New circular: Antenatal classes, parental leave and pre-employment medical assessments

The Department for Education and Skills has published a new circular, DES Circular 54/2019, which replaces the web book Terms & Conditions of Employment for Registered Teachers in Recognised Primary and Post Primary Schools (Edition 2), and sets out teachers’ entitlements to leave, including maternity leave, sick leave, career break, job share, and parental leave. 

 Antenatal Classes

The new circular significantly improves the leave entitlement for pregnant teachers attending antenatal classes. With effect from 1 September 2019, women will be able to take paid leave with substitute cover to attend one full set of antenatal classes, and for the final three classes in a set for any subsequent pregnancies.

See circular 54/2019, Chapter Two, part 7.1(b) for comprehensive information about leave to attend antenatal classes.

Parental Leave

The statutory entitlement to unpaid parental leave increases from 18 weeks to 22 weeks for parents of children under the age of thirteen, or age sixteen for children with special needs or a long-term illness.

This increase takes effect on 1 September 2019, and where a parent has already used all of their parental leave in respect of an eligible child, they will now have an additional four weeks available.

Parental Leave will be increased again by an additional four weeks from 1 September 2020, meaning parents will have access to a total of twenty-six weeks of unpaid parental leave for each eligible child.

See circular 54/2019, Chapter Five for comprehensive information about parental leave.

Pre-employment medical assessments

The new circular states that a candidate must be certified as medically fit for employment by the Occupational Health Service prior to taking up their first appointment as a teacher or any new post. Pre-employment medical assessments were previously mandatory when someone was taking up their first appointment as a teacher, but for subsequent appointments, a pre-employment medical assessment had been at the discretion of the Board of Management to request.

Teachers who undergo a pre-employment medical assessment will receive a Medical Fitness for Employment Assessment Report which will be valid for two calendar years, and which may be used as evidence of fitness to work if the teacher changes employer during that time.

Please see circular 54/2019, Chapter One, appendix A for comprehensive information about pre-employment medical assessments.