One of the hallmarks of the European Union (EU) Member States’ social protection systems, unlike that of other regions in the world, is the right to income protection in case of sickness. To differing extents, all EU countries provide three types of arrangements in case of sickness: a) sick leave; b) sick pay; and c) sickness benefits.

Sick leave is the right to be absent from work during sickness and to return to one’s job when recovered; sick pay is the continued, time-limited, payment of (part of) the worker’s salary by the employer during a period of sickness; and sickness benefits are provided by the social protection system and are paid as a fixed rate of previous earnings or as a flat-rate amount

Sick leave arrangements, and compensation in particular, is a sensitive topic on which the Member States have jealously defended their sovereign powers.

The objective of this policy brief is to:

  • a) review the current legal arrangements as well as the take-up of sick leave, sick pay and sickness benefits in the Member States;
  • b) discuss the payment arrangements and the evolution of sick pay and sickness benefit expenditure, as well as current reform trends across the EU; and
  • c) consider key challenges related to gender, age and socio-economic status.