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Changes to Long-Term Sick Leave Legislation

annual leave

In most workplaces employers ask of their workers to take their annual leave within the calendar year. In 2009 the European Courts of Justice ruled that workers on long-term sick leave, does not lose their annual leave even if they were not working during that year; they were entitled to accumulate their annual leave for that particular year and also receive payment. This was not the case for workers in the private sector who were not entitled to accrue their annual leave when on sick leave.

The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 stated that employees are rewarded annual leave based on the amount of hours they have worked during the year and before the new changes to the legislation an employee who worked in the private sector would not have been allowed to accumulate their annual leave while on sick leave.

New legislation to amend the Organisation of working Time Act was put in place on Saturday, 1st August, that will allow workers who have been off sick to carryover their annual leave for a period of 15 months after a leave year. Business and Employment Minister Ged Nash said: “We are striking the right balance between protecting the rights of vulnerable workers who are ill and trying to minimise the cost to business and the Exchequer, as well as implementing the requirements of the EU Directive on Working Time.”

“I believe that the changes are fair and supportive to workers while also giving clarity to employers about their obligations to their employees.”

The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on accumulating annual leave and would be the reason for the new legislation and entitlements for those on sick leave. The Organisation of Working Time Act’s amended legislation now entitles an employee who has been on long-term sick leave:

• Statutory annual leave entitlements that builds up during a period of certified sick leave;
• An annual carryover period of 15 months after a leave year that will apply to those employees who could not, due to illness, take annual leave during the relevant leave year or during the normal carryover period of 6 months;
• On termination of employment, payment in lieu of untaken accrued annual leave to be applied to leave which was untaken as a result of illness in circumstances where the employee left the employment within a period of 15 months, following the end of the leave year during which the statutory leave entitlement accrued.

A spokesperson Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Esther Lynch said in an interview to RTE: “This legislation brings in an important change for those workers that have been out sick for a long period of time. It gives workers in Ireland the same rights as everybody all over Europe. What the change will mean is that you have your holidays as if you were working for the period where you were our sick.”

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