SECTION 1: Work and Attendance
Unless teachers are on approved leave or are being facilitated to work remotely, all teachers will return to the school building at the start of the school year. Circular 0042/2021 (PDF) sets out the arrangements for paid leave and remote working for certain categories of teacher in the context of Covid-19.
The following applies:
- Teachers who have been categorised as being Very High Risk by Medmark and who are medically fit for work, will be available to work remotely.
- Teachers who are more than fourteen weeks pregnant, who have been categorised as High Risk and working in a Special Education setting subject to certain criteria being met
- Teachers restricting their movements in accordance with the latest criteria from the HSE
Teachers on sick leave or unpaid leave, or those who are diagnosed with Covid-19, are not available to work remotely.
The DE has set out duties in Circular 0042/2021 (PDF) that support the work of the school in developing and delivering its programmes of teaching and learning for pupils for teachers who are working remotely which may include:
- Liaising closely with and supporting the work of the substitute teacher(s), which may include engaging directly with pupils/students.
- Taking part in online teaching of classes.
- Supporting and engaging, using online technology, the work and progress of very high risk or extremely vulnerable pupils/students who are unable to attend school.
- Participating in staff meetings, team/subject planning meetings and all other normal meetings using online technology.
- Participating in relevant professional development through emergency remote teaching technology online media.
- Developing aspects of the school’s teaching resources or teaching plans.
- Reviewing and developing whole-school policies, in line with the school’s priorities and in light of the current context.
- Undertaking administrative or other tasks associated with a post of responsibility (provided they hold the post of responsibility in line with relevant Department of Education publications) to the greatest extent possible using online technology.
You may also be nominated to a Local Education Centre to support the learning of pupils from other schools who are at very high risk of serious illness from contracting Covid-19.
You should discuss arrangements for working remotely with your principal, or for principals this should be discussed with your Board.
Where a Principal has been classified as Very High Risk and is working remotely, the Department will sanction the appointment of an Acting Principal to work in collaboration with the Principal who is working remotely. This is an exceptional measure, in view of the many duties of the principal which require the presence of the Principal in the workplace. The acting-up allowance is claimed by sending a POR1 Amend Form to DE Primary Payroll.
Circular 0042/2021 states that any Very High Risk employee who is not required to be retained in providing services to their schools will be reassigned on a temporary basis to support delivery of other public service. However, further engagement is to take place with the Education Partners in advance of this.
SECTION 2: Preventing the spread of Covid-19 in schools
Each school must continue to have a School Covid-19 Response Plan in place. An updated Response Plan has been published by the Department of Education (DE). The plan is similar to last year. The Covid-19 Response Plan outlines the measures which schools must put in place including:
- The appointment of a lead worker representative;
- A return to work process, including return to work form;
- Carrying out a risk assessment and updating the safety statement, in the context of Covid-19;
- Ensuring that people are aware of the symptoms of Covid-19 so that they do not attend if they suspect they have the disease;
- Managing the risk of the spread of the virus through hand hygiene, physical distancing and respiratory hygiene;
- Control measures, including induction training, cleaning, and contact logs; and
- Procedures for dealing with a suspected case on the premises.
Schools as workplaces are subject to inspection by the Health and Safety Authority to ensure that they are compliant with measures to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Staff have a statutory obligation to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that of their colleagues and other people in the school community. The cooperation and assistance of all staff is essential to reduce the risk of spread of Covid-19 and to protect health and safety as far as possible within the school. All staff have a key role to play.
In this regard and in order to facilitate safe working, these duties include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Adhere to the School Covid-19 Response Plan and the control measures outlined;
- Complete the Return to Work (RTW) form before return to work;
- Inform the principal if there are any other circumstances relating to COVID-19, not included in the form, which may need to be disclosed to facilitate safe return to the workplace;
- If you are a new staff member complete COVID-19 Induction Training and any other training required prior to commencing in the school;
- Be aware of, and adhere to, good hygiene and respiratory etiquette practices;
- Coordinate and work with colleagues to ensure that physical distancing is maintained;
- Make themselves aware of the symptoms of COVID-19 and monitor their own wellbeing;
- Self-isolate at home and contact their GP promptly for further advice if they display any symptoms of Covid-19;
- Not return to or attend school if they have symptoms of COVID-19 under any circumstances;
- If they develop any symptoms of COVID-19 whilst within the school facility, they should adhere to the procedure outlined in the school Covid Response Plan;
- Keep informed of the updated advice of the public health authorities and comply with same.
