The special leave with pay (SLWP) scheme is no longer available to healthcare wrokers with for Long Covid.

An 'injustice' for health workers

“It's a shocking way to treat people who were celebrated as heroes by our Government at the height of the pandemic.”

Those were the sentiments of Cork County Councillor Liam Quaide who has called on the Government to immediately restore the basic salary for healthcare workers with Long Covid.

On 31 March, the final extension of the special leave with pay (SLWP) scheme for Long Covid sufferers came to an end.

The conclusion of the scheme means that many affected healthcare workers unable to return to work must now avail of standard sick leave or Temporary Rehabilitation Remuneration (TRR), both of which have limited timeframes.

According to the HSE website, the maximum paid sick leave is 183 days in a rolling 4 year period. If a worker does not exceed the 183 day threshold, they are entitled to 92 days on full pay in a rolling 1 year period, and 91 days on half pay in a rolling 1 year period.

TRR is paid at 37.5% of a worker’s salary and may be paid for 547 days (18 months) in a rolling 4 year period.

Once these schemes have run their course, workers may then chose to retire on grounds of ill health.

Social Democrats Cllr Quaide said: “The injustice of the situation of these healthcare workers with severe, unremitting Long Covid will be greatly compounded if they remain on standard sick pay, which will essentially be a pathway to retirement on medical grounds for many. They should be provided with pay security by the state into the future to remove financial stress from the many other major challenges they face.

“The Government has shown an astonishing lack of empathy for healthcare workers with Long Covid in failing to provide them with financial security after they risked so much on all our behalf and paid such an enormous price with their health and quality-of-life,” he added.

Speaking on the 'Saturday with Colm Ó Mongáin' show on RTÉ Radio 1, Minister of State at the Department of Transport and at the Department of Environment, Climate and Communications, Jack Chambers TD, said: “I accept the difficulty of many people who are continuing to suffer with Long Covid, and I think there should be further engagement on it. But as of now the scheme is concluding and Minister Donnelly will continue to engage.”

Currently, Ireland is just one of two EU member states that does not recognise Covid 19 as an occupational hazard, meaning healthcare workers who contracted the virus are not able to claim occupational injury benefit for Long Covid.

Cllr Quaide continued: “The applause that healthcare workers received from Oireachtas members in March 2020 rings hollow for many now as they face ongoing physical distress or even disability and financial insecurity associated with their Long Covid.

“Ireland is an outlier in Europe, along with Greece, in failing to adopt an occupational injury scheme for frontline workers. Such a scheme has also been recommended by the EU Strategic Framework on Health and Safety at Work 2021-2027.”