Sick Leave Scheme - Circular Letter 0054/2019 - Chapter 1
Sick Leave Scheme for Registered Teachers
Teachers are entitled to self-certified and certified sick leave. Certified sick leave is divided into “ordinary illness” leave and “critical illness” leave. Ordinary illness is any illness which is not regarded as critical illness. Critical illness is a serious illness or physical injury which results in the teacher being seriously debilitated. Teachers may also be entitled to a period of Temporary Rehabilitation Remuneration or TRR at the end of paid sick leave entitlement (see below).
Self-certified Sick Leave
Teachers have an entitlement to seven days paid self-certified sick leave over a two year rolling period (previously called uncertified sick leave). Self-certified sick leave is subject to certain criteria. A teachers’ self-certified sick leave is included when calculating entitlements to ordinary illness leave and critical illness leave.
Requirement for Medical Certificate / Social Welfare Certificate (IB1 and Med 1)
Eligible teachers may take a maximum of 4 consecutive school days sick leave without providing a medical certificate in Secondary, Community and Comprehensive schools and in the case of ETBs 3 consecutive days may be taken before presenting a medical cert. In the case of Class A PRSI contributors the IB1 Social Welfare Certificate must be submitted directly to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) after more than 6 days of sick leave. The illness benefit will be paid directly to the teacher by DEASP.
Please refer to the following information note for revised method for claiming illness benefit
Certified Sick Leave
A teacher who is absent from duty because of personal illness or injury may be granted paid ordinary sick leave as follows:
- A maximum of three months (92 days) fully paid in a year.
- Followed by a maximum of three months (91 days) on half pay.
This is subject to a maximum of six months (183) days paid sick leave in a rolling four year period.
A teacher who becomes incapacitated as a result of critical illness or serious physical injury may be granted extended paid sick leave, subject to specific criteria as follows:
- A maximum of six months (183 days) on full pay in a year.
- Followed by a maximum of six months (182 days) on half pay.
This is subject to a maximum of 12 months (365 days) paid sick leave in a rolling four year period. If a teacher has an ordinary illness within a 12-month period of the date of return to work following the critical illness, the critical illness provisions will apply.
Applying for Critical Illness Provisions (CIP)
In determining whether a teacher may be granted access to CIP the following protocol must be followed:
- The employee must apply to his/her employer for access to CIP on the "Employee Application form for CIP".
- Upon receipt of the Employee Application For CIP, the employer must initiate a referral to the OHS by logging onto www.medmark4teachersna.ie and complete the "Occupational Health Referral" form
- The employer must scan the employee's completed Employee Application For CIP and attach it to the employer's online "Occupational Health Referral" Form.
- Upon completion of this referral, the employer will receive a unique CIP Referral Number which will be required in the case of the employer entering absences on the OLCS.
- A copy of the completed CIP Referral Form must be made available to the employee.
- The employee must also submit within an appropriate timeframe a completed report from ther treating consultant directly to the OHS.
- Upon receipt and examination of the Occupational Heath Referral form and the consultants medical report, the OHS will advise the employer by way of a report if, in their opinion, the employee is medically fit/unfit to return to his/her current duties or modified duties and whether he/she fullfils the medical criteria for award of CIP.
For full details on CIP protocol please refer to circular letter 0054/2019 - Sick leave Scheme - Chapter1 -pages 29-33
Details of the Medical Criteria for the award of CIP are as follows;
- Acute life threatening physical illness
- Chronic progressive illness with well established potential to reduce life expectancy
- Major physical trauma requiring corrective acute operative surgical treatment
- Inpatient hospital care of two consecutive weeks or greater (two consecutive days in the case of pregnancy related illness)
Managerial Discretion Guidelines for the award of CIP
The grounds for granting CIP on the basis of medical certification are quite narrow and there will be cases which involve quite serious illness, injuries or conditions, which may deserve CIP, but do not fall within the medical criteria (detailed above).
In such cases employers are allowed to exercise discretion and grant CIP after considering the information provided and the circumstance of the case.
It is intended that the granting of CIP on Managerial Discretion will only be warranted in serious and/or exceptional cases.
The decision is the employers decision, but the employer can seek guidance from the occupational physician on medical issues.
What must the employer establish?
- That there are "exceptional circumstances"
- That those exceptional circumstances relate to the illness,injury or condition of the employee, and
- That those exceptional circumstances warrant the granting of CIP
What should the employer consider?