Yes. Prior to returning to the workplace, staff must complete a Return to Work (RTW) form. This is a standard form which has been provided for schools by the DE. The form includes questions designed to minimise the risk of people inadvertently returning to work with Covid-19, and to identify those in the Very High Risk or High Risk categories. The form is a self-declaration form. It should be filled out at prior to returning to the workplace. If you answer yes to any of the questions, you must seek medical advice before returning to school.
Covid-19 Induction training is only for those newly appointed to jobs in education. In addition, those who did not complete the training last year (e.g. those who were on a career break or other leave) will be expected to complete it.
The responsibility for the development and implementation of the Covid-19 Response Plan and the associated control measures lies primarily with the Board of Management/ ETB and school leadership team.
The government Return to Work Protocol for all workplaces provides that a Lead Worker Representative (LWR) is selected in each workplace.
The role of the LWR is to work collaboratively with the employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable the safety, health and welfare of employees in relation to Covid-19, to monitor and promote adherence to the control measures in place, to consult with colleagues and if necessary make representations to the employer on behalf of their colleagues on matters relating to Covid-19 in the workplace.
No. A Lead Worker Representative does not have any duties in relation to Covid-19 other than those that apply to employees generally. In other words, the LWR is not responsible for the control measures within an organisation, which remains the employer’s responsibility.
A designated isolation area should be identified within the school building. The possibility of having more than one person displaying signs of Covid-19 should be considered and a contingency plan for dealing with additional cases put in place. The designated isolation area should be behind a closed door where possible and away from other staff and pupils.
If a staff member or pupil displays symptoms of Covid-19 while at school the following are the procedures to be implemented:
- If the person with the suspected case is a pupil, their parents/guardians should be contacted immediately
- Isolate the person and have a procedure in place to accompany the individual to the designated isolation area via the isolation route, keeping at least 2 metres away from the symptomatic person and also making sure that others maintain a distance of at least 2 metres from the symptomatic person at all times
- The isolation area does not have to be a room but if it is not a room it should be 2 metres away from others in the room
- If it is not possible to maintain a distance of 2 metres a staff member caring for a pupil should wear a face covering or mask. Gloves should not be used as the virus does not pass through skin
- Provide a mask for the person presenting with symptoms if one is available. He or she should wear the mask if in a common area with other people or while exiting the premises
- Assess whether the individual who is displaying symptoms can immediately be directed to go home/be brought home by parents who will call their doctor and continue self-isolation at home
- Facilitate the person presenting with symptoms remaining in isolation if they cannot immediately go home and facilitate them calling their doctor. The individual should avoid touching people, surfaces and objects. Advice should be given to the person presenting with symptoms to cover their mouth and nose with the disposable tissue provided when they cough or sneeze and put the tissue in the waste bag provided
- If the person is well enough to go home, arrange for them to be transported home by a family member, as soon as possible and advise them to inform their doctor by phone of their symptoms. Public transport of any kind should not be used
- If they are too unwell to go home or advice is required, contact 999 or 112 and inform them that the sick person is a COVID-19 suspect
- Carry out an assessment of the incident which will form part of determining follow-up actions and recovery
- Arrange for appropriate cleaning of the isolation area and work areas involved.
Yes, schools are required to continue with physical distancing measures.
Schools are being advised that physical distancing has two elements (i) increasing separation; and (ii) decreasing interaction.
Increasing separation means that all available space in the school should be availed of in order to safely maximise physical distancing and that classroom space should be reconfigured to maximise physical distancing. This may involve the removal of nonessential furniture from classrooms, and the utilisation of all available space in the school. It may also involve reorganisation of class groups to maximise the use of rooms of different sizes.
