Offaly Fianna Fáil TD Barry Cowen has called on the Government to end the uncertainty over damaging proposals on employers’ liability for staff sick pay.
Deputy Cowen said the threat alone of having to bear the cost of employee sick pay is already affecting employment across Co Offaly, with many businesses holding off on recruitment until they know whether the Government will press ahead with plans to force the cost of staff sick pay onto employers.
Last week in the Dáil, Fine Gael and Labour voted down a Fianna Fáil motion calling on the Government to scrap foolish plans on statutory sick pay.
Deputy Cowen said, “The biggest issue facing business at the moment is the complete lack of certainty in the economy. When a Government decides to play poker with SMEs, as Fine Gael and Labour are currently doing, it just adds to this uncertainty and hinders businesses.
“A statutory sick pay scheme can only lead to higher employment costs for the 200,000 small businesses in this country that employ more than 655,000 people. To impose higher costs on SMEs at a time of an escalating credit crisis in the sector can only mean one thing: job losses,” the Offaly TD said.
A survey published last week by ISME showed that 96% of SMEs anticipate job losses if Minister Burton proceeds with her mandatory sick pay scheme. A Chambers Ireland survey this week echoed these fears, with nearly 90% of employers saying an increase in employers’ share of PRSI would have a negative impact on their business.
Deputy Cowen continued, “Viable small businesses in Offaly and across the Midlands are already being strangled by a deepening credit crisis in the sector. They simply do not have the flexibility to absorb the kind of changes that Minister Joan Burton wants to impose. It became clear during the debate on this issue in the Dáil that there is considerable unease, particularly within Fine Gael, about Minister Burton’s proposal. The Finance Minister Michael Noonan himself admitted that Minister Burton is fully aware of employers’ concerns about her proposal, of cost to SMEs and the impact on employment levels.
“The bottom line is that the SME sector, which is the backbone of the Irish economy, remains in crisis. If Minister Burton gets away with putting an additional EUR89 million burden on business, she will destroy the growth potential of small businesses here in Offaly and across the country. And there is no doubt that jobs in this region will be lost.
“We heard some reasonable comments on the issue from Minister Noonan this week and I hope he will go back to Cabinet and put an end to this madness. This is not the time to leave small businesses in a perpetual state of uncertainty; the Government must stand up for SMEs and put this matter to bed once and for all,” said Deputy Cowen.