Health workers set to lose special leave for long COVID, says Naughten

In Health, News by Denis Naughten

Denis Naughten has urged the Government to reconsider its decision to terminate the special leave entitlement for frontline health workers who contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic and have since been unable to return to work due to long COVID symptoms. Deputy Naughten has received confirmation from the Health Minister that these workers will be required to return to work starting 1st April or to make use of the standard sick leave provisions.

“In November, the Department of Health and the HSE agreed to extend special leave for 143 staff members suffering from long COVID symptoms for the previous two years. However, it now appears these staff members will need to revert to the standard sick leave arrangements, despite having contracted the condition while serving on the frontline of our health service” said Denis Naughten.

“Indeed, the Department of Health had proposed extending this special leave for eight months, recognising that many of these workers contracted COVID-19 before a vaccine was available and in the face of insufficient PPE. Nevertheless, the Department of Public Expenditure has only permitted an extension until the end of March 2024”.

Denis Naughten pointed out that  “ frontline workers were publicly commended in Dáil Éireann during the pandemic for risking their lives, as well as their families’, to deliver essential services. They cannot now  be overlooked when they require our support”.

“I had proposed that long COVID be recognised as an occupational disease, but this was rejected by the Government. As a result, we now need the Government to implement a range of supports for all frontline staff incapacitated by these debilitating symptoms,” Denis Naughten concluded.




Editor’s Note:


For Written Answer on : 28/02/2024
Question Number(s): 185 Question Reference(s): 9644/24
Department: Health
Asked by: Denis Naughten T.D.


To ask the Minister for Health if he will outline his plans to extend the special scheme of paid leave for healthcare workers suffering from long Covid; if he intends to extend or replace this scheme before it is due to end in March 2024; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


In the public health sector, a temporary Special Scheme has been in place since July 2022 to provide special leave with pay for eligible staff in respect of Long Covid.  This Special Scheme has been extended a number of times, however it will conclude as planned on 31st March 2024 and no further extensions will be granted.  Employees impacted by the conclusion of the Special Scheme will receive an individual notification of this from their employer this week.

Any employee of the public health sector remaining unwell after that date, may utilise the full provisions of the Public Service Sick Leave Scheme which will provide further support.

The sick leave scheme provides full pay for three months, followed by half pay for three months, and after that, Temporary Rehabilitative Remuneration may be applied for, which, if granted, provides up to a further 547 days of paid leave.  The Critical Illness Protocol that forms part of the sick leave scheme may also provide additional supports if granted.