Written answers

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Department of Education and Skills

Covid-19 Pandemic

Photo of Cathal CroweCathal Crowe (Clare, Fianna Fail)
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116. To ask the Minister for Education and Skills if she and her officials will examine the case of a person (details supplied) for Covid-19 leave; and if she will intervene on their behalf. [59295/21]

Photo of Norma FoleyNorma Foley (Kerry, Fianna Fail)
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The most up to date guidance in respect of pregnant employees, for the education sector was published by the in July 2021 and authored by the Civil Service Chief Medical Officer, Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Public Health Medicine in HSE and Medmark Occupational Healthcare (OHS). As with all other guidelines around public health measures, my Department has been led by expert medical advice provided by the Government through the HSE and other relevant public bodies. In the particular case of advice around pregnant employees, this advice was prepared in consultation with the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, the national professional and training body for Obstetrics and Gynaecology in Ireland, as well as other medical and public health professionals.

The HSE guidance for the education sector confirm that pregnant teachers can safely attend the workplace in school where all the infection prevention and control measures are in place by implementation of the School COVID-19 Response Plan. This is the case whether or not the pregnant teacher has been vaccinated.  

All teachers apply to the Occupational Health Service (OHS) before the end of their first trimester, so that their individual medical circumstances can be assessed in the context of COVID-19. Those with underlying medical conditions may be categorised as ‘Very High Risk’ and be facilitated to work remotely i.e. work from home.  The COVID-19 health risk categorisation assessments are performed by a team of qualified and experienced specialists in occupational medicine. Available medical evidence, including reports from treating consultants as well as vaccination status of teachers, are considered during the OHS COVID-19 health risk categorisation assessment process.For a pregnant teacher, from 14 weeks gestation and categorised as ‘High Risk’ by the OHS who works in a special education setting, she may in certain circumstances be exposed to a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and may be facilitated to work outside of the special education classroom.

A teacher who considers the OHS ‘COVID-19 Health Risk Categorisation Report’ places them in an incorrect risk category, may request a review.  The OHS will re-evaluate the medical evidence provided. The teacher may provide additional medical evidence as part of the review process. Based on the documentation you have provided, a COVID-19 health risk categorisation assessment was carried out by the OHS on the teacher in question and she was not categorised as ‘Very High Risk’, including following a review.

It is of course open to the teacher to discuss their individual medical concerns with their own medical team. Where their treating consultant has concerns over their fitness to work due to a pregnancy-related illness, then the terms and conditions of the Sick Leave Scheme (pregnancy related illness provisions) may apply, outside of the very specific COVID-19 health risk categorisation assessment by the OHS referred to above.

My Department’s details the current working arrangements and leave arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic for teachers and special needs assistants employed in recognised primary and post primary schools.


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