The DES has confirmed Circular 0024/20 that teachers who have contracted COVID-19 or those who have not contracted the virus but have been advised by the HSE to self-isolate to prevent the spread of the virus will be entitled to special leave with pay and substitute cover.
DES has also confirmed that leave already granted can only be cancelled in accordance with the terms and conditions of the relevant Department publications.
Circular 49/20 sets out that an employer may grant special leave with pay where an employee has:
An appropriate HSE or medical confirmation of COVID-19 diagnosis, or
A HSE recommendation to self-isolate, including while awaiting a test, or test results; or
Is restricting his/her movements in accordance with the HSE Guidelines because they have been advised that they are a close contact or live with someone who has been diagnosed with Covid-19.
Is in the very high risk group as defined by the HSE
Substitution for such days will be paid by the DE. Any special leave with pay granted for the purpose of diagnosis of COVID-19, self-isolation or restricted movements or because a teacher is in the very high risk category will not be counted as part of the employee’s Sick Leave record.
You must contact your school if any of the above circumstances apply.
You must inform your school that you have tested positive for COVID-19. You will need to complete the Application Form at Appendix A of Circular 49/20 and submit it to your Board/ ETB with medical/ HSE certification, including estimated date of fitness to return to work. Special leave with pay will be granted by the employer and the appropriate leave (Covid-19 –Diagnosis) entered on the Online Claims System (OLCS).
The Occupational Health Service (OHS) advises that in a confirmed COVID-19 infection, an employee needs to be 14 days post onset of symptoms and also 5 days fever free (which may run concurrently) before returning to the workplace. It should be noted that the 14 days is from the onset of symptoms and not the date of receiving a positive COVID-19 test result.
The HSE will activate contact tracing and advise your close contacts that they need to restrict their movements for 14 days.
You will be medically/HSE advised to self-isolate while you wait for a COVID-19 test appointment and test results, generally because you have symptoms of Covid-19. You must arrange a COVID-19 test as soon as possible and must immediately inform the employer of the COVID-19 test result.
You must inform your school that you are self isolating. You should complete the Application Form at Appendix A and special leave in Circular 49/20 (Covid-19 leave: Self-Isolation) with pay will be granted by the employer and applies up until the COVID-19 test result is obtained. Where the COVID-19 test result is positive, you will remain on special leave with pay and must be recorded by the school as ‘COVID-19: Diagnosis’ on the OLCS/relevant ETB system.
I have been advised medically/by the HSE to restrict my movements as I am a close contact or live with a person with a diagnosis of Covid-19. What should I do in relation to work?
You will be medically/ HSE advised to restrict your movements if you have no symptoms but you are a close contact of a confirmed case, or live with someone with symptoms. You must arrange a COVID-19 test as soon as possible. You must complete the Declaration Form at Appendix B of Circular 49/20 and return it immediately to the employer, accompanied by medical certification (GP/HSE) including date of fitness to return to the workplace. You remain available for work,and should contact your principal in relation to working remotely for the 14 day period. A sub will be appointed for you, and your leave will be recorded on the OLCS/relevant ETB systemas Covid-19 –Restricted Movement.
If you live with someone who has symptoms and is awaiting a test, it may not be recommended that you to arrange a test, pending the outcome of the persons test. If the person you live with has a negative test, you no longer need to restrict your movement and you can return to work immediately.
I am a non-casual sub teacher. Can I access paid leave if I have a diagnosis of Covid, or am advised medically/by the HSE to self-isolate or to restrict my movements?
If a sub teacher is offered a contract of more than 40 days in duration then they are considered to be a non-casual sub from day one of that contract (with the exception of covering a long term sick leave absence). In this instance, a non-casual sub would have access to broadly the same entitlements as their temporary and permanent colleagues for the duration of their contract. Therefore, a non-casual sub would have access to special leave with pay should they have a diagnosis of Covid, be medically advised to self-isolate, or restrict their movements.
