Analysis: How students can use the Statutory Sick Pay scheme

Although different to full-time workers, students who work part-time can use the Statutory Sick Pay scheme.

On 1 January, a statutory sick pay scheme came into effect. Workers in Ireland now also have a statutory right to 3 days of employer-paid sick leave in a year, capped at €110 per day.

Studies from both the Irish League of Credit Unions and Technological University Dublin show that roughly two-thirds of third-level students work part-time while studying. Part-time work means work hours vary from week to week, unlike a fixed contract and decided hours in full-time work. Students also often begin work on probation, as an intern, or through an apprenticeship, and different kinds of work mean different sick leave entitlements. Here’s what student workers need to know about the new employment legislation.

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Simon Coveney TD described this new statutory sick pay as “the latest in a series of improvements to rights and social protections for workers and the self-employed in recent years”. Both the new sick leave scheme and increased minimum wages are the beginning of rollouts to provide more benefits to workers and bring Ireland in line with other European countries in the next few years. What remains unexplored, however, is how working students will benefit from current and future changes to workers’ entitlements.

The Sick Leave Act 2022, which came into effect on 1 January, grants workers the statutory right to 3 days paid sick leave in addition to any sick leave granted by employers. According to the government, workers are entitled to receive “70% of gross salary up to a cap of €110 per day” for sick days.

According to the new act, part-time workers, interns and apprentices are entitled to statutory sick pay, which should operate along with the existing illness benefit system offered by an employer.

Like full-time workers, student workers must be an employee who worked for at least 13 consecutive weeks before they are sick and must have a doctor’s note  (GP) to be entitled to sick leave. Students who do not already have easy access to a GP, such as international students, can contact the GP Clinic through the College Health Service, open from 9am to 5pm.

Where wages change from week to week, an employee’s statutory sick pay (SSP) is the average pay over the 13 weeks before sick leave, capped at €110. If a worker does not receive their sick pay or is penalised for it, they can make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

If a worker is still sick after 3 days and your employer will not grant you extra sick leave, they can apply for Illness Benefits. To be eligible, a worker must have made 104 weeks of paid Pay Related Social Insurance (PRSI) contributions since they began working, meaning they have worked every week for just under two years and have contributed to PRSI. They must also have made enough contributions in the “relevant tax year” i.e. two years before they are making the claim for Illness benefit. This means if you are applying for Illness Benefits in 2023, your relevant tax year is 2021.

If a part-time worker who has not contributed enough PRSI payments, they can apply to Community Welfare Services to have their case considered. They will require a PPS number, proof of address and residency in Ireland and proof of income. The part-time worker will be reviewed, and they will be informed whether they are entitled to Illness Benefits.

If you are sick during a public holiday you are entitled to time off work if you worked at least 40 hours in total during the 5 weeks ending on the day before the public holiday. Your employer can treat you as not being on sick leave on the public holiday and pay you as normal for that day, so you can cash your sick day in later. You are not entitled to pay or time off for the public holiday if you are on sick leave immediately before the public holiday.

The entitlement to paid sick leave is being phased in over 4 years. In 2024, workers will be entitled to 5 days paid sick leave, while they will be entitled to 7 days sick leave in 2025 and 10 days sick leave in 2026.

Ellen Kenny

Ellen Kenny is the current Deputy Editor of Trinity News and a Senior Sophister student of Politics and Sociology. She previously served as Assistant Editor and Features Editor