It is recommended that where possible, a distance of 1m should be maintained between desks or individual pupils. However, it is recognised that younger children and some children with special education needs are unlikely to maintain this distancing. The DE has provided a number of illustrative classroom layouts (PDF) to demonstrate how physical distancing can be applied. It is recommended that staff and children use the same workspace rather than moving around, and do not share equipment or books. The teacher’s desk should be at least 1m and where possible 2m away from pupil desks.
A common-sense approach is required in recognising the limits to which decreasing interaction between pupils can be achieved depending on the school setting. The objective is that each teacher and class grouping mix only with their own class to the greatest extent possible. Classes may also be divided into pods (groups) with less interaction between those groups. Class groupings should have separate play areas/times as far as possible. Arrangements should be made to ensure that children do not congregate when entering or leaving their classrooms.
The public health advice also states that a distance of 2m should be maintained between staff when they are not engaged in teaching, for example on breaks, when arriving for or leaving school, and in and around the school building. Staff meetings may be held remotely, or in small groups in large spaces to facilitate physical distancing. Staff should also be mindful of maintaining 2m physical distancing in interacting with parents, for example when they are leaving or collecting children from school.
Am I required to adhere to the physical distancing, respiratory etiquette and to the other control measures which my school has put in place?
Yes. The School Covid Response Plan states that staff have a statutory obligation (under the Health Safety and Welfare at Work Act) to take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that of their colleagues, and sets out the duties which are included in this, including adhering to physical distancing, good respiratory etiquette and completing the Return to Work form.
It should be borne in mind that any failure to adhere to a school policy may be dealt with by management through the normal disciplinary process for schools, beginning with the informal stage.
It is now a requirement for face coverings to be worn by staff members where it is not possible to maintain a physical distance of 2 metres from other staff, parents, essential visitors or pupils.
It is not recommended that children attending primary school wear face-coverings.
The Department has published guidance setting out the practical steps for good ventilation in accordance with public health advice ‘Practical Steps for the Deployment of Good Ventilation Practices in Schools’ (PDF) The guidance sets out an overall approach for schools that windows should be open as fully as possible when classrooms are not in use (e.g. during break-times or lunch-times, assuming classrooms are not in use, and also at the end of each school day) and partially open when classrooms are in use.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) monitors will be distributed to schools over the coming weeks. The Department has also published guidance regarding on how these practical steps measures can be supplemented and enhanced by the use of Carbon Dioxide (CO2) monitors. Links to all aforementioned guidance can be accessed here.
What should I do if the control measures are not being implemented or being adhered to in my school?
Any concerns which a member of staff has in relation to Covid-19 related issues should be discussed with the Lead Worker Representative, who can make representations on behalf of their colleagues and work collaboratively with the board to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable that the measures are in place.
The role of the Health and Safety Authority is to ensure compliance with the Return to Work Safely Protocol. If an employee feels the workplace is not in compliance with this protocol which includes social distancing guidelines, they can raise their concerns with the HSA and they will address the concerns with their employer. You can make a complaint using the HSA’s online complaint form. You should raise your concern with your principal/board first to give them the opportunity to address the issue.
The HSE updated its guidance in July 2021 in relation to non-healthcare building ventilation.
School specific recommendations include the following:
• Ensure that windows and air vents can be accessed and opened when needed, weather and student comfort permitting.
• In classrooms that rely on natural ventilation, consider opening the windows 15 minutes before the classroom is occupied to ventilate the room. Similarly, leave windows open for 15 minutes after the classroom is emptied to ventilate the room.
• Consider installing an indoor air quality (IAQ) meter in each classroom that relies on natural ventilation. IAQ meters monitor the level of CO2 in an area, alerting the user to when the level rises above a set parameter, indicating that there is poor ventilation. At the time of writing these FAQs, CO2 monitors are in the process of being distributed to schools.
