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Employees enter work with symptoms of COVID-19; SIPTU calls for compulsory sick pay scheme

Ireland’s largest trade union SIPTU stressed the need for compulsory sick pay policies in all job sectors.

Several health officials had expressed concern over reports that people are entering work with symptoms of COVID-19. SIPTU says the solution to this is a compulsory sick pay provision.

Deputy CMO, Dr. Ronan Glynn, said there are a lot of reports that employees call their GP from their workplace saying they have symptoms of the virus. He said the department of health had made a request to employers several weeks ago to facilitate employees to work from home.

He added that both “employers and employees need to be aware of that it’s just simply not acceptable this winter to be coming to work with cold and flu-like symptoms.”

Dr. Glynn reminded that when people take risks and enter work without considering their health, the repercussions are great for their colleagues too. People should ask themselves every morning before going to work if they are feeling well, he said. If you have a new cough, a fever or a loss of sense of taste or smell, do not go to work, he added.

Meanwhile, Siptu’s organiser for workers in manufacturing Greg Ennis said that, he had understood what Dr. Glynn was saying and shared his concerns. But Ennis added that the only solution to this is a mandatory sick pay provision.

“The dangers of people being forced to present for work due to a lack of sick pay provisions extends across lots of sectors and industries,” Ennis said.

Mr. Ennis said the sick pay provisions are very low or non-existent for workers in low paid sectors of the economy and in particular meat processing plants.

He said that SIPTU has consistently called for the enforcement of the Oireachtas Covid-19 committee’s recommendation to legislate on the statutory sick pay scheme for low-paid employees.

As part of the 2021 budget, the government had announced that from the end of February 2021 the number of days waiting for sickness benefits would be reduced from six to three. However, workers will not receive their first three days’ wages, so a reduction from six to three days would make no difference, he said.

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