Court rules unpaid sick leave unconstitutional
It was a moment of satisfaction for the opposition on Wednesday when the Constitutional Court overturned a crucial part of the government’s healthcare reform package under which employees receive no sick pay in the first three days of illness. The court argued that the changed legislation, designed to prevent employees from abusing sick-leave benefits, was unconstitutional because it failed to guarantee an employee’s right to security in times of illness.
According to the recently introduced healthcare reforms, employees, who previously received 40% of their salary during the first three days of illness, receive absolutely nothing. The change was designed as a motivating measure to reduce the relatively high levels of sick leave in this country. Statistics suggest that Czechs spend on average twice as much time off work ill than other EU citizens.
In its ruling, the Constitutional Court argued that the unpaid sick-leave in the first three days of illness was a convenient but ineffective solution on the part of the state to limit the abuse of sickness benefits. The court declared that the law must be reversed by June 30. But Labour and Social Affairs Minister Petr Nečas argues that the number of short-term illnesses that usually occur at the end or at the beginning of a working week has considerably dropped since the introduction of the reform. He expects public spending to increase by 3-4 billion crowns as a result of the ruling.
The ruling came as part of a wider lawsuit, in which the Social Democrats have challenged the constitutional legality of many reforms undertaken by the government. The Constitutional Court has been dealing with three parts of the reforms separately. Boosted by their recent success, the Social Democrats and the Communists are now awaiting a ruling on health-care fees, which they strongly oppose.