Advice – Pregnant teachers and the re-opening of mainstream classes

The INTO has secured an agreement that the interim measures, which were put in place in special education settings during February, will be extended for teachers returning to mainstream settings during the first phase of re-opening (currently the period 1 – 12 March, for teachers of Junior Infants to Second Class).

Further details of this provision are set out in information note 005/2021.

During this period of phased return to school, all pregnant teachers should consider themselves in the high risk category and may temporarily continue to work remotely.

Pregnant teachers (and other high risk teachers, including those over sixty) may choose to attend school during the phased re-opening, having considered the risk factors involved, and the contents of Information Note 005/2021.

A pregnant teacher who is facilitated to work remotely during this phased return period must be recorded by the employer under the OLCS leave sub-category ‘Personal Leave’, sub-category titled ‘COVID-19: Very High Risk Group’.

The pregnant teacher will be re-assigned to duties at home and their absence will be substitutable.

Remote working may include providing support to the substitute teacher, supporting other pupils who are still learning at home, or providing remote education for another class. Principals have discretion over the best use of their teachers – whether working remotely or in-person. See part 5.2 of the information note for more detail.

Furthermore, it is at the discretion of schools to temporarily redeploy another member of the teaching staff, ordinary allocated to SET or a senior class, to the in-person class of the high risk teacher. The substitution arrangement will then apply to the re-assigned teacher.

It is not necessary for pregnant teachers in this category to be assessed by the OHS at this stage, but if the teacher has been referred to the OHS and is placed in the high risk category, they may work remotely.

(Outside of the current interim period, someone categorised as high risk would ordinarily attend school, while adhering to the risk mitigation measures. Medmark risk assessments may not make reference to the interim measures which are now in place for pregnant or other high risk education staff.)

It’s important to note, the provisions set out in information note 005/2021 are a temporary measure.

Throughout the pandemic, public health advice for pregnant teachers – excluding those with certain, serious underlying health conditions – has been to attend work, while adhering to risk mitigation measures under their school’s Covid-19 Response Plan.

The HSE has recently published guidance for the education sector in respect of pregnant employees, here.

Upon the full re-opening of schools, this HSE guidance will be implemented in the education sector and the Department of Education will provide employers with details of these new arrangements in advance of a full re-opening of schools.

Pregnant teachers who are concerned about returning to school after 15 March should continue to check for updates on the INTO website.

If you have any concerns about your fitness for work, you should consult your doctor. If your doctor believes you are unfit for work, the sick leave conditions set out in Chapter 1 of Circular 0054/2019, including the pregnancy related sick leave provisions, will apply.