The employer should consider the following three sources of information:
- The Medical CIP report
- Relevant information from the employee
- Relevant human resources information and professional judgement
For further information on Managerial Discretion Guidelines please refer to circular letter 0054/2019 - Sick Leave Scheme - Chapter 1 pages 37-41
Temporary Rehabilitation Remuneration (TRR)
Where the relevant period of sick leave has been exhausted, a teacher ;
- Who is a member of a pre-existing pension scheme, with a minimum of 5 years service (in a pensionable position either in a whole-time or part-time capacity) at the end of the period of paid sick leave, may be granted TRR, subject to certain conditions.
- Who is a member of the Single Public Service Pension Scheme and has completed the 2 year vesting period (in a pensionable position either in a whole-time or part-time capacity) at the end of the period of sick leave, may be granted TRR, subject to certain conditions.
TRR will be calculated;
In the case of a member of a pre-existing pension scheme based on;
- Pensionable pay, and
- Paid pensionable service accrued in the employment at the time the paid sick leave was exhausted, together with the added years which would be awarded if ill health retirement were granted.
In a case of a member of the Single Public Service Pension Scheme based on;
- Referable amounts accrued in accordance with the provisions of the Single Pension Scheme at the time paid Sick Leave was exhausted and
- The enhancement of benefits as provided for in regulations.
It is also important to note that the granting of TRR is subject to the following conditions:
- The period during which TRR is paid is not a period of pensionable service.
- The granting of TRR will be conditional at all times on the Occupational Health Service confirming that there is a reasonable prospect of recovery and return to work.
- TRR will not exceed 18 months (548 days) in the case of ordinary illness.
- TRR will not exceed 24 months (730 days) in the case of critical illness (subject to six monthly reviews)
Unpaid Sick Leave
A teacher, who is certified medically unfit by the OHS to resume duty after all paid Sick Leave entitlements have been exhausted, must notify their employer in writing if they intend to avail of a period of unpaid Sick Leave and retain their position in the school/ETB Scheme during this period.
For teachers who don’t qualify for TRR, the period of unpaid Sick Leave will not normally exceed the TRR limits. In considering any extension to the Unpaid Sick Leave entitlements, employers must seek the advice of the OHS on the teacher's prospect of recovery and return to work.
The granting of unpaid Sick Leave is conditional at all times on the OHS confirming that there is a reasonable prospect of recovery and return to work.
Calculation of Brief Absences
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 for medical reasons, e.g. attendance at medical appointments, the actual 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. These absences are then accumulated and counted in blocks of one school day.
For the purpose of the reckoning of these absences each school day is 4 hours and 40 minutes (i.e. 22 hours divided by 5).
The Department of Education and Skills is 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.
A teacher who is notified of the level of sick leave absences 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.
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.
Sick leave periods are calculated retrospectively and include weekends, school closures and days on which a teacher is not timetabled for attendance (e.g. jobsharers), occurring within the period of absence e.g.
- If a teacher is timetabled for 3 days a week eg., Monday, Wednesday and Friday and if the teacher is absent on Monday and Wednesday, then it counts as 3 days sick leave.
- If a teacher is timetabled for 4 days a week and does not work on a Wednesday and if the teacher is absent on Monday and Tuesday and back in school on Thursday then it counts as 2 days sick leave.
Casual part-time teachers
Casual part-time, hourly paid, teachers have no formal entitlement to sick leave payment. However, a Class A PRSI contributor casual part-time teacher may, after more than 6 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. Details are available from the Department of Social Protection. www.welfare.ie
To be acceptable, a medical certificate must
- state fitness to work or otherwise
- cover the full period of the absence from the date of last attendance (first day of absence from school) or from the expiry of the last medical certificate
- be signed by a duly qualified medical practitioner registered with the Irish/UK Medical/Dental Council
- normally cover a period of no more than one week. However, certification for periods of up to one month may be permitted at the discretion of the employer.
- Medical certificates should be supplied to the Principal of the school who will input the details on to the Online Claims System. The Principal retains the certificate.
Notification of Sick Leave
Any teacher who is absent due to illness must notify his/her employer as early as possible on the first day of absence. The teacher should, where possible, indicate the likely duration of the absence.
Resumption of duty
Prior to resumption of duties a teacher who is absent on paid sick leave for 4 or more continuous weeks, or absent for any period of TRR/unpaid sick leave or a shorter period where the employer has reasonable grounds for concern must submit a medical certification of fitness for duties.