I am a casual sub teacher. Can I access paid leave if I have a diagnosis of Covid, or am advised medically/by the HSE to self-isolate or to restrict my movements?
Casual subs do not have a contract of employment and therefore, have no entitlement to paid leave from the DES. However, teachers in this situation should contact the DEASP to check whether they are eligible for the Covid 19 Enhanced Illness Benefit.
The DEASP stipulates that to qualify for COVID-19 enhanced Illness Benefit, you must:
Be aged between 18 and 66
Have a medical certificate called a ‘Certificate of incapacity for work’ from a doctor or have a text or letter notification from the HSE to support your application
Be employed or self-employed and have worked in the 4 weeks before the date of your medical certification
Have a current contract of employment, if you are an employee
To submit a claim for this benefit, a casual sub will need to have worked a day in the preceding four weeks. For more information please contact the DEASP.
If I travel abroad and have to restrict my movements on return what should I do in relation to work?
The current Government advice is not to travel overseas. Any person coming into Ireland, (apart from Northern Ireland and individuals arriving in Ireland from locations with a security rating of normal precautions – “Green List”), is required to restrict their movements for 14 days.
If you intend to undertake non-essential travel overseas to a country which is not on the Green List, you should make provision for the 14 day period of restricted movement, by way of an Unpaid Leave application, in line with the normal terms and conditions as set out in Chapter 11, Circular 54/19. A sub will be paid in this case.
You must advise your school in writing in advance of such travel abroad and to include the travel details. This requirement is necessary for the protection of public health.
If you return from a “Green List” country, there will be no requirement to restrict your movements. However, you should still notify your employer in advance in writing of your intention to travel, as the “Green List” will be regularly reviewed and may change, and you should be aware that whatever restricted movement requirements are in place on their date of return will apply.
INTO is currently seeking clarification in relation to essential travel (eg for medical treatment) in non green-list countries. We will update this information as soon as possible.
The list of people in very high risk groups includes those who:
are over 70 years of age – even if they are fit and well
have had an organ transplant
are undergoing active chemotherapy for cancer
are having radical radiotherapy for lung cancer
have cancers of the blood or bone marrow such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma who are at any stage of treatment
are having immunotherapy or other continuing antibody treatments for cancer
are having other targeted cancer treatments which can affect the immune system, such as protein kinase inhibitors or PARP inhibitors
have had bone marrow or stem cell transplants in the last 6 months, or who are still taking immunosuppression drugs
have severe respiratory conditions including cystic fibrosis, Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, severe asthma, pulmonary fibrosis, lung fibrosis, interstitial lung disease and severe COPD
have a condition that means they have a very high risk of getting infections (such as SCID, homozygous sickle cell)
are taking medicine that makes them much more likely to get infections (such as high doses of steroids or immunosuppression therapies)
have a serious heart condition and are also pregnant
Current HSE advice for people in this category is that you need to cocoon. If you are unsure if you need to cocoon or not, talk to your doctor.
If you fall into this very high risk category, you should consult your GP / consultant in advance of return to work and seek their advice. You should complete the online Occupational Health Service (OHS) Covid -19 Risk Assessment immediately and submit it to the OHS, with a Report from your treating consultant. You should inform your principal that you believe you are in the very high risk category and are required to cocoon.
You will also be required to advise your school in the Return to Work form that you are in this category.
Medmark will provide you with a Risk Assessment Report. Where that Report advises that you are in the very high risk category, and cannot attend the workplace, you must fill out the Declaration Form at Appendix C of Circular 49/20 and submit to your school. Where you are medically fit for work, you should work from home as to the maximum extent possible. You may be assigned work in supporting children in the very high risk category, or other work assigned by your principal. A substitute teacher will be appointed to carry out your normal teaching duties.
