Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

General Scheme of the Sick Leave Bill 2021: Discussion (Resumed)

Ms Maeve McElwee:

We had expected that we would see something different and more than just regulations. On the other hand, it is reasonable that there is flexibility to adjust the days without having to fully amend the legislation on every occasion. I mean that the regulations give a little bit more flexibility rather than primary legislation.

I wish to take up a couple of points. Dr. Bambrick mentioned that we are saying keep wages low and do not bring in sick pay now. I wish to correct the record and I acknowledge that it might just have been the way I heard Dr. Bambrick. We are not saying not to bring in sick pay. We are saying that there are some really challenging issues and very significant costs for lots of employers at this particular time. Certainly, we are not talking about keeping wages low.

When we come to that issue of writing the days into the legislation, I think what we would all recognise is that once those days are in the legislation and are operated by contract with the employee they rarely, if ever, move back. It is not IBEC's normal operation to see those days move back on an across the board basis. For example, at the time of the national minimum wage changes many years ago, in response to the financial crisis, IBEC did not support that move at all. We do not expect to see that type of change would come about. We do recognise that it is important. It is covered in the Bill as it is currently stands. There are exemptions and exceptions albeit that they tend not to be particularly useful to employers individually but they are at least there for individual different circumstances. I am not sure that having it as a regulation or definitively in the primary legislation might necessarily be any different. We would not expect to see that being clawed back but it would be normal that regulations could amend legislation. Also, any increases could be looked at and maybe amended or introduced more slowly in the event of a negative economic situation at any particular point in time.


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