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Changes to certified sick leave arrangements for teachers will come into effect from September 1, 2014, it has been confirmed.
From September 1, 2014, ‘ordinary’ sick leave will be limited to 3 months on full pay and 3 months on half pay over a rolling four-year period. Teachers with ‘critical’ illnesses will be limited to 6 months on full pay and 6 months on half pay over a rolling four-year period. The period of paid sick leave may be followed by TRP (Temporary Rehabilitation Pay) for up to 12 months. TRP is roughly equal to the pension a teacher might have been eligible to if they had retired.
While the new arrangements will be implemented from September 1st, 2014 teachers should be mindful that because a four-year rolling period applies, sick leave taken prior to September 1st may impact on their remaining sick leave allowance.
The issue of what constitutes ‘critical illness’ is being referred to the Labour Court for further determination. It’s likely to include ‘acute life threatening illness’, ‘chronic progressive illness’, ‘major physical trauma’ etc.
Significant changes to public service sick leave arrangements are to be implemented following a dispute on the issue between public sector unions and the State as employer. The ASTI opposed the changes originally proposed as unnecessary.
A binding Labour Court decision recommending changes to teachers’ sick leave entitlements was issued on July 19.
The changes, which were opposed by the ASTI, affect all public servants’ sick leave entitlements. Please Click here for a summary of the new arrangements.
Following intense representations by the public sector unions, the Labour Court has decided that backdating for the new uncertified leave/ self-certified leave arrangements will apply from August 1st 2012.
The original date proposed for backdating was 28 September 2011 and was opposed by the public sector unions. The announcement means that teachers can discount any uncertified leave taken prior to August 1st 2012 when they are calculating their entitlement. For full details on circular letter 0036/2012 please click here.
The Labour Court has recommended a phased move to new self-certified (uncertified) sick leave arrangements which allow for 7 self-certified sick leave days in a rolling two-year period.
All teachers will be able to take up to 7 days self-certified sick leave permitted in the period from 1 August 2012 until 31 July 2014.
After that time each teacher will have a personal rolling 2 year period counting backwards from the date of their latest self-certified sick leave. The maximum number of self-certified sick leave days allowable in that 2 year period will be 7.
Talks regarding the backdating of certified sick leave, under the new certified sick leave arrangements, will begin shortly. Members are advised that certified sick leave taken before September 1st, 2014 may impact on their sick leave entitlements in the future.
For information on the new sick leave arrangements for teachers click here.
A new Occupational Health Strategy has been put in place as a supportive resource for teachers. The aim of this strategy is to promote the health of teachers in their workplace, with a focus primarily on prevention rather than cure. The Occupational Health Strategy comprises of the Employee Assistance Service and the Occupational Health Service for teachers and was introduced as a result of extensive negotiations and consultation between the teachers unions, the management bodies and the Department of Education and Skills.
The purpose of the Employee Assistance Service (EAS) is to provide teachers and their immediate family members with easy access to confidential counselling and to assist in coping with the effect of personal and work related issues such as health, relationships, bereavement, stress, conflict, critical incident and trauma. The service is available to teachers whose positions are funded by the Department of Education and Skills, their spouses or partners, their dependents above the age of 16 and mother / father where appropriate.
Carecall Wellbeing has been contracted by the Department of Education and Skills to deliver the Employee Assistance Service. Through the EAS, counselling services are available from a range of professional counsellors and psychotherapists.
The following services are available:
The EAS staff follow ethics and codes of practice and are bound by the Irish Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP). This means that any contact remains confidential.
To access the service, phone freephone number 1800 411057. This service is available 24 hours a day / 365 days a year.
An employer has a duty under Section 8 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 to “ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the safety, health and welfare at work of his or her employees”. The Occupational Health Service has been put in place to assist the employer in carrying out this duty.
The Department of Education and Skills has appointed Medmark Limited, a company specialising in occupational medicine, to provide an Occupational Health Service for the 55,000 teachers in the Republic of Ireland. This company has a team of 12 physicians in centres in Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway. Medmark states that its operating philosophy is as set out for occupational health by the World Health Organisation:
The Medmark office administering the Occupational Health Service for Teachers is located at 28 Penrose Wharf, Cork City. More information on the company and its services can be found at www.medmark4teachers.ie
The Occupational Health Service incorporates pre-employment health assessments, sickness absence referrals, medical assessments of fitness for work and ill health retirement assessments.
