A new survey suggests that over half of the country's preschools and crèches may have to close if they are required to pay the first month's sick pay for absent staff.

Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has considered making  employers pay up to the first four weeks of sick pay benefit which is currently paid by the State.

The survey was published by Early Childhood Ireland, the representative group for preschools, daycare and afterschool services.

The group says Ms Burton's sick pay proposal would be disastrous for the early childhood care and education sector where preschools and daycare centres operate under strict ratios of adults to children.

It said that when someone calls in sick to a preschool, unlike an office setting, the service to young children cannot continue under a skeleton staff.

The survey was completed by 400 members of Early Childhood Ireland.