Where a teacher is absent on sick leave and has not returned to duty for a reasonable period before and after a period of school closure, 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 full duties prior to or during a period of school closure and
- the advice of the OHS as to the teacher’s fitness for full duties has been obtained as to whether the school closure period or any part thereof might be discounted and
the OHS has deemed the period of return to duty to be reasonable taking into account the medical circumstances in individual cases.
Pregnancy Related Illness Provisions
If a pregnant teacher is medically unfit for work due to a pregnancy related illness and has exhausted sick leave at half pay she will continue to receive sick leave at half pay for the duration of her pregnancy-related illness. This is regardless of whether she has reached the maximum limit for half pay due to prior sick leave.
If a teacher is unfit for work following maternity leave, her access to sick leave at half-pay will be extended by the period of absence on sick leave at half pay due to pregnancy-related illness, which occurred before she went on maternity leave.
Employee Assistance Service
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:
- Face to face counselling - based upon a short term model of up to six counselling sessions.
- Single session or short term structured telephone counselling.
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.
Referral of Teachers to the Occupational Health Service
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 OHS provider, contracted by the Department, is the sole recognised provider of independent medical advice for teachers and employers. It is a requirement of the Sick Leave Scheme that all employers and teachers abide by the OHS medical assessment.
The employer must therefore refer the teacher to the OHS where;
- A teacher has been absent on Sick Leave for 4 weeks (28 days) continuous or cumulative in a 12 month rolling period.
- Reasonable concerns exist as to the capacity of the teacher to undertake his/her duties in a manner that is safe such as repeated short term sick leave absences, concerns regarding performance of duties as a result of health factors, work related factors that may be adversely affecting a teachers health or alcohol/drug related problems.
- A teacher has made an application for extended Sick leave under Critical Illness Provisions
- Reasonable Accommodation is under consideration
- Ill Health Retirement is under consideration
- A teacher is seeking the discounting of Sick leave during a period of school closure
- It is necessary to establish if the activity that the teacher has proposed to engage in during Sick leave is appropriate for his/her progress to recovery.
- Assessment of medical fitness for work is required, following an absence greater than 2 school years
- Assessment of medical fitness for work is required e.g where the teacher has been on sick leave immediately prior to commencement of Carer's Leave.
- Health and Safety leave is under consideration for a pregnant teacher
- Assessment of medical fitness for work is required when considering any extension to unpaid sick leave.
The teacher is required to cooperate and engage with the OHS. While many assessments will not require attendance, it is a matter for the OHS to decide in what circumstances a teacher may be required to attend for medical assessment and/or arrange for the transmission to the OHS (by the teacher’s attending doctor) of a comprehensive doctor-to-doctor report
Pre-Employment Health Assessments
A teacher selected for appointment must be certified medically fit for employment by the OHS prior to taking up the post. The employer must inform the candidate that the employment offer is subject to him/her providing a "Medical Fitness for Employment Assessment Report" which certifies fitness for employment.
For full details on Medical Assessments please refer to Circular Letter 0054/2019 - Leave Schemes - Chapter 1 pages 26-28
Retirement on Medical Grounds
A teacher who is permanently medically unfit to continue teaching may apply for early retirement on medical grounds. Teachers who retire early on medical grounds are granted an immediate lump sum payment and pension from the date of their retirement on medical grounds. The terms and benefits available for medical retirement are linked to a teacher’s membership of the relevant occupational pension scheme.
(a) Original Member - Teachers Superannuation Schemes
Teachers who commenced teaching prior to April 2004 and have been continuously employed in a teaching position since then, including any periods of approved unpaid leave of absence. Such teachers may retire on medical grounds up until their 60th birthday, without penalty and with an enhanced pension. From that age teachers may retire in the normal way, without any enhancement.
The enhancement is provided to teachers with at least 5 years of pensionable service by the date of medical retirement. It takes the form of additional years of service that bring the member to the pensionable service they would have had if they had served until their 60th birthday. This enhancement is capped at an additional six and two-thirds years of service. It has the effect of increasing the value of the lump sum payment and regular pension paid to the teacher on retirement.
(b) New Entrant Member - Teachers Superannuation Schemes
Teachers who commenced or re-entered teaching between April 2004 and 1st January 2013, and have been continuously employed in a teaching position since then, including any periods of approved unpaid leave of absence. Such teachers may retire on medical grounds up until their 65th birthday, without penalty and with an enhanced pension. From that age teachers may retire in the normal way, without any enhancement.