• Provide teachers with instructions on how to manage classroom ventilation:
o Open windows and air vents as much as possible during school time to facilitate ventilation, weather and student comfort permitting. Opening windows just below the ceiling will reduce the risk of cross-draughts.
o Ensure regular airing with windows during break time by opening windows fully
o Make sure the ventilation system openings are not blocked by furniture or curtains
o Observe IAQ CO2 monitor levels during the school day and respond appropriately when the threshold is reached (800ppm CO2 recommended as threshold).
SECTION 3: School Administration: School Day/ Supervision/ Substitution
The Board of Management of my school has again decided for the 2021/2022 school year to change the length of the school day to facilitate the safe arrival and dismissal of pupils. Can the Board do this? If so, how should this be organised?
The length of the school day is set out in Circular 0011/1995 (PDF) – Time in school as follows
In order to facilitate the safe arrival and dismissal of pupils, schools may use the 20 minutes set down for “assembly, supervision, preparation” as this does not entail the lengthening of the school day for pupils or teachers.
Recognising the unprecedented circumstances, some teachers may also agree to undertake additional supervision duties before or after school on a goodwill basis, following consultation between staff and management. Alternatively, a school may decide to allocate time from Croke Park hours for supervision.
If your school has decided to lengthen the school day without consultation, you should seek an opportunity to have this reviewed at an early date and in line with the information above.
Under the Organisation of Working Time Act, employees are entitled to a fifteen-minute break during the first six hours of their working day. The current health crisis does not remove this entitlement, and employers should ensure that their supervision rotas provide for adequate break times for staff.
The school day Circular 0011/1995, provides for forty minutes of breaks/recreation for pupils during the school day, but teachers’ duty of care to their pupils extends through that time, and teachers are not entitled to the entirety of this time as a break.
My Board has again decided for the 2021/2022 school year that the social distancing requirement to maintain separation between classes means that each class must be supervised separately. This means I am on supervision duty at every break. Is this necessary?
The level of supervision required in each school is a matter for the Board of Management, taking into account factors such as age, maturity and number of pupils as well as the topography of the area that requires supervision. All teachers have a duty of care to their pupils throughout the school day, but supervision at mid-morning and lunch time breaks can be covered on a rota basis. Arrangements for supervision are governed by Circular 0033/2013 (PDF). Teachers are required to provide up to 43 hours of supervision for mid-morning and lunch time breaks. In some small schools, teachers provide in excess of this.
The risk of transmission is lessened outside, so with physical distancing in place teachers can safely supervise children from outside their “bubble” in the school yard.
This also facilitates staff breaks. In accordance with the Organisation of Working Time Act, all employees are entitled to a 15 minute break during the school day.
Where revised arrangements have been put in place without consultation with staff, you should seek an opportunity to have this reviewed at an early date and in line with the information above.
As per Information Note 0018/2021 the following absences are now substitutable for the 2021/2022 school year in primary schools:
- All Covid leave
- All sick leave, including self-certified sick leave
- Family illness leave, including for first day
- Marriage/Civil Partnership Leave
- Ordination/Profession of Immediate Family
- Conferring of Teacher/Immediate Family
- Wedding of Immediate Family/Near Relative/In-Law
- Witness in Court
- Legal Separation
- Candidate in Local Election
- Membership of Public Bodies
- Exam Leave
- Study Leave
The Department will provide substitute cover for the first day of EPV Leave taken by a teacher in the 2021/22 school year. Subsequent EPV Leave may be taken only where the effect on the school’s operation, including its Covid-19 Response Plan, is minimal and where this can be enabled without disruption to the teaching of the class and without the division of the class group between other classes. Where it is not possible for a teacher to take their total EPV Leave during the 2021/22 school year, accumulated untaken EPV Leave will be carried over to be taken in the 2022/23 school year, subject to a total maximum of five days EPV in 2022/23.
- Supply Panels – The DE has established substitute supply panels, employing fixed-term teachers to provide substitution in over 2,000 schools. These panels provide cover for short-term absences in the schools included in the clusters.
