From today people claiming standard 'non Covid-19' Illness Benefit will only have to wait three days to be eligible, rather than six as at present, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys has confirmed.
The move is expected to increase the cost of standard Illness Benefit by €32.6m a year (excluding additional ICT and staffing costs) due to what the Department has described as an "immediate and significant impact" in terms of the number of claims, as more people will be eligible.
"For example, last year the Department of Social Protection received some 200,000 applications for Illness Benefit and each of those employees would have had to forego six waiting days," the Department said.
Until January 2014, applicants only had to wait for three days to claim Illness Benefit.
However, in that year the Fine Gael-Labour Government increased the waiting days to six, leaving claimants who did not have any occupational sick pay scheme with no income until day seven of their illness.
Announcing the move, Ms Humphreys noted that the plan to revert to the pre-2014 regime of three waiting days had been included in Budget 2021, adding that it would help to reduce the financial burden for employees who become ill.
She pointed out that the majority of people who become ill are only sick for a short period of time - but many continued to go to work, to avoid loss of income.
"Restoring the number of 'waiting days' for Illness Benefit back to the original three days, will help reduce the financial burden for employees who become ill and allow them time off work without the level of income loss that they might have experienced up to now," she said.
The reduction in waiting days announced today only applies to Illness Benefit for non-coronavirus-related illness.
The Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit introduced when the pandemic struck already pays out at a rate €350 per week from day one for people medically certified as having the virus or being a close contact.
It was designed to ensure that people would have a floor of financial support and discourage them from going to work and spreading the virus.
Illness Benefit is a short-term payment available to employees insured under PRSI at Classes A, E and H.