Coronavirus: Decision due today on sickness benefits for workers 

Coronavirus: Decision due today on sickness benefits for workers 
Signs at the entrance to Cork University Hospital re: the Covid-19 outbreakPic Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

A Cabinet sub-committee is to decide on whether workers will be immediately entitled to sickness benefit due to coronavirus.

Those who are forced to self-isolate due to the virus could immediately receive the benefit if the measures are implemented, rather than have the current waiting period of six days.

The move is under consideration after calls from a number of political parties and trade unions to financially support those affected by illness who cannot afford to miss work, health sector workers and the self-employed, such as taxi drivers.

A number of recommendations are on the table to be decided on the effect of the outbreak on social welfare and business, as well as mass-gatherings and travel guidance, with any additional resources that are required being dedicated by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.

Martin Heydon, the chairman of the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party, said if the Dáil needs to be resumed to pass emergency legislation, which would be required if the recommendation is implemented, it will be, in agreement with the other parties.

“The Cabinet sub-committee on Covid-19 will address all the issues, I would expect a decision would be made on that (sick pay) tomorrow morning,” he said yesterday.

“I have no doubt the full resources of the State will be put into this issue, but it”s important we get the balance right because Covid-19 is here for a while.

“The real problem for us is people in lower-paid jobs, from a public health perspective, they’re the people who are most likely to keep working if they feel unwell.

“They work in cafes and bars and they’re the people we don’t want out if they’re sick.

“The proposal is there would be no gap and you would be paid sick pay as an emergency measure, it will need emergency legislation but I can’t see that being a problem.”

The Government has to make political decisions in the best interest of the country and that is what we will do, he said.

The meeting, scheduled for today, will be the first held by the sub-committee.

It will be chaired by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who announced the group would be set up last week, after rejecting calls for an all-party group to deal with the coronavirus.

:: This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner. 

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