The Work Place Relations Act 2015

Introduction of significant changes to the annual leave entitlements for sick employees on long term sick leave.

On the 20th May 2015 The Work Place Relations Act 2015 (the “Act”) was enacted. This Act sees the overhaul of the employment law adjudication process in this jurisdiction in addition to significant changes to employment rights for employees and employers.

One such change is the right to accrue annual leave for employees on long term sick leave. In practical sense, this means that employees who are on long term leave due to illness will now be entitled to accrue their annual leave entitlement. This will result in employers facing payment for not only public holidays but also annual leave entitlements despite the absence of the employee. The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 provides for a minimum of twenty days paid holidays per year for a full time employee. Prior to the Act, if an employee was out of work due to illness he or she would not be entitled to paid annual leave entitlements upon return to work or termination of their employment.

However, section 86 of the Act amends the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. Such an employee will be entitled to additional paid time off to account for their annual leave accrual or in the event of termination of employment, the employee would be entitled to payment in lieu of the accrued annual leave. The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 requires an employer to ensure that the employee takes their annual leave entitlement within the year which it relates to or with the consent of the employee this can be extended for a six month period after the end of that leave year.

While this provision remains it has been amended in the case of employees on sick leave. The Act allows for such employees who are unable to take all or any part of their annual leave during that leave year or for the subsequent six months, than the leave year may be extended for a period of 15 months after the end of that leave year. This is a significant extension of time. Employers are now advised to take the necessary steps to contact any employee who is on long term sick leave to establish their current state of health and the likelihood of their return to work. If necessary the employee should be reviewed by a company doctor. At each stage in the process the employee should be involved in the decision making process to ensure that a claim for unfair dismissal or equality does not arise. The Act is due to commence on the 1st July 2015.

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