Finance minister sees no funds to make temporary sick pay scheme permanent

Minister of Finance Annely Akkermann.
Minister of Finance Annely Akkermann. Source: Government Office

At a press conference on Thursday, newly appointed Minister of Finance Annely Akkermann (Reform), was unable to offer much hope that money could be found in the Health Insurance Fund to support Minister of Health and Labor Peep Peterson's (SDE) proposal to make the temporary sick pay scheme become permanent. Under the temporary, scheme, which was introduced at the height of the Covid pandemic, sickness is compensated from the second day of absence from work in order, where previously this happened only from day four.

"I see very little chance that money could be found from there," Akkermann said.

On Thursday, Peterson wrote on social media, that he had presented a plan to the government four weeks ago, which would cost €30 million, to make the temporary sick pay scheme introduced during the pandemic, permanent.

"During the pandemic, when healthy people who had been exposed to the virus were forced to stay at home, sick pay was made more favorable for individuals," said Peterson. "Whereas previously, sick leave was paid from the fourth day of absence, for a temporary period, employees only went uncompensated for day one," said Peterson.

Peterson said that as of January 1, 2023, this temporary arrangement will come to an end. "However, the coronavirus, is not yet gone," he said. "People who go to work when sick are carriers of the virus, both at work and in public spaces, such as on public transport. I deplore the current situation, where taking sick leave threatens to cost people more because politicians can't reach an agreement," Peterson said.

Minister of Social Protection Signe Riisalo (Reform) said that, as far as she was aware, the issue had not been discussed in the cabinet nor in the Coalition Council.

"The normal working process in the government involves making decisions and choices by consensus," said Riisalo. "So long as the cabinet has not discussed it, we will not have any clear answers. To my knowledge, this has not been discussed in the Coalition Council. When we think about the way the government works in general, in the short time that this government has been given, we are primarily concerned with delivering on the agreements and promises that are in the coalition agreement," Riisalo said. The minister pointed out, that the measure proposed by Peterson is neither in the coalition agreement, nor featured in the state budget negotiations.

"I know that Peep Peterson has found the resources for this measure, at least that's what he has told me, and I hope that the government or the Coalition Council will be able to discuss it," she added.

However, Minister of Culture Piret Hartman (SDE), said, in response to Riisalo, that while it was not possible to include all the important issues into the coalition agreement, the Social Democrats would not leave these things unresolved.

"Now, all members of the government have access to these materials and what the Social Democrats want to do. Peep Peterson has also proposed where to take these resources from. I hope that there will soon be a debate about this in the government," Hartman said.

Isamaa deputy chair and Minister of Foreign Affairs Urmas Reinsalu said, "Isamaa can engage in dialogue regarding all proposals."


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Editor: Michael Cole

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