Friday, 16 October 2020
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
John McGahon (Fine Gael)
The Cathaoirleach is the guy with the experience on the Capitol, that is for sure. I raise the concept of teachers who are considered to be extremely high risk, due to medical issues, and who continue to have to work in our schools. I spoke with a teacher in my home county, Louth, during the week and again this morning as I drove to this House. She is based in a part of County Louth where she is dealing with students who are coming from Dublin, County Meath and County Louth, so that is three different geographical areas. Unfortunately, a couple of years ago, she had to have a serious operation that involved having part of her lung removed. She is considered high risk medically and she now has to take sick leave. That sick leave will naturally affect the number of days that she is allowed to take over four years. She will have to pay tax on the sick leave too, so there will be double taxation. One can compare this with other teachers in the severely high risk category who are allowed to leave on a full Covid payment. It is not her fault or the school's fault.
The reason for it is Circular 0049/2020 issued by the Department of Education and Skills, which sets out defined limits regarding what is considered to be severely high risk. We have all been told that we have to work from home when we are considerably high risk, but this individual has to take sick leave because she is so high risk. She works with children with learning disabilities in our school and, therefore, she has to have close contact with those students. There is no concept of her being able to socially distance. The Irish National Teachers' Organisation asks that boards of management be given the means to discharge teachers who are high risk but that puts boards of management in an unfair position because they are not medical doctors. I would like Circular 0049/2020 to be re-examined. This only affects a small number of high risk teachers. It is not fair that they are being forced to take sick leave as a result of a circular and the definitions that the Government has sent around.