Successful candidates for teaching positions are required to complete a medical questionnaire which is sent by the teacher to Medmark. This questionnaire is standard and asks a range of questions about a teacher’s medical history. Based on this, a small percentage of teachers will be required to present for a comprehensive examination at a venue agreed with Medmark. The Occupational Health Service report, which will be issued to the employer, will state that the teacher either is or is not medically fit for the position. If, in the view of Medmark, physical adjustments or other reasonable accommodations can be made to the workplace in order to facilitate the teacher, such recommendations will be made.
A new circular on the Occupational Health Service has been issued by the Department of Education & Skills to which the following applies:
· With effect from February 1st 2013, any teacher who has 4 weeks continuous or 12 weeks cumulative sick leave in a 12 month rolling period must be referred to the Occupational Health Service
· With effect from January 1st 2014, any teacher on sick leave who has 4 weeks continuous or cumulative sick leave in a 12 month rolling period must be referred to the Occupational Health Service. For full details on circular 0004/2013 please click here.
A revised OHS Standard Operating Procedures Manual to assist employers in accessing the service is also available by clicking here.
Also, where an employer has concerns regarding a teacher’s medical fitness to work, they may refer the teacher to Medmark. In the past, schools or the Department had the authority to refer a teacher to a physician chosen by the school or the Department but they must now use Medmark who, as practitioners in occupational health, will decide whether or not a medical examination is required, e.g. in situations where the reasons for a particular teacher’s ill health or absence are clearly evident, a medical examination would not be required. The outcome of any medical examination will be treated as totally confidential with the employer being advised only on whether a teacher is medically fit or unfit for work.
If a teacher is referred to the Occupational Health Service by their employer they must co-operate fully with Medmark, the service provider. Co-operation may include attending for a medical examination with a doctor specified by Medmark, and / or arranging for a comprehensive doctor to doctor report. Failure, without reasonable cause, to co-operate with the Occupation Health Service on the basis of a referral by the employer may result in cessation / withholding of salary.
A period of illness is defined as any period in which a teacher is medically unfit to carry out his / her normal teaching duties irrespective of whether the employing school is open for normal business or not. The granting of sick leave to a teacher is intended to provide an adequate opportunity for that teacher to recover from the illness and its effects so that she / he may make an early return to work without a likelihood of a relapse into illness. Sick leave may be granted to a teacher who is unable to perform his / her duties because of illness, injury or medical conditions relating to pregnancy / childbirth or when absent for the purpose of obtaining health-related services, e.g. doctor / dentist provided such appointments could not have been arranged outside of regular working hours or working days.
Where a teacher is absent on sick leave before and after a period of school closure, e.g. summer holidays, the teacher will be deemed to be on sick leave for the whole duration unless the teacher provides a medical certificate of fitness to resume teaching prior to or during the period of school closure and the advice of the Occupational Health Service as to the teacher’s fitness for duty has been obtained as to whether the school closure period or any part thereof might be discounted.
In exceptional circumstances where it is necessary for a teacher, with Management approval, to be absent from class teaching for periods of less than a full school day, e.g. attendance at medical appointments, the period of absence will be recorded at school level. Details of the absence will be retained by the Management. These details will include the nature and duration of the absence. Teachers are also advised to keep their own record of such absences. The Department of Education and Skills database will be developed to provide for the identification of these absences as partial absences in the future but until then any absence of this nature will be marked down as one full day of sick leave.
For the purpose of the reckoning of these absences each school day is 4 hours and 24 minutes (i.e. 22 hours divided by 5).
The Department of Education and Skills are prepared to take account of these exceptional partial absences as recorded and certified by the Management as owing to illness in the calculation of the paid sick leave arrangements that currently apply to teachers in voluntary secondary and community and comprehensive schools.
A teacher who is notified of the level of sick leave absences, where paid sick leave arrangements are about to run out, may request the Department to take cognisance of these partial absences as recorded and retained by the Board of Management. The Department of Education and Skills will make the appropriate adjustment to the level of sick leave absences where warranted.