- Information Note 0015/2021 removes the restrictions on the number of substitute teaching days which may be worked by a teacher while on career break.
- Information Note 0016/2021 provides for a job-sharing teacher to be employed in a substitute capacity in their own school only during the period they are rostered off duty.
- The Teaching Council has again provided for a number of measures to increase teacher supply in the 2021/2022 school year, including:
- On an exceptional, time-bound and once-off basis, allowing teachers who have qualified outside of Ireland but who have not completed the required period of induction in the country in which they have qualified to complete their induction in Ireland.
- Direct communication with the entire register of teachers to register their availability for substitution and supervision
- Working with the higher education institutions (HEIs) to accelerate the availability of Professional Master of Education (PME) student teachers (who are eligible to register under Further Education), and
- Encouraging teachers whose registration is approaching expiry to stay registered and to make themselves available as substitutes.
- Highlighting that school principals can avail of cross-sectoral substitution where, for example, any registered teacher can substitute in both primary and post-primary once vetted through the Council.
- Fast-tracking the summer registration process to ensure that the newly qualified teachers (NQTs) are registered in advance of the new school year.
- Engaging with the higher education institutions to explore how the availability of registered teachers on school placement to schools for supervision and substitution can be maximised.
TeacherConnect is a member service which offers an enhanced service to members available for substitute work and to schools seeking to fill a substitute position.
To access the new service visit https://teacherconnect.into.ie.
SECTION 4: Covid Leave, Self-Isolation and Restricted Movement
Circular 0042/2021 (PDF) 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
- An HSE recommendation to self-isolate, including while awaiting a test or test results
In certain circumstances, remote working may also be facilitated where a teacher has been instructed by the HSE to restrict their movements, or because they have been medically advised to do so.
Substitution for such days will be paid by the DE. Special leave with pay which is granted for the purpose of self-isolation, or following a positive Covid-19 test, or where a teacher is working remotely while restricting their movements or because they are classified as Very High Risk, 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 0042/2021 (PDF) 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 Covid-19: Diagnosis will be recorded 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 may advise your close contacts that they need to restrict their movements for 14 days.
In a letter to all schools on 12 August, 2021, the DE advised that:
“The approach to COVID-19 in schools is led by the advice and guidance of HSE Public Health”
As per HSE Public health guidance:
If the case of Covid-19 was in the school during the infectious period, the HSE will identify any close contacts and schools will be contacted. The Principal will receive a telephone call initially. Schools should ensure that their contact number is provided and/or updated so that they can be contacted outside of school hours if necessary.
Schools are required to keep a list of visitors to schools for the purposes of contact tracing. Staff should continue to be encouraged to download and/or use the Covid Tracker app to assist in the identification of close contacts. Schools are also required to prepare a summary of key information which can be given to the public health authorities to inform their risk assessment.
If the case was not in the school setting whilst infectious, then the school will not need to take any action because there is no significant risk that the case has spread the infection in the school setting. As per the last school year, Public health will not call the school in these circumstances.
Principals who have specific queries relating to confirmed cases of Covid-19 should continue to use the ‘HSE live Covid-19 Principal school line’.
Please note that the phone number will operate 7 days a week, from
· 8am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday and from
· 10am to 4.30pm Saturday and Sunday
The operator will take basic details and provide these directly to the relevant Schools team in the Public Health department.
As per HSE Public Health guidance, the ‘infectious period’ is the timeframe during which someone with an infectious disease can spread it to other people. The ‘infectious period’ for Covid-19 includes the 24 hours before testing for asymptomatic cases, or the 48 hours before symptom onset for symptomatic cases.
I have been identified as a close contact of someone with Covid-19. Do I need to restrict my movements and what should I do in relation to work?
There have been important changes to the HSE guidance on who must restrict their movements due to being a close contact of someone with Covid-19.
If you are identified as a close contact of someone with Covid-19, depending on your circumstances, you may or may not be required to restrict your movements if you do not have any symptoms of Covid-19. There is further detail on the HSE website. Please be aware that this guidance may be updated over time.
