A 'Death Wish' for Small Businesses; Burton Wants Employers to Pick Up Tab for Sick Pay

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Byline: Niamh Lyons Political Correspondent

FORCING employers to pay their workers' sick leave is a death wish for small companies, business leaders warned yesterday.

Under a plan proposed at Cabinet by Joan Burton, bosses would have to pay the first four weeks of their staff's sick pay.

The plan would save the Exchequer [euro]150million in 2013, a significant clawback in terms of the Social Protection Minister's bid to reduce her yearly spending by [euro]700million.

However, representatives of small businesses claimed they would fight it 'tooth and nail'.

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association said the scheme would cause untold damage to businesses already struggling.

ISME chief executive Mark Fielding said: 'It's a kick in the teeth for small business at a time when we are trying to get them to take on new employees. To come out with this daft, sick plan when we're already suffering is beyond comprehension.

'We think it is almost a Government death wish on small business. It will stop people from taking anyone on and to force this plan could put people under the water, and as a result put people out of jobs.

'To even suggest that businesses pick up the tab for employee absenteeism in the current environment clearly shows that the minister is living in 'cloud cuckoo land'."

RGDATA, the representative association for 4,000 family-owned shops, convenience stores and supermarkets also urged the minister not to proceed with the proposals.

Director general Tara Buckley said the move would close down businesses and put thousands of employees out of work.

She said: 'Furious shopkeepers struggling to keep their business afloat cannot believe this proposal. …