The Riigikogu has passed a bill which will extend the current sick pay regime into the new year, making the benefit due from day two of a period of illness. This change will not be permanent, however, and is set to run to the summer, as things stand.
The bill passed with 54 votes in favor, at the 101-seat chamber, and no abstentions (the remaining MPs likely did not take part in the vote, rather than voting against the bill).
Sick pay from day two has been in place since the Covid pandemic and was originally made in order to discourage those who were potentially carrying the virus from attending work, rather than losing their regular pay.
The bill's initiators, the Center Party, justify it on the same ground, albeit referring to infectious and viral diseases more broadly.
The current scheme been due to expire at the end of this year, and the Riigikogu had to convene on an extraordinary basis today, Wednesday, to process the legislation, since the chamber is on its Christmas and New Year break, until January 9.
The policy will cost the Health Insurance Fund (Haigekassa) €16 million.
The sick pay regime will remain in place for half a year, from January 1.
The bill amended two acts, the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the Health Insurance Act, and retains the principle whereby the employer pays sick pay from days two to five of a period of illness, while the state, via the Health Insurance Fund, takes over from day six.
The previous system saw sick pay take effect from day four, while employers had to pay five days' sick pay and not four as now, before the state took over.
Day one of a period of illness remains unpaid, in order to head off the risk of abuse of the system in "chucking a sickie" for one day, in the aftermath of an overindulgent night out etc.
While the bill was intended to put the system in place permanently, an amendment made ahead of the second reading (of three – the second and third were both held on Wednesday – ed.) struck this off.
The current system will thus remain in place to the end of June 2023.
Winter is also traditionally the time when far more people get sick, than they do in summer.
Center had ostensibly sounded out the other political parties on holding Wednesday's off-schedule Riigikogu sitting to process the sick pay bill, but the opportunity was also taken to address a bill rejected by President Alar Karis, concerning family benefit payments, while parliament had convened.
Both the end of the year and the looming Riigikogu elections on March 5 have concentrated minds on getting all legislation passed as is reasonable, within the next few weeks.
Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mari Peegel