Therefore, it is important that you seek the advice of the HSE/HSE contact tracer in this regard.
When contacted by the HSE as a close contact, your vaccination status will be determined. If you are fully vaccinated and you do not have any symptoms of Covid-19, you may be informed that you do not need to restrict your movements and you will not be referred for testing. In this case, close contacts are able to attend school.
If you are instructed by the HSE to restrict your movements – for example, because you are unvaccinated, or because the close contact involves a variant of concern – this will be recorded on the OLCS as Covid-19: Restricted Movement, a substitute can be appointed to work in the school, and you will be available to work remotely. You will be offered testing, as soon as possible after you have been identified and then at day 10. Once you are asymptomatic and have received your ‘not detected’ test result from day 10 test, you can stop restricting their movements and return to school.
Teachers who are required to restrict their movements should submit the declaration at Appendix D of Circular 0042/2021 to their employer, with their supporting evidence.
Covid-19: Restricted Movement should not be recorded on the OLCS without supporting medical or HSE documentation.
Please also refer to Table 5 in DE Circular 0042/2021.
No. Your employer is not entitled to ask you about your vaccination status. However, you may be required to disclose this information to a HSE contact tracer or to Medmark.
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 inform your school that you have been instructed to self-isolate. You should complete the Application Form at Appendix A and special leave with pay in Circular 0042/2021 (PDF) (Covid-19: Self-Isolation) 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 am a non-casual substitute teacher. Can I access paid leave if I have a diagnosis of Covid-19, or am advised medically/by the HSE to self-isolate or to restrict my movements?
If a substitute teacher is offered a contract of more than 40 school days 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 substitute teacher would have access to broadly the same entitlements as their temporary and permanent colleagues for the duration of their contract. Therefore, a non-casual substitute would have access to special leave with pay should they have a diagnosis of Covid-19, or be advised by the HSE to self-isolate, or restrict their movements.
I am a casual substitute teacher. Can I access paid leave if I have a diagnosis of Covid-19, or am advised medically/by the HSE to self-isolate or to restrict my movements?
Casual substitute teachers do not have a contract of employment and therefore, have no entitlement to paid leave from the DE. However, teachers in this situation should contact the DSP to check whether they are eligible for the Covid-19 Enhanced Illness Benefit.
The DSP 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 substitute teacher will need to have worked a day in the preceding four weeks. For more information please contact the DSP.
Ireland now operates the EU Digital COVID Certificate (DCC) for travel originating within the EU/EEA. All employees are required to adhere to public health requirements when travelling overseas and on return from travel overseas. You should be aware of any testing and quarantine requirements in place at the time of travel, both for your intended destination and on return to Ireland.
Responsibility to provide for any period of quarantine arising from travel overseas is a matter for you unless you fall into the very limited exemption categories as outlined on gov.ie.
You should note that where there you have an intention to undertake travel overseas to any country which requires a quarantine period on return to Ireland, you must make provision by way of an Unpaid Leave application, in advance, for that period of quarantine, where it falls on your return to work due date. This application should be in line with the terms and conditions, as detailed in Circular 0054/2019. This period of Unpaid Leave is part of the normal limit of 10 school days in the school year.
You are required to inform your employer when you are available to return to work, following the period of quarantine, where this applies. Where an employee is absent on approved Unpaid Leave, the employer may appoint a substitute, paid by the DE.
You should also note that the Government may at any time, apply an “emergency brake” system to countries where a variant of concern or interest arises. You should be aware that whatever quarantine requirements are in place and applicable to them on their date of return to Ireland will apply. In that regard you should notify their employer if you become aware of the requirement to take additional Unpaid Leave, in order to satisfy any quarantine requirement.
You should log on to www.dfa.ie immediately prior to your return to Ireland to ensure you are fully apprised of any changes to the security rating of countries, and any necessary requirement to restrict your movements
I live with or care for a person who is in the Very High Risk category. Can I avail of special leave?