The enhancement is provided to teachers with at least 5 years of pensionable service by the date of medical retirement. It takes the form of additional years of service that bring the member to the pensionable service they would have had if they had served until their 65th birthday. This enhancement is capped at an additional six and two-thirds years of service. It has the effect of increasing the value of the lump sum payment and regular pension paid to the teacher on retirement.
(c) Member - Single Public Service Pension Scheme
Teachers who commenced or re-entered teaching after 1st January 2013. Such teachers may retire on medical grounds up until the age at which they become entitled to a State Contributory Pension, without penalty and with an enhanced pension. This age is currently 66, and is rising to 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028. From that age teachers may retire in the normal way, without any enhancement.
The enhancement is provided to Scheme members who have completed the two year ‘vesting period’ in the Scheme by the date of their retirement on medical grounds. The member is credited with additional superannuation payments (called ‘referable amounts’) to take them up to what they would have contributed if they had continued in the Scheme until their 66/67/68th birthday, divided by 2. The lump sum and pension enhancement is capped at a maximum of 10x the total referable amounts paid in the last full calendar year prior to retirement, or which would have been paid if a member is on unpaid sick leave.
Teachers who have not completed the ‘vesting period’ of 2 years membership in the Scheme are entitled to a lump sum payment of 8.5% of the actual pensionable remuneration they received for the entire period of their employment. No pension is payable to a teacher who has not completed the vesting period.
Application for Retirement on Medical Grounds
Teachers who are considering making an application for retirement on medical grounds are strongly advised to contact the ASTI immediately. The application process is quite complex and the ASTI will provide support and advice to teachers embarking on this process.
A decision to award a disability pension is made exclusively on the medical evidence presented to the Occupational Health Service, Medmark. Some applications arise very quickly from the most serious medical diagnoses, but more typically an application emerges after a period of chronic illness that has necessitated an extended absence from school on sick leave. In such circumstances it is essential that a teacher has been under the care of a consultant-level medical professional for several months preceding the making of an application. Applications are made based on a diverse range of serious medical conditions. These include physical illness or disability, such as cancer, coronary heart disease, musculo-skeletal problems or voice and hearing issues; psychiatric issues, such as depression, acute anxiety and severe work-related stress; and neurological and rheumatological conditions such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. It is very important to state that all illnesses or disabilities are equally authentic and are treated with the same seriousness and sensitivity by the Occupational Health Service.
A teacher who intends to apply for retirement on medical grounds is required to complete an official application form (RETD1 form) and a confidential medical report (TMED1 form). Both forms are available to download from the website of the Department of Education & Skills (DES) at http://bit.ly/1wLAHWe. The application form (RETD1) is completed by the teacher and sent to the DES Pensions Section via the teacher’s school which acknowledges the form by way of signature and school stamp. The confidential medical report form (TMED1) is completed by the teacher and forwarded to their GP who includes a report from the teacher’s medical consultant(s) before returning the form directly to Medmark. Once Medmark has received the TMED1 form an appointment for a medical examination is scheduled for the teacher with a specialist doctor. In exceptional cases, a decision may be made without the need for the teacher to attend for assessment. Medmark make a recommendation to the DES on whether the teacher should be granted retirement on medical grounds solely on the basis of the medical reports and face-to-face assessment. It is essential, therefore, that the medical evidence is comprehensive and addresses diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. Medmark will expect the teacher’s application for retirement on medical grounds to be supported by their treating physician(s) and for the medical report(s) to demonstrate that all reasonable medical interventions (surgical, pharmacological and therapeutic as appropriate) have been attempted.
If a teacher is refused retirement on medical grounds they may appeal the decision within 30 days of notification. The teacher will be requested to attend for further assessment with a doctor the teacher shall choose from a panel of registered medical practitioners who are qualified to assess medical fitness for work. If unsuccessful at appeal a teacher must wait for 12 months before they may make a further application for retirement on medical grounds.
It is most unusual for a teacher who has retired on medical grounds to return to teaching work. Such a return to Department/ETB paid teaching work would require specific approval from the DES following a fitness for work assessment undertaken by the Occupational Health Service, Medmark. It is also important to note that the continued payment of a disability pension to a teacher who is under 50 years of age is subject to periodic review by the Occupational Health Service, Medmark, who may request an update on the teacher's state of health.
ASTI Salary Protection Scheme
The ASTI has partnered with Cornmarket for the provision of a salary protection scheme which provides additional income support for members who are on long-term sick leave and also who go on to retire on medical grounds. Details of this valuable scheme are available at https://www.cornmarket.ie/income-protection/asti-salary-protection-scheme/#main.