KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: Support when you can’t work because of illness or disability

October 1st, 2022 8:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

If you have a short-term illness eg a broken bone, and you do not qualify for Illness Benefit, your only option would be to apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance. (Photo: Shutterstock)

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WHAT social welfare supports are there for people who have to take time off work due to illness?

There are a number of illness related SW payments. If you are working as an employee and have enough PRSI paid, you will generally go on to Illness Benefit first. This payment is not available to self-employed people. It is paid for a maximum of two years. Illness Benefit is not linked to your employer’s policy on pay for sick leave. Whether your employer pays you or not while you are out sick from work, you should apply for Illness Benefit from the first day of your illness

Are there specific supports for people who are injured or incapacitated due to a work related incident?

The Occupational Injuries Scheme provides benefits for people injured or incapacitated by an accident at work or while travelling directly to or from work. The scheme also covers people who have contracted a disease as a result of the type of work they do. There are a number of benefits available and there are different conditions attached to each benefit. You should contact Citizens Information for more details

Does an employer have to pay sick pay if an employee is out sick?

In the past, you had no legal right to be paid while you are on sick leave from work, but this changed in 2022. On 20 July last, the Sick Leave Act 2022 became law. Employees Sick Pay entitlement will start once the law is commenced. This requires a Ministerial Order and is expected shortly.

What happens if someone is still unable to go back to work after two years or has a long-term illness?

Invalidity Pension is a weekly payment to people who cannot work because of a long-term illness or disability and are covered by social insurance (PRSI). At 66, you transfer automatically to the State Pension (Contributory) at the full rate. Invalidity Pension is taxable. You are entitled to a Free Travel Pass. You may also get extra social welfare benefits, for example, the Household Benefits Package.

What happens if you do not have enough PRSI contributions for Illness Benefit or Invalidity Pension?

In this situation, if you have a long-term illness or disability that has continued for at least one year or is expected to continue for at least one year and as a result you are substantially restricted from taking up suitable employment you may apply for Disability Allowance. This is a means tested payment.

If you have a short-term illness eg broke a bone and you do not qualify for Illness Benefit, your only option would be to apply for Supplementary Welfare Allowance which is a short-term emergency payment. This is also means tested.

What happens to my annual leave when I am off sick?

If you become ill during your annual leave and get a medical certificate for the days you are ill, these sick days will not be counted as annual leave days. Instead, you can use the same number of days as annual leave at a later date. An employer cannot insist that you take annual leave on days you are off sick, if you have a medical certificate for those days.

You can build up your annual leave entitlement while you are off sick, as long as you have a medical certificate. If you are on long-term sick leave and cannot take your annual leave due to illness, you can carry it over for up to 15 months after the end of the year it was earned. If you leave your job within these 15 months, you should get payment instead of the leave you did not take due to illness.

If a situation arises where somebody has been off work and on an illness related social welfare payment but feels that they would like to go back to work but are unable to do so on a full-time basis due to their health issue, have they any options?

You have some options and these depend on which social welfare payment you are receiving.

If you have been getting Illness Benefit (for a minimum of six months) or Invalidity Pension and wish to return to work, you may qualify for Partial Capacity Benefit if your capacity for work is reduced by your medical condition. You should complete the application from for Partial Capacity Benefit & return it to the Department of Social Protection. You may not work until you have received written approval to do so from them. There is no restriction on earnings or number of hours you can work.

Is it different if you are getting disability allowance?

If you are receiving the means tested Disability Allowance and you start work, you need to notify the Department of Social Protection and provide proof of your earnings. A wage slip, your contract of employment or a letter from your employer can be used.

You can work and earn up to €140 a week (after paying PRSI, pension contributions and union dues) without your DA payment being affected. Amounts over this will impact on your social welfare payment. If you contact Citizens Information, we will go through the means test in detail with you and show how much you could expect to receive.

For further information call a member of the local Citizens Information Service in West Cork on 0818 07 8390. They will be happy to assist you and if necessary arrange an appointment for you. The offices are staffed from 10am-5pm from Monday to Thursday and on Friday from 10am-4pm.

Alternatively you can email [email protected] or log on to

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