No. 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), carer’s leave or family illness leave may 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 HSE guidelines to protect yourself and to minimise risk of transmission.
SECTION 5: Caring Responsibilities
A member of my household is symptomatic and has been referred for a Covid-19 test. Do I attend school?
While this member of your household is waiting for their test, and waiting for their test results, you are required to restrict your movements. You will be facilitated to work remotely during this period, and your school will be able to employ a substitute teacher. There is detail about remote working at part 4.6 of Circular 0042/2021.
You must complete the declaration at Appendix D of 0042/2021, providing supporting evidence from the HSE or GP. (A screenshot of a test referral for the member of your household will suffice.) Your school can record this as Covid-19: Restricted Movement on the OLCS.
If the person tests negative, the period of restricted movement will come to an end.
(See Circular 0042/2021, Part 5, Table 3, Scenario 4.)
My child had symptoms of Covid-19, their test is negative, but they’re still at home, sick with a cold or cough. What leave is available now?
As there is no longer any need for you to restrict your movements, you will not be facilitated to work remotely. If you need leave from work to care for your child, you have access to five days of Family Illness Leave, and this year, under the terms of Circular 0018/2021, these days will all have substitute cover.
You should continue to restrict your movements until you have engaged with an HSE contact tracer.
Under the updated terms of the public health guidance, details here, a close contact who has significant vaccine protection may not be required to restrict their movements. However, if you do not have vaccine protection, or the infection involves a variant of concern, a period of restricted movement may still be required.
Your school should continue to record this as Covid-19: Restricted Movement until you have been instructed by the HSE that the period of restricted movement can end.
I am caring for a young child who has tested positive for Covid-19 and is unable to self-isolate. Am I supposed to restrict my movements? Is other leave available?
The HSE have provided information here on providing care for someone who cannot self-isolate.
In general, the other members of the household, including the person providing care to the infected child, are only required to restrict their movements if they are not fully vaccinated, or have not had Covid-19 within the past nine months.
If you are not fully vaccinated or have not had Covid-19 in the past nine months, you may need to restrict your movements for seventeen days from the date of the child’s positive test. Further, if the infection involves a variant of concern, a period of restricted movement may be required, irrespective of your vaccine status.
It is important to continue to restrict your movements until you have engaged with an HSE contact tracer, and to follow their instructions.
If the HSE instruct you to restrict your movements, you should complete the declaration at Appendix D of Circular 0042/2021. This should be supported by the HSE or other medical instruction to restrict your movements. You will be facilitated to work remotely during this period, and your school will be able to employ a substitute teacher. There is detail about remote working at part 4.6 of Circular 0042/2021.
If the HSE do not instruct you to restrict your movements, but you need leave to provide care for your child, up to five days of Family Illness Leave are available, and your employer may waive the usual notice period, to approve a late application for Parental Leave.
If you have been instructed to restrict your movements, but your child’s care needs are such that you are not available to work remotely, the leave outlined above may also be appropriate.
(See Circular 0042/2021, Part 5, Table 3, Scenario 7.)
My child has been sent home from school or creche due to being a close contact of a confirmed case of Covid-19. They don’t have any symptoms of Covid-19. Do I have access to special leave or remote working during their period of restricted movement?
Current public health guidance does not require you to restrict your movements if your child is a close contact but does not have symptoms of Covid-19. As such, your school cannot facilitate remote working or special leave with pay.
You may attend work during your child’s period of restricted movement – assuming they do not develop symptoms – but if you need to provide childcare, up to five days of Family Illness Leave are available, and your employer may waive the usual notice period to approve a late application for Parental Leave.
(See Circular 0042/2021, Part 5, Table 3, Scenario 9.)
SECTION 6: Curricular and Extra-Curricular Activities
HSE Public Health guidance advises that choir practices/performances and music practices/performances involving wind instruments may pose a higher level of risk. In that regard special consideration should be given to how they are held ensuring that the room is well-ventilated and the distance between performers is maintained.
In relation to sports activities schools should refer to the HPSC guidance on Return to Sport.
Updated – 8 September 2021