Public will get Illness Benefit from the Department of Social Protection (DSP) if you cannot work because you are sick or ill. You must be aged under 66, covered by the appropriate class of Social Insurance (PRSI) and satisfy the PRSI conditions. You must apply for Illness Benefit within 6 weeks of becoming ill. From 1 March 2021, the number of waiting days has been reduced from 6 days to 3 days. This means that no payment is made for the first 3 days of illness, which are known as waiting days. (Note that Sunday is not counted as a waiting day.) The only time that the 3 waiting days are not applied is if you were getting certain other social welfare payments within 3 days of the start of your illness. Waiting days do not apply if you are diagnosed with COVID-19 or if you are medically required to self-isolate.
The change does not relate to the short-term enhanced Covid-19 payment which came in last year for those who contracted the virus or were self-isolating because of close contact. There are no waiting days for this short-term illness payment, which is paid from day one of a person being diagnosed with the virus or required to self-isolate.
Illness Benefit is not linked to your employer’s policy on pay for sick leave (your employer can decide their own policy on sick pay and sick leave).
Whether your employer pays you or not while you are out sick from work, you should claim Illness Benefit from the first day of your illness. If you get sick pay from work, you should ask your employer what administrative arrangements are in place while you are claiming Illness Benefit.
If your income is too low to meet your needs while you are waiting for a decision on your claim for Illness Benefit, you may be entitled to basic Supplementary Welfare Allowance, which is a means-tested payment.
Whether you qualify for payment or not, you should always submit a claim for Illness Benefit when you are certified unfit for work. You may be entitled to PRSI credited contributions for each week you are ill, and these could help you qualify for future social welfare payments.
The Covid-19 enhanced Illness Benefit, which was introduced shortly after the pandemic hit Ireland last year, has different rules to the normal illness benefit. Where a worker is told to self-isolate, the individual can apply for an enhanced illness benefit payment, which amounts to €350 per week. This also applies to self-employed people. The person must ask their GP to submit a medical certificate on their behalf to avail of this.
The payment aims to encourage people not to go to work due to financial constraint when they should be in isolation and is payable for two weeks where a person is a probable source of the virus and for up to 10 weeks where the person is diagnosed with the disease.
How long is Illness Benefit paid?
Illness Benefit is paid for a maximum of:
- 2 years (624 payment days) if you have at least 260 weeks of social insurance contributions paid since you first started work
- 1 year (312 payment days) if you have between 104 and 259 weeks of social insurance contributions paid since you first started work
Work and Illness Benefit
You cannot work while you are getting Illness Benefit (you can do voluntary work in some cases). If you have a current Illness Benefit claim and have been getting Illness Benefit for at least 6 months, you can apply for Partial Capacity Benefit (PCB). The PCB scheme allows you to return to work (if you have a reduced capacity to work) and continue to receive a social welfare payment. A Medical Assessor (who is a doctor employed by the Department) will assess the restriction on your capacity for work, and the personal rate of PCB paid is based on this assessment. You cannot take up work until you have written approval to do so from the Department.
Payment of Illness Benefit abroad
You can continue to get Illness Benefit if you go to live in another country covered by EU Regulations. You must tell the Department in advance (otherwise you may lose your payment, or your payment may be delayed). You must continue to send medical certificates from your doctor abroad and you should also keep the Department informed of any change in your circumstances. You may be called for medical assessment while living abroad (this is arranged by the Department with the Social Security Office of the country you are in). You must attend for a medical assessment when asked, or your Illness Benefit will be suspended.
Reviews of Illness Benefit
Your Illness Benefit claim will be reviewed from time to time and you may be asked to attend for a medical assessment . This assessment will be carried out by a Medical Assessor, who is a doctor employed by the Department of Social Protection. The Medical Assessor will give an opinion on whether or not you are fit for work. You must attend for a medical assessment when asked, or your benefit will be suspended.
If your Illness Benefit is stopped, you have a right to appeal the decision – see ‘Where to apply’ below. If you are receiving credited contributions only and these are stopped, you can seek a review of the decision but you do not have a right to appeal it.
How to apply
You must get an Illness Benefit claim form (IB1) and a medical certificate called a ‘Certificate of incapacity for work’ from your family doctor (GP). You fill in the IB1 form and freepost it to the Department of Social Protection – see ‘Freepost’ address below.
If you have coronavirus symptoms or you have been medically required to self-isolate, you should not visit an Intreo Centre or local Social Welfare Branch Office. The DSP has provided information about how to apply for Illness Benefit if you are affected by COVID-19 or you can call 1890 800 024.
Your GP completes the medical certificate. If you have coronavirus symptoms or you have been medically required to self-isolate, you should phone your GP, don’t go in person. Your GP can provide one medical certificate to cover the duration of your illness. Some GPs can complete the medical certificate online. If your GP cannot send it online, you will get a paper medical certificate which you must fill in with your personal details and freepost it with your IB1 form to the Department.
Where to apply
Department of Social Protection
P.O. Box 1650
Tel: (01) 704 3300 (If calling from outside Ireland please call +353 1 704 3300)
Locall: 1890 928 400 (Note: the rates charged for using 1890 (Lo-call) numbers may vary)