Managing sick pay and sick leave

The winter chill creates its fair share of coughs and colds. With sickness levels on the rise, your business needs to be ready for illness-related absences.

Many employers don’t know their obligations when it comes to sick leave and sick pay. Spare yourself a holiday headache by learning how to manage employee illness and absence.

Are my employees entitled to sick pay?

There’s no law in Ireland stating that employees must be paid while they’re out on sick leave. Instead, it’s up to the employer to decide whether or not to provide sick pay.

It’s best to decide and outline your approach from the outset. To do this, create a written policy. Once complete, communicate it to your employees.

You also have a legal obligation under the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994 to provide certain terms of employment in writing. This must be done within an employee’s first two months of employment.

This statement should include ‘any terms or conditions relating to incapacity for work due to sickness or injury and paid sick leave.’

How should I manage sick pay?

With a written policy.

The policy should clarify if employees will receive sick pay while on sick leave. If you decide to offer discretionary sick pay to employees during illness-related absences, you will need to set out the rules that apply.

First, confirm the procedures around reporting illness and absence. Identify who employees should contact, how to make contact and when. Also, ask employees to provide an estimate of how long they will be absent for.

Discretionary sick pay policies often require employees to provide a medical certificate. Your policy should clarify when this is required. For instance, some employers look for a medical certificate after three consecutive days of absence. The cert should also state the expected duration of the absence.

Record absences

Recording employee absences and the nature of any illnesses is an important measure. If sick days become persistent, you’ll be able to identify absence patterns and take necessary action.

Recording the reasons for absences can also help improve your workplace health & safety. When it comes to workplace illness, prevention is the best cure. If colds and flu are causing absences for example, provide hand sanitiser to prevent the spread of these viruses.

What should I do when they return to work?

When an employee returns to work, conduct a back to work interview. This will help you get to the root of the employee’s absence. It will also discourage employees from taking advantage of your sick leave policy.

Overall, back to work interviews are highly beneficial. They assist you in finding ways to prevent further absences and making broader improvements to the working environment.

Need our help?

If you would like further complimentary advice on sick pay from an expert, our advisors are ready to take your call. Call us on 01 886 0350 or request a callback here.

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Nora Cashe


Nóra studied Law in Griffith College Dublin and qualified as a Barrister in 2008, practising in the area of Criminal law. She is also member of the Irish Employment Law Association.

Nora has extensive experience representing clients at Employment Tribunal hearings, Conciliation / Mediation meetings before both the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court. 

Nóra is a member of the Irish Employment Law Association and engages with the WRC Adjudication Service as part of their stakeholder engagement forum.

Deiric McCann

Genos International Europe

Deiric McCann leads Genos International Europe – The EU division of a world-leading provider of emotional intelligence solutions. 

With over two decades experience at the highest levels of management, Deiric supports clients to develop the resilience, emotional intelligence, psychological safety and engagements of their employees.

Rhiannon Coyne

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With a number of recent updates to employment laws, Rhiannon will take a closer look at employment equality and how it is interlinked to Health & Safety and what employers can learn from recent case laws.

David Begg

Workplace Relations Commission

David Begg was appointed Chairperson of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in January 2021.

David is also a professor at Maynooth University Institute of Social Sciences. Mr Begg’s extensive history in the trade union movement included leading the ESB Officers Association and Irish Congress of Trade Unions, stepping away from the latter in 2001 to chair international aid agency Concern.

David Begg was also previously a director of the Central Bank of Ireland between 1995 and 2010.