HC Deb 09 March 1939 vol 344 cc2332-3
46. Mr. Fleming

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware of the ruling of the Court of Appeal that a workman, incapacitated through sickness, is entitled to wages and National Health Insurance benefits for the period of incapacity, unless the workman's employer has properly terminated the contract of service; and whether he intends to take any steps in the matter?

Mr. Elliot

I am aware of the ruling of the Court of Appeal to which my hon. Friend refers. The advice given by my Department in the past has been that the liability of the employer to pay wages during incapacity depends upon the contract of employment between him and the employé and that there is no provision in the National Health Insurance Act which either entitles the employer of a person who is receiving sickness benefit to make deductions on that account from wages, or which precludes him from making such deductions in accordance with the terms of the contract of employment. The recent ruling does not call for any change in this advice, and I see no reason to take any steps in the matter.

Mr. Fleming

In view of the widespread practice which is now growing up of employers dismissing employés as soon as they fall ill, will my right hon. Friend reconsider his decision, and consider the advisability of bringing in an amending Bill or of consulting employers, such as local governing authorities, as to the proper contract to safeguard the interests of employés?

Mr. Elliot

I should like to know before I do that that it is an increasing practice. I hope it will not become the practice of the employers in this country.

Mr. Thorne

Is not the Minister aware that almost all the local authorities which pay at least three months full sickness pay are affected by this decision?

50. Mr. Bellenger

asked the Minister of Health whether he is aware that, following a recent judgment in the Court of Appeal, millions of employés are liable to dismissal from their employment on falling ill and staying away from work; and whether he will introduce legislation at an early date to regulate the position?

Mr. Elliot

I have no reason to believe that employers, in general, will, even having regard to the recent decision to which the hon. Member refers, dismiss empoyés who fall sick. I do not think, as at present advised, that legislation on the matter is called for.

Mr. Bellenger

Will the right hon. Gentleman keep a sharp watch to see the effect among the workpeople of the ruling of the Appeal Court?

Mr. Elliot

Yes, certainly, I have already promised that in reply to another question.