COVID-19: Teachers and SNAs to Help Deliver Essential Public Services?
31 March 2020
On 27 March 2020 the Minister for Education and Skills issued Circular 24/2020. It directs Boards of Management to implement the special arrangements to cater for COVID-19 for teachers and special needs assistants (SNAs) employed in approved posts funded by the Oireachtas. These special arrangements are to be implemented by each employer with immediate effect and all teachers and SNAs must adhere to the special arrangements.
At this remove, however, and until further clarification is provided by the Department, it is unclear what the special arrangements will entail.
The main purpose of the Circular is to advise employers of the arrangements during the delay phase for employees who have:
Symptoms of COVID-19 and have been advised by the HSE/doctor to self-isolate to prevent the spread of the virus
No symptoms of COVID-19 but are a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case or have returned from another country and have been advised by the HSE/doctor to restrict his/her movements to prevent the spread of the virus
A high risk of serious illness from COVID-19
Pay and leave
The arrangements for pay and leave are set out in the circular and attached to it is a Self-Declaration Form. This form is to be used when employees apply for COVID-19 Special Leave with pay for self-isolation.
However, it is the provisions relating to Temporary Assignment which will have a particular impact on Boards of Management as employers of teachers and SNAs. Section 10 provides as follows:
In accordance with DPER guidance, all public servants who are not medically advised to self-isolate must be available to carry out work either to deliver services within their own sector, as a priority, or for temporary assignment within the wider public service.
Boards of Management will be asked to determine which of their employees will provide educational services to their pupils. Any employee who is not required to be retained in providing educational services will therefore be available to be assigned on a temporary basis to support delivery of other essential public services. This temporary assignment will be managed on a structured, centralised basis through this Department and the Public Appointments Service.
The Circular makes it clear that failure to abide with the special arrangements set out may be dealt with under the current disciplinary procedures.
It also provides that further details on the practical arrangements for temporary assignment will be advised to Boards of Management shortly.
Once further details are advised, there may be some measures that will require Boards of Management to make decisions relating to the employment of teachers and SNAs. Boards of Management will have to decide whether or not employees are providing educational services. While teachers are continuing to provide educational services to their students remotely, Circular 30/2014 stipulates that the role of an SNA is to support teachers in assisting with care needs. It may happen that those employees may be reassigned to support other essential public services, for example, caring for the elderly.
For more information on this development, contact a member of our Education team.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.