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Ireland: Bill on paid sick leave and extended paid emergency leave

Total Rewards|Health and Benefits|Wellbeing
COVID 19 Coronavirus

By Michael Acton | December 11, 2020

Draft law would mandate employer-paid sick leave and temporarily extend paid emergency leave to assist working parents during the pandemic.

Employer Action Code: Monitor

A new bill is under discussion that would expand employer-paid leave entitlements in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. If approved, employees would be entitled to employer-paid sick leave for the first time, and paid force majeure (emergency) leave would be available to employees with children who are unable to attend school as a result of COVID-19-related government measures.

Key details

Sick Leave and Parental Leave (COVID-19) Bill 2020 provisions include the following:

  • A mandatory employer-paid sick leave would be established. Employees with at least four weeks of service would be entitled to up to six weeks of continuous leave or 30 days’ leave within a 12-month period, payable at 100% of base pay.
  • Employees would presumably be entitled to sick pay from the first day of illness or incapacity, as the draft bill makes no mention of a waiting period. Existing social security “illness benefits” provided for nonoccupational injuries or sickness (after a six-day waiting period) would be available after the end of employer-paid leave.
  • Eligibility for force majeure leave would be temporarily extended to employees with children who are unable to attend school as a result of COVID-19-related government measures (e.g., the school or preschool is closed, or the child is unable to attend). The existing right to three days of force majeure leave, provided by employers at full pay, would be extended for working parents for as long as they need to stay home to care for their affected children.

Relevant parties (such as employers and unions) are yet to be consulted on these proposals, in particular regarding the impacts and costs on small and midsize companies. The bill is expected to take several months before possibly coming into effect.

Note: In its 2021 budget, the government proposed extending paid parental leave (payable by social security) from two weeks to five weeks to recognize the challenges faced by new parents during the COVID-19 pandemic. The extension would apply for children born or adopted on or after November 1, 2019. Approval of the change is expected by the end of 2020.

Employer implications

In practice, it is fairly common for multinational employers to provide modest paid sick leave entitlements, covering in particular the six-day waiting period for social security sick leave benefits. Employers are encouraged to monitor the progress of the proposed amendments and review their existing leave policies to ensure that they comply, in the event the proposals become law.


Michael Acton
Head of Health & Benefits - Ireland

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