Special Leave with Pay and Leave for Caring Responsibilities

Covid-19: Special leave with pay

Current guidance on the management of COVID-19 symptoms, testing, and self-isolation may be found here.
Special leave with pay remains available to employees, for up to seven consecutive days in any one instance.
Special leave with pay is available for a teacher’s initial absence if they display COVID-19 symptoms, and if the teacher tests positive for COVID-19.
In line with current public health advice, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 you must self-isolate.
You must notify your employer that you are self-isolating, and arrange either an antigen or PCR test as soon as possible, and within one day of the onset of symptoms.
You should submit the form in Appendix A of Circular 0038/2022 to your school. The initial absence may be recorded as COVID-19: Special leave with Pay on the OLCS.
If you test positive for COVID-19, up to seven continuous days of special leave with pay is available.
This is not part of your sick leave record and, if you are a Class A PRSI contributor, there is no need to claim illness benefit during this period of absence.

If your positive test was a PCR test, you will receive a text from the HSE. If it was a home antigen test, you should report the positive result on the HSE website, and the HSE will text you to confirm receipt of the report.

A screenshot of either of these text messages can be provided to the school, with the form at Appendix A of Circular 0038/2022, to support your absence on special leave with pay.

If you test negative for COVID-19, the initial period of special leave with pay will end.

If you remain unfit to work, the ordinary terms of the sick leave scheme will apply to the remainder of your absence.

See Chapter One of Circular 0054/2019 for details of the sick leave scheme.

You are required to provide a medical certificate if you are absent on sick leave for more than three consecutive days, or if they you have used seven days of self-certified sick leave during the previous rolling two-year period.

If you pay Class A PRSI, you should claim illness benefit for any period of sick leave longer than consecutive three days, excluding Sunday. The obligations of teachers regarding illness benefit are set out in this DE information note (PDF).
The initial period of special leave with pay, while you were symptomatic and awaiting testing, is not part of your sick leave, and you don’t claim illness benefit for this part of your absence.

If you have tested negative on an initial test, and remain absent and avail of sick leave, and you subsequently test positive for COVID-19, the whole absence can be reclassified, for up to seven consecutive days in any one instance, as special leave with pay.

As above, you should supply a screenshot of an HSE text message and the form in Appendix A of Circular 0038/2022 to support your absence.

There is no provision for substitute cover self-certified sick leave.

There are two exceptions to this:

  • A school with two or fewer mainstream teachers may employ a substitute for self-certified sick leave, and
  • If two or more teachers are out on self-certified sick leave, or the first day of family illness leave, substitute cover is available for the second teacher.

If your absence on sick leave is certified, your school may employ a substitute teacher for the duration of the absence.

Under the terms of circular 38/2022, a teacher may take a maximum of seven consecutive days of COVID-19: Special Leave with Pay in one instance.
If you are still unwell following this period of self-isolation, the normal terms of the sick leave scheme will apply.
A medical certificate must be provided for any absence on sick leave in excess of three consecutive days, and if you pay Class A PRSI you need to claim Illness Benefit for any absence on sick leave for more than three consecutive days, excluding Sundays.
The obligations of teachers regarding illness benefit are set out in this DE information note (PDF).
There is further detail about the sick leave scheme for teachers in Chapter One of Circular 0054/2019 and on the INTO website here.
Circular 38/2022 states that the “maximum special leave with pay entitlement is 10 consecutive days in any one instance.”
Teachers who are required to self-isolate on a subsequent occasion, as a result of being symptomatic or receiving a second diagnosis with COVID-19, will be able to avail of further periods of up to seven days of special leave with pay, subject to the conditions of circular 38/2022.
There is no provision for special leave with pay for attending a vaccination or booster appointment.
Sick leave is available for the purpose of obtaining medical related services, provided such appointments could not have been arranged outside you regular working hours.
You should provide evidence of your appointment to your employer. This absence may be recorded on the OLCS as certified sick leave, and substitute cover will be available.
There is further detail about the sick leave scheme for teachers in Chapter One of Circular 0054/2019 and on the INTO website here.
Sick leave is available if you are unable to perform your duties because of illness due to side-effects of the vaccination or booster vaccination.
There is further detail about the sick leave scheme for teachers in Chapter One of Circular 0054/2019 and on the INTO website here.