The list of people in high risk groups as defined by the HSE includes those who:
are over 60 years of age
have a learning disability
have a lung condition that’s not severe (such as asthma, COPD, emphysema or bronchitis)
have heart disease (such as heart failure)
have high blood pressure (hypertension)
have chronic kidney disease
have liver disease (such as hepatitis)
have a medical condition that can affect your breathing
have a weak immune system (immunosuppressed)
have cerebrovascular disease
have a condition affecting your brain or nerves (such as Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease, multiple sclerosis, or cerebral palsy)
have a problem with their spleen or have had their spleen removed
have a condition that means you have a high risk of getting infections (such as HIV, lupus or scleroderma)
are taking medicine that can affect their immune system (such as low doses of steroids)
In accordance with public heath advice , a teacher in this category who is not ill must attend the workplace, unless advised otherwise by the Occupational Health Service (OHS). You should take extra care to:
practice social distancing where possible
wash your hands regularly and properly
You are not obliged to disclose your condition on the Return to Work form. However, if you are concerned about your health and your fitness to return to work, you should consult your doctor and get their advice. If your doctor states that you are unfit for work, you will be on sick leave in accordance with the normal provisions (see Chapter 1 of Circular 54/19).
In accordance with Circular 49/20, if you are fit for work but where you have concerns about close contact with pupils for prolonged periods, you can seek advice from the OHS by completing the OHS Covid -19 Risk Assessment and submitting with a report from your treating consultant to the OHS.
The OHS will provide you with a Risk Assessment Report. Where that Report advises that you are in the very high risk category and cannot attend the workplace, you must fill out the Declaration Form at Appendix C of Circular 49/20 and submit to your school. Where you are medically fit for work, you should work from home as to the maximum extent possible.
Where an individual feels that they have been placed in an incorrect risk category a review process has been put in place by Medmark. Individuals should email Medmark to request a review as follows:
The employee sends an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
In the Subject box they type in “Risk Assessment Review”.
They may attach additional medical evidence should they wish to do so and should include their name and date of birth.
The review will be undertaken by a team of four specialist occupational physicians who re-evaluate the medical evidence and deliver a consensus opinion on the risk categorisation. If someone is considered borderline Medmark indicates that it is highly likely they will be given higher categorisation.
If your treating doctor/ consultant deems that you are unfit for work, you should provide certification to your school and, if you pay Class A PRSI, you must apply for Illness Benefit for absences in excess of six days, including Saturdays . Please note to apply for Illness Benefit you must submit your IB1 and Med1 forms directly to the DEASP in a timely manner to ensure payment. You can obtain these forms for your doctor. Paid sick leave will continue in line with the provisions set out in Chapter 1 of Circular 54/19.
If you need to apply for the Critical Illness Protocol, you should do so in the normal manner.
If you recover, you should indicate to your school/ principal that you are now fit for work, and they should update the OLCS accordingly. If you have been absent for a short-term illness the school/ principal will follow the dates of the certificate and can end the sick leave accordingly. The principal can accept the teacher’s own doctor’s confirmation of their fitness. You will need to complete a Return to Work form.
If a teacher has been absent for a longer period – more than twenty-eight days consecutively or cumulatively in the past twelve months – they must be referred to the OHS, Medmark, and be certified as fit to work in order for the school/ principal to end the period of sick leave on the OLCS.
Medmark has confirmed to INTO that it is continuing to operate and will provide telephone consultations during this time and will be in contact with members who are referred to them.
I have applied for unpaid leave starting later in the school year? Can I withdraw my application for leave?
There are various categories of unpaid leave, with various conditions attaching to the schemes. (see below)
Any changes to unpaid leave will be at the discretion of the Board of Management/ ETB, and must be in accordance with the rules for the leave as set out in Circular 50/19.
