Wednesday, 24 March 2021
Department of Education and Skills
Special Educational Needs Staff
947. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills the reason pregnant special needs assistants are being denied the health and safety leave available to their teacher colleagues (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15797/21]
Under Section 18 of the Maternity Protection Act 1994, an employee who is pregnant or breastfeeding may be granted Maternity Health and Safety Leave from her employment where, following a risk assessment, a risk has been identified, which is not possible to remove from the work environment and where it is not possible to move the SNA to suitable alternative work.
In relation to remuneration, Section 18(4) of the Act states:
‘For the first 21 days of leave granted to an employee by an employer under this section in any relevant period, the employee shall be entitled to receive from the employer remuneration of an amount determined in accordance with regulations.’
Therefore, in line with legislation my Department’s Maternity Leave Circular Letter 27/2013 for SNAs states the following at paragraph 10.7 regarding Health and Safety Leave entitlement:
'A special needs assistant will be entitled to full salary for the first 21 days while on health and safety leave.'
The Maternity Leave Scheme for teachers contained in my Department’s Circular Letter 54/2019 states the following at paragraph 13.7 regarding Health and Safety Leave entitlement:
'A teacher who makes PRSI contributions at the modified rate (Class D), and has no entitlement to Health and Safety Benefit from the DEASP, will be entitled to full pay while on Health and Safety Leave. A teacher who makes PRSI contributions at the full rate (Class A) and who is entitled to Health and Safety Benefit from the DEASP will be paid full salary by the Paymaster for the first 21 days and thereafter will be paid full salary less any benefit paid by DEASP HSB1 Form.'
The terms and conditions of employment of teachers, who are paid out of monies provided by the Oireachtas, are a matter for the Teachers' Conciliation Council (TCC). This Council is comprised of representatives of the teacher unions, school management bodies, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, and the Department of Education chaired by an Official of the Workplace Relations Commission. The non-statutory Maternity Health and Safety Leave entitlements for teachers were agreed under the auspices of the TCC.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) has recently published guidance for the education sector in respect of pregnant employees. My Department is currently seeking clarifications from the HSE on this guidance. When my Department has considered the HSE clarifications, any changes to the current working arrangements for pregnant SNAs will be communicated to employers. In the meantime, a pregnant SNA should temporarily continue to work remotely i.e. working from home as detailed in my Department’s Information Note 0008/2021 for post primary SNAs and Information Note TC 0011/2021 for primary SNAs.