unable to go back to work after two years or has a long term illness?
Invalidity Pension is a weekly payment to people who cannot work because of a long-term illness or disability and are covered by social insurance (PRSI). At 66, you transfer automatically to the State Pension (Contributory) at the full rate. Invalidity Pension is taxable. You are entitled to a Free Travel Pass. You may also get extra social welfare benefits, for example, the Household Benefits Package.
Invalidity Pension is also available to the self-employed who meet the PRSI requirements, which is a very positive development since 2017.
Q. What happens if you do not have enough PRSI contributions for Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension?
In this situation, if you have a long-term illness or disability that has continued for at least one year or is expected to continue for at least one year and as a result you are substantially restricted from taking up suitable employment you would be applying for Disability Allowance. This is a means tested payment.
If you have a short-term illness like a broke a bone and you do not qualify for Illness Benefit, you only option would be to apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance which is a short-term emergency payment. This is also means tested.
Q. Is it different if somebody has to take sick leave due to Covid-19?
If a worker is told to self-isolate, restrict their movements or diagnosed with Covid-19, they can apply for a Covid-19 enhanced Illness Benefit payment of €350 per week. Both employees and self-employed people can qualify for the COVID-19 enhanced Illness Benefit. This payment remains in place until 8 February 2022.
Q. 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.
For anyone needing information, advice or who have an advocacy issue, they can call a member of the local Citizens Information team in Cork city at 0761-076950 (City Centre) or 0761-076850 (City North), they will be happy to assist and make an appointment if necessary. Lines are open Monday to Friday from 10am-4.30pm. Alternatively, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or log on to citizensinformation.ie for further information.