Unpaid Maternity Leave
Per Circular 54/2019, Chapter Two, part 17.1:
“Termination of Statutory Additional Unpaid Maternity/Father’s Leave
An application to take statutory additional unpaid Maternity Leave or statutory additional unpaid Father’s Leave, may be withdrawn in writing, for any reason, up to 4 weeks prior to the proposed commencement date for such leave. If the 4 week cancellation period provided for in the Act has passed, entitlement to withdraw an application has been lost.”
Statutory Unpaid Adoptive Leave
Per Circular 54/2019, Chapter Three, part 15.1:
“Termination of Statutory Additional Unpaid Adoptive/Father’s Leave
An application to take statutory additional unpaid Adoptive Leave, or statutory additional unpaid Father’s Leave, may be withdrawn in writing, for any reason, up to 4 weeks prior to the proposed commencement date of such leave. If the 4 week cancellation period provided for in the Act has passed, entitlement to withdraw an application has been lost.”
Per circular 54/2019, Chapter Five, parts 12 , 14 and 15
The parental leave circular makes provision for parental leave to be suspended by the teacher in the event that the teacher becomes too ill to care for their child, of if the employer believes the teacher is using the parental leave for a purpose other than child-care.
In relation to requests to change work hours/pattern, S15 states that “Such a request must be made in writing to the employer not later than 6 weeks before the proposed commencement of the change in work pattern specifying the nature of the changes requested, the date of commencement and duration of the change in work pattern”.
Otherwise, as per the Confirmation Document at Appendix B of the relevant chapter, “Following signing, no amendment can be made to the Confirmation Document without the agreement of both parties. A copy of the Confirmation Document should be retained by the teacher.”
Discretionary unpaid leave
Circular 54/2019 Chapter Eleven is silent on the withdrawal of a request for unpaid leave days, so this may be addressed on a case by case basis by schools.
In accordance with Circular 54/19, a return to duty in the school/ETB which granted the Career Break is not permitted other than at the beginning of a succeeding school year. A teacher on a Career Break who wishes to resign from his/her teaching post must notify the employer in writing in accordance with the teacher’s terms of employment. If a teacher resigns from the Career Break during the course of the school year, that year will be deemed to be a full school year for the purposes of the maximum number of years allowed under the Career Break Scheme.
In exceptional circumstances, the employer may permit a Job Sharing teacher to withdraw from the Job Sharing Scheme and return to his/her original teaching post earlier than expected if he/she can be accommodated within the approved staffing allocation, subject to contractual arrangements. However, such an application may not be considered beyond 1 st November.
Per paragraph 12.1 of Chapter 6 of 54/2019:
The period of Carer’s Leave shall terminate on the date specified on the Confirmation Document at the time of application, except where the relevant person:
ceases to require full-time care and attention during the period of Carer’s Leave, or
dies during a period of Carer’s Leave. If the relevant person dies during the period of Carer’s Leave, the teacher may return on the date specified in the Confirmation Document or on a date which occurs 6 weeks after the date of the death whichever is the earlier.
Otherwise, per the Confirmation Document at Appendix B of the relevant chapter, “Following signing, no amendment can be made to the Confirmation Document without the agreement of both parties. A copy of the Confirmation Document should be retained by the teacher.”
I am pregnant and due to go on maternity leave later in the school year. I am very worried about being in school. What should I do?
The HSE advises that “the information we have so far shows that pregnant women are not at-risk. This means that if you are healthy, you do not have a higher risk of serious illness if you catch coronavirus while pregnant.” Pregnant women are advised to take the normal measures to protect themselves, by washing their hands, social distancing and staying at home. In relation to attending work, the HSE advises that if you cannot work from home, you practice social distancing.
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 provisions contained in Chapter 1 of Circular 54/19, including the pregnancy related sick leave provisions, will apply.
Current advice from the HSE is that if you are caring for someone at a higher risk from coronavirus, it is very important you follow the advice on how to protect yourself from coronavirus. There is no provision for specific leave in the context of Covid-19, but the provisions of parental leave (if the vulnerable person is a child) or carer’s leave may apply.