Saturday 24 June 2017

Teachers' uncertified sick days cut from 31 to seven

Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The number of sick days teachers can take without producing a doctor's certificate has been slashed by the Department of Education under new cost-cutting measures.

Previous allowances of up to 31 uncertified days have been slashed to seven.

Up to now, primary teachers had a 31-day ceiling on uncertified sick leave each year, while teachers in second-level schools could claim 30 days.

The new rules represent no change for teachers in the Vocational Education Committee (VEC) sector, where the maximum number of sick days allowed is already seven.

The change is a part of ongoing cost cutting by the Department of Education, which now also intends to carry out regular examinations of sick leave records to ensure the new regulations are complied with.

The Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO), representing 32,000 primary teachers, says the new arrangements will not affect the vast majority of teachers.

There has been a significant drop in the number of days claimed since early 2009, when schools were no longer given substitution cover for the first day of uncertified sick leave.

A couple of years ago, teachers took an average of two days' uncertified sick leave per year -