INTO objects to changes to working arrangements for higher-risk and pregnant teachers

The Department of Education (DE) has published Information Note TC 0006/2022, which is titled: ‘COVID-19: Working Arrangements for Higher Risk Teachers and Special Needs Assistants (employees) for the 2022/23 school year’

The INTO has objected to the removal of COVID-19 Risk Assessments and the removal of the provision that people in the very high-risk category can work from home. This also includes pregnant teachers who are at high risk and working in special education settings. We advise any member who is in either of these categories to contact the INTO for advice.

We believe this decision is premature given recent confirmation that a highly transmissible sub-variant of concern has been identified in Ireland. The INTO is seeking confirmation that these COVID-19 Risk Assessments will be reinstated should the public health situation worsen.

The union has also called for guidance to be issued by the DE in relation to risk-mitigation measures to be implemented by schools. This is a matter of urgency considering that those in the very high-risk group and high-risk pregnant employees in special education settings will be required to attend the workplace from September 2022.

Schools are obliged to carry out health-and-safety risk assessments in advance of these employees returning to the workplace. The INTO has called for guidance to be issued to schools in relation to conducting these risk assessments.

INTO President John Driscoll commented:

COVID-19 clearly continues to impact negatively on the operation of schools. This week’s confirmation that a highly transmissible sub-variant of concern has been identified in Ireland is adding to the uncertainty for the next school year. The INTO has written to the Department of Education stating that should the public health landscape deteriorate before schools reopen, some risk mitigation measures and COVID-19 Risk Assessments will have to be in place.”

These arrangements, which will apply to all public servants, are being introduced without agreement from the public service unions.