Under the Sick Leave Scheme for Registered Teachers in Primary and Post Primary Schools the paid sick leave which can be granted to teachers who are employed in permanent wholetime incrementally paid positions in Voluntary Secondary Schools, Community Schools and Community Colleges is limited to a maximum of 365 days of absence in any period of four consecutive years of teaching service.
In calculating the 365 days absence both certified and uncertified sick leave will be counted. For example, if a teacher is absent on sick leave on a Friday and on the following Monday this will be counted as four days of sick leave out of the 365 day entitlement, i.e. Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. When considering whether a medical certificate is required it should be noted that only school days of absence are counted, i.e. you can be absent on the Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday and this is counted as four school days of absence. If a teacher is absent on sick leave for the month of May right up to the summer holidays and if the teacher is absent for the following month of September the Department may record this as five months of sick leave.
Paid sick leave is limited to a maximum of 365 days in any period of four consecutive years of teaching service, i.e. a teacher should count the number of days of illness (including weekends or holidays if relevant) in the past four years of service, counting back four consecutive calendar years from the current date. Periods of sick leave which occurred more than four years ago are not counted.
On request the Department will forward to a teacher an up to date listing of the number of days recorded as "absent due to illness". A list may also be obtained from the school using the Online Claims Systems.
A job-sharing teacher who is absent from duty because of personal illness, may retain eligibility for incremental salary in respect of a maximum of 365 days absence in any period of four consecutive years of teaching service subject to the conditions listed:
Non-casual part-time teachers (employed for over 150 hours in a school year) and who have a fixed-term contract of employment also have an entitlement to paid sick leave not exceeding 91 days in any school year. This entitlement is pro-rata to the service capable of being given from commencement date to the end of the school year.
Casual part-time, hourly paid, teachers have no formal entitlement to sick leave payment. Casual part-time teachers may, after three days of absence, be eligible for payment of Social Welfare Sickness Benefits during absences due to illness although this is dependent on the fulfilment of certain contribution qualifying conditions.
To be acceptable, a medical certificate must
Medical certificates should be supplied to the Principal of the school who will input the details on to the Online Claims System.
A teacher who is absent from work on certified sick leave on a public holiday within the first 26 weeks of a sick leave period is entitled to leave in lieu in respect of the public holiday. The leave in lieu should be taken directly after the period of sick leave, or, in exceptional circumstances, at a subsequent date with the agreement of the employer.
Eligible teachers may take a maximum of four consecutive school days sick leave without providing a medical certificate. From January 6th 2014 class A PRSI contributors must submit the MC1 Social Welfare Certificate to the Department of Education and Skills/ VEC/ETB after more than 6 days of sick leave for referral to the Department of Social Protection. This is a change from before where the MC1 was submitted after 3 days of absence. The MC1 provides illness benefit payment from the Department of Social Protection, but as the Department of Education & Skills provide paid sick leave, the illness benefit payment will be paid to them instead. In order for this to be possible, upon completion of the form, the MC1 should be forwarded to the Department of Education & Skills Payroll Section who will in turn complete the account details section and return it to the Department of Social Protection on your behalf. For your benefit the MC1 for is required for PRSI compliance. The form is available from your doctor.
For the purpose of counting the 6 days it is worthy to note that the Department of Social & Protection has a 6 day week stemming from Monday to Saturday. This means that where a class A teacher is absent on a Friday and a Monday that will be considered 3 days towards the 6 day requirement for the purpose of fulfilling the MC1 requirement.
The maximum number of self certified sick leave days allowable in a 2 year rolling period is 7. Eligible teachers may take a maximum of 3 consecutive school days sick leave without providing a medical certificate. In the case of Class A PRSI contributors the MC1 Social Welfare Certificate must be submitted to the Department of Education and Skills/ VEC/ETB after more than 6 days of sick leave for referral to the Department of Social and Protection. This is required for PRSI compliance. The form is available from your doctor.
For the purpose of counting the 6 days it is worthy to note that the Department of Social Protection has a 6 day week stemming from Monday to Saturday. This means that where a class A teacher is absent on a Friday and a Monday that will be considered 3 days towards the required 6 for the purpose of fulfilling the MC1 requirement.
The maximum number of uncertified sick leave days allowable in a school year is
Any teacher who is absent due to illness must notify their employer as early as possible on the first day of absence. The teacher should, where possible, indicate the likely duration of the absence.
