Bill passed to reduce sick pay cost on employer

Ljubljana – The National Assembly has passed a bill that will reduce the cost of sick pay on the employer at the expense of the public healthcare fund, with a majority of the opposition opposing the bill due to this expected consequence. On the other hand, the MPs defeated another opposition-sponsored bill proposing energy vouchers.

Tabled by a group of MPs headed by Marko Bandelli of the opposition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), amendments to the employment relationships act and health care and insurance act reduce the period of sick leave when compensation is covered by the employer or sole trader from 30 to 20 work days and the total within each calendar year from 120 to up to 80 days.

The cost of sickness benefits beyond those periods would have to be covered by the Health Insurance Institute (ZZZS), the public health fund to which both employers and employees make mandatory health insurance contributions.

Bandelli noted that employers, self-employed entrepreneurs, farmers and freelances in culture had been calling for the change for years, arguing the new solution would reduce the scope of precarious work, improve the status of the self-employed, alleviate the financial burden on businesses and help boost their competitiveness.

He said many self-employed had failed to report being in contact with persons infected with coronavirus because they could not afford the loss of income.

The MP conceded that the proposal will increase the ZZZS’s expenditure for sick leave compensation, but said in the long run the cost on the public fund would in fact be reduced through improved health of the self-employed.

Cveto Uršič, a state secretary at the Labour Ministry, said it was hard to oppose the proposal from an expert’s point of view. “It doesn’t bring any major change from the employee’s point of view,” he noted as the sick pay would remain unchanged.

The SAB-sponsored bill was backed by the coalition parties, and the unaffiliated MPs, who noted the benefits for employers, sole traders, self-employed and farmers, coupled with little impact on employees.

“The proposed amendments tackle the cause of many difficulties for Slovenian craftsmen and entrepreneurs, while they will also better motivate employers to conclude regular employment contracts,” said Jožef Lenart of the ruling Democrats (SDS).

New Slovenia (NSi) MP Tadeja Šuštar Zalar said the bill will help craftspersons, sole proprietors and farmers “put their health
first” and enable them to recover during the paid sick leave, and now only work around the clock to pay pay contributions.

The opposition National Party (SNS) abstained, while the centre-left opposition parties of SAB and the Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS) voted against the changes, pointing to the EUR 94 million more in expenditure that the ZZZS estimates it will sustain.

“We would have backed the proposal had extra funding been earmarked for the one who will get the bigger burden for it,” commented Jani Möderndorfer of the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), asserting that the solution would ruin the health purse and rights of insured persons.

The bill, which is also opposed by trade unions, will be applicable as of 1 March.

The National Assembly meanwhile voted down a bill on temporary measures to prevent energy poverty, submitted jointly by the LMŠ, Social Democrats (SD), Left and SAB.

The parties proposed a EUR 150 energy voucher for 75,000 vulnerable people and EUR 40 for 200,000 child benefit recipients in the six lowest income tax brackets.

This is as the government is working on its own proposal to deal with the energy crisis, which will reportedly include a proposal to distribute EUR 140 energy vouchers to around 150,000 vulnerable individuals.