Sick pay and sickness benefit schemes in the European Union
Background report for the Social Protection Committee's : in-depth review on sickness benefits, Brussels, 17 October 2016 - Study
This Social Protection Committee (SPC) background report on sick leave and sick pay/sickness benefit schemes in the European Union sheds light on the huge variations in the way Member States address absence from work in case of temporary professional incapacity due to sickness. It is important to clearly define and distinguish three key notions. Sick leave concerns the right to be absent from work during sickness and return to one's job when recovered. Sick pay is the continued, time limited, payment of (part of) the worker’s salary by the employer during a period of sickness. A sickness... benefit is provided by the social protection system and is paid as a fixed rate of previous earnings, or a flat-rate amount. All European Union (EU) Member States provide sick leave and sickness benefits. In most of them, salaried and waged employees may also — by law, collective agreement or at the discretion of the employer — be entitled to sick pay, either for an initial shorter period of absence or for the entire duration of sick leave. Sick pay and benefits schemes vary widely regarding their eligibility conditions, duration and replacement rates. Eligibility may indeed depend on whether people are dependently employed, self-employed or unemployed. They also often vary according to people’s employment status (e.g. civil servants, white collar employees or blue collar workers). In some countries, civil servants and white collar employees may be entitled to longer periods of sick pay than blue collar workers and often to full pay during sick leave. By contrast, blue collar workers typically have to rely on less favourable sick pay conditions. Replacement rates of compulsory sick pay vary from 25% (SK) to 100% (e.g. BE, FI). The sickness benefit replacement rates range between 50% and 100% of the gross (or in some cases the net) salary. In the case of some flat-rate sickness benefits the replacement level of an average wage can be estimated at around 20% (MT, UK).