A teacher who has applied for or who has commenced her additional unpaid maternity leave and who subsequently becomes ill, may cancel the application or opt not to continue the additional unpaid maternity leave and may instead apply for sick leave. The employer and the teacher must agree the date of termination of additional unpaid maternity leave and the teacher will not be entitled subsequently to take the additional unpaid maternity leave or any part of it not taken at the time of commence of sick leave.
A teacher who has exhausted his / her entitlement to the maximum period of paid sick leave, who is deemed medically unfit to resume duties and who wishes to have their position held open must apply to his / her employer for a further period of unpaid sick leave within which she / he must resume teaching if certified as fit to do so. This period of unpaid leave shall not exceed 2 years from the date of expiration of paid sick leave.
A teacher who believes that he or she is permanently medically unfit for work has the option to apply for early retirement on grounds of ill-health. Medical evidence supporting the teacher’s case must be sent to Medmark. It is in the teacher’s interest that this evidence is comprehensive, addressing diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. Medmark will arrange for a medical assessment and a recommendation will be issued to the Department of Education and Science. In exceptional cases, a decision may be made without the need for the teacher to attend for assessment. A panel of agreed medical referees comprising of registered medical practitioners who are suitably qualified to assess medical fitness for work is being established and where a teacher is refused retirement on the grounds of ill-health he or she can appeal the decision by choosing a member of this panel of referees and attending for further assessment.
Teachers who intend applying for Disability Pension should in the first instance contact ASTI Head Office for advice on the range of retirement options and procedures open to teachers. For successful application, the teachers will have to provide medical evidence that he/she is unable to teach by reason of an incapacity which is likely to be permanent. It is essential therefore that the teacher's doctor and / or medical consultant be willing to provide comprehensive supporting medical evidence. This information will be provided on a confidential doctor to doctor basis.Application for disability pension is normally made when the teacher who intends retiring has approximately two to three months paid sick leave remaining. Application forms are available from the Pension Section, Department of Education and Science, Athlone (09064-74621). The teacher may be required to attend for a comprehensive medical examination by an appropriate medical consultant appointed Medmark the Occupational Heath Service provider. The teacher should seek advice on the likely nature of this examination from his / her own General Practitioner or Medical Consultant / Specialist. The examining consultant will make a recommendation to Medmark and a decision will be made whether or not the incapacity is likely to be permanent. The award of a disability pension is made by the Department of Education and Science on the basis of the recommendation of Medmark. In certain circumstances this decision may be appealed by the teacher.
It is most unusual for a teacher who has retired on disability pension to return to teaching work. Such a return to Department paid teaching work would require specific approval. The continued payment of a disability pension to a teacher who is under 50 years of age is subject to review whereby Medmark may request an update on the teacher's state of health.
The level of pension benefit and gratuity depends on the number of pensionable years which the teacher has accumulated and is paid as a percentage of the teacher's pre-retirement salary. To be eligible for any benefit under the disability pension scheme the teacher must of course be a member of the teachers' Superannuation Scheme. Benefits are paid as follows:
(a) Less than five years' membership of the Superannuation Scheme:
A teacher with Less than five Years' Membership of the Superannuation Scheme is not eligible to receive any disability pension but may be eligible for a once off payment of a limited disablement gratuity based on the number of years' service.
e.g. a teacher in the scheme on a salary of €42,000 who retires on grounds of ill health after four years' service would receive a gratuity of €20,300.
(b) Minimum of five and less than 10 years' membership of the Superannuation Scheme:
A teacher with a minimum of five and less than 10 years' membership of the Superannuation Scheme is eligible to receive a disability pension based on double the amount of years in the scheme so long as this amount does not exceed what the teacher would have attained had the teacher stayed in employment until compulsory retirement age (65 years).
e.g. a teacher aged 33 with nine years in the scheme on a salary of €51,000 would receive a disability pension of 18/80 of salary, i.e. €11,475 and a tax free lump sum of 54/80 of salary, i.e. €34,425.
(c) Minimum of 10 and less than 20 years' membership of the Superannuation Scheme:
A teacher with a minimum of 10 and less than 20 years' membership of the Superannuation Scheme is eligible to receive a disability pension based on the more favourable of the following two options:
i) an added amount of 62/3 years but not more than the teacher would have had at age 60, or
ii) the difference between the number of pensionable years the teacher has and 20 years, subject to the total service not exceeding potential service to compulsory retirement age (65 years).
e.g. a teacher aged 36 with 12 years in the scheme on a salary of €54,000 would receive a disability pension of 20/80 of salary, i.e. €13,500 and a tax-free lump sum of 60/80 of salary, i.e. €40,500.