Pregnant and Very High Risk Teachers, and Extended COVID-19 Leave

Under the terms of circular 38/2022, all risk categorisations expired at the latest on 30 June 2022, and new Covid-19 risk assessments are no longer available.
From 1 July 2022, a teacher who was previously categorised as Very High Risk, or a pregnant teacher categorised as being at High Risk and working in a special education setting, and who is fit to work, will be required to attend the workplace.
Where a teacher had been recorded under the OLCS leave category, COVID-19: Very High Risk at the end of June, employers were required to insert an end-date of 30 June on the employee’s leave record on the OLCS.
Employers are advised to carry out a workplace risk assessment before Very High Risk teachers or High Risk pregnant teachers return to the workplace. There is guidance on the HSE website for schools carrying out risk assessments here.
You should have notified your employer that you were unfit to return to work at the commencement of the new school year.
Your employer should refer you to the OHS, in line with protocol set out in the Employers Procedures Manual. This referral should have taken place before the start of the new school year.
If the OHS reports that you are unfit to work, the normal conditions of the sick leave scheme will apply, as set out in Chapter One of circular 54/2019. Taking account of your individual medical circumstances, this may include some or all of the summer closure being recorded retrospectively as sick leave.
Circular 38/2022 states that a pregnant teacher may not apply for Maternity Health and Safety Leave based solely on the risk of COVID-19 in the workplace. However, there may be other circumstances or conditions that could warrant the granting of Health and Safety Leave.
If you are medically unfit to attend work, the normal conditions of the sick leave scheme will apply, including the provision for Pregnancy Related Sick Leave, as set out in Chapter One of circular 54/2019.
Under the terms of circular 38/2022, with effect from 1 July 2022, if you had been absent on extended COVID-19 Special Leave with Pay up to 30 June, and remain medically unfit for work after that date, you will be subject to the normal terms of the Sick Leave Scheme.
If you were absent immediately prior to 1 July on extended Special Leave with Pay, and were found fit by Medmark to return directly after this date, but were subsequently absent on sick leave at the start of the 2022/23 school year, the summer closure must be recorded as sick leave by the employer.
However, your employer can refer you to Medmark for an assessment, to determine whether the summer closure can be excluded from your sick leave record, based on your specific medical circumstances.
The Occupational Health Service, Medmark, should have engaged with you over the summer, and provided you with either a future date of medical fitness to work, or a date for a further medical review.
The period from 1 July until you are confirmed as fit to work will be recorded as sick leave, and the normal terms of the sick leave scheme will apply, as set out in Chapter One of circular 54/2019.
The terms of the teachers’ sick leave scheme are set out in Chapter One of circular 54/2019, and there is further information on the INTO website, here.
You will need to continue to provide your school with medical certificates, which may cover a period of up to one month, subject to school policy.
On sick leave, teachers who pay Class A PRSI, are required to claim Illness Benefit from the DSP whenever they are absent on sick leave for more than three consecutive days, excluding Sundays.
This claim is made using an IB1 and MED1 form, obtained from your GP.
An IB1 can also be submitted online through MyWelfare, if you have a MyGovID account. For an online application, your doctor will need to submit a Certificate of Incapacity electronically to the DSP.
You should ensure your bank details are correct on your IB1, as the benefit payment will issue directly to you, the absent teacher, and Primary Payroll will adjust your salary during your absence.
If you are ineligible for Illness Benefit, or if it is being paid at a reduced rate, you should notify payroll, and the salary adjustment will be corrected.
A phased return from extended COVID-19 leave – where you could remain on Special Leave with Pay for part of the week and return to work for part of the week – was never available.
However, this arrangement does exist within the terms of the sick leave scheme. See Partial Return to Work, Circular 54/2019, Chapter One, part 14 for full details.
Under the terms of circular 38/2022, if you were absent on extended COVID-19 Special Leave with Pay up to 30 June and remain medically unfit for work after that date, you will be subject to the normal terms of the Sick Leave Scheme from 1 July until you are deemed fit to return to work.
If you are on sick leave, the normal terms of the Partial Return to Work will be available to you, if this is deemed medically appropriate.
A Partial Return to Work is not an automatic entitlement, must be agreed in consultation with Medmark and your employer. It can be facilitated for a maximum period of one term, and you must be assessed by Medmark as being fit to return for at least two days per week in order to commence a Partial Return to Work.

Caring responsibilities related to COVID-19

The current public health advice here does not require a household close contact of a person with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 to restrict their movements or to self-isolate, therefore special leave with pay will not be available in these circumstances.
If you need to take leave to care for your child, you have access to five days of Family Illness Leave per school year.
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.

Still have questions?

Submit your query by email to INTO. Please include your payroll or membership number.