Updated guidance for very high-risk and pregnant staff published

Following the provision of updated HSE guidance, the Department of Education (DE) has today published Information Note 0025/2021, which advises and clarifies the following:

  • The HSE has recently published Education Sector Guidance on Employees in the COVID-19 Higher Risk Categories, including Pregnant Employees.
  • Teachers who consider themselves to be at very high risk of serious illness from contracting COVID-19 should complete a COVID-19 Risk Assessment Questionnaire, if they haven’t already done so, and submit it to the Occupational Health Service (OHS)/Medmark in advance of the 2021/22 school year. The questionnaire will remain open to applications until further notice.
  • Immunosuppressive conditions or treatments, which may affect the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, will be taken into account by OHS/Medmark in risk assessments.
  • A teacher may appeal the OHS decision in accordance with the procedures set out in Section 2.5.12 of Circular 0021/2021.
  • Where a teacher is classified as being at very high risk, they remain available for work and the school must facilitate alternative working arrangements – i.e. work from home.
  • The updated HSE guidance states that a pregnant teacher up to 14 weeks gestation, who is medically fit for work, can safely attend the workplace at the start of the 2021/22 school year, unless they are categorised by the OHS as ‘Very High Risk’ due to an underlying medical condition unrelated to their pregnancy.
  • Recent HSE guidance for the education sector strongly advises that all pregnant employees should submit a COVID-19 Risk Assessment Questionnaire to the OHS/Medmark. Again, the questionnaire will remain open to applications until further notice.
  • Recognising the different workplace risk that may arise, pregnant teachers from 14 weeks gestation who are classified as ‘High Risk’ and are working in certain special education settings should be moved to a different setting where possible or – in special schools – it may be necessary for them to be facilitated with remote working.
  • A Health Risk Categorisation Report will include an expiry date, as determined by the OHS, based on an individual assessment, but may be reviewed at any time during the 2021/22 school year.
  • Leave of absence arrangements for COVID-19 vaccinations and for any possible side effects from the vaccination are outlined.
  • The DE intends to publish a revised circular within the next month detailing arrangements for any education staff being facilitated to work remotely for the coming school year. In the meantime, the DE has confirmed that Circular 0021/2021 still applies.

Members who need clarification on this information note are welcome to contact the INTO QueryLine by emailing info@into.ie

The INTO will also produce an FAQ document for members in the coming days, which will be available on the INTO website as soon as possible.