(d) 20 Years or More of Membership of the Superannuation Scheme:
A teacher with 20 years or more of membership of the Superannuation Scheme is eligible to receive disability pension based on an addition of 62/3 years to the number of years that the teacher is in the Superannuation Scheme provided that the total number of years does not exceed the amount of pensionable service which the teacher would have had by age 60.
e.g. a teacher aged 50 with 27 years in the scheme on a salary of €65,000 would receive 62/3 added years leading to a disability pension of 332/3 eightieths of salary, i.e. €27,083 and a tax free lump sum of 101/80 of salary, i.e. €82,062.
How the Scheme Works
The ASTI has negotiated for its members a Salary Protection and Death Benefit Scheme designed to ensure continuity of income in the event of the retirement of a teacher on grounds of ill health. The brokers for the scheme are Cornmarket Brokers Limited and the current underwriters are Eagle Star Life Insurance Company of Ireland Limited. Over 7,000 ASTI members enjoy the financial security that membership of the scheme brings.
Membership of the Salary Protection Scheme provides a teacher who is forced to retire because of serious illness with a "top-up" on his/her retirement pension giving a total of 75% of pre-disability salary. This scheme has been in operation for ASTI members for over 25 years and many teachers and their families have benefited from this scheme. A death benefit of 24 times monthly salary is payable to the estate of deceased members of the scheme.
Joining the Scheme
ASTI members can join the Salary Protection Scheme by applying directly to Cornmarket Brokers, Christchurch Square, Dublin 8 (01-4084000). Applicants may be required to attend for a medical examination. Retired members of this scheme may join the Retired Members' Life Cover Plan which provides for the payment of a tax free lump sum on death.
Cost of Membership
2.31% of gross salary deducted at source by Department of Education and Science each fortnight. A teacher earning €45,000 per annum will contribute €19.92 per week gross. The rate of contribution of 2.31% of gross monthly salary provides four distinct benefits - disability benefit at 1.79% of gross salary, pension protection at 0.16% of gross salary and a death benefit at 0.31% of gross monthly salary. In addition, the medical immunity benefit which costs 0.05% allows existing members of the Salary Protection Scheme to join the Retired Teachers Life Cover Scheme when they retire - without having to undergo the medical examination normally required.
Tax Relief on Premium
In accordance with regulations laid down by the Revenue Commissioners under Section 8 of the 1979 Finance Act, tax relief is granted on the contribution going towards salary protection. There is no tax relief for the life insurance contribution though benefits remain tax free.
Paid sick leave for permanent wholetime teachers is limited to a maximum of 52 weeks in any period of four consecutive years. Teachers who are forced to retire due to serious ill health after 52 weeks of paid sick leave and whose claim for a disability pension has been approved by the Department are paid a disability pension provided they are members of the teachers' superannuation scheme. As the Department's disability pension is based on the number of years of membership of the superannuation scheme, a teacher may experience a serious income reduction. Membership of the Salary Protection Scheme guarantees teachers an income of 75% of their pre-retirement salary by "topping up" their disability pension. This "topping up" continues until age 60 from which point the teacher continues to receive the Department disability pension only. Salary Protection Scheme benefits increase by 5% per annum or the increase in the consumer price index, whichever is the lesser.
e.g. A teacher aged 50 on a salary of €42,000 who has been a member of the Superannuation Scheme for 20 years and who is eligible for Department disability pension would receive a Department disability pension of 262/3 eightieths of salary, i.e. €13,999 per annum. Salary Protection benefit would add a further €17,500 per annum giving a combined income of €31,499 per annum.
In 2005 a new benefit in the Salary Protection Scheme was introduced whereby in certain circumstances and depending on medical evidence a member may be eligible to received a temporary 75% of salary benefit from the scheme where the member's illness is temporary in nature and where the member has exhausted the 365 day entitlement to paid sick leave.
The Salary Protection Scheme is reviewed every few years in the light of experience. The precise terms and benefits may vary as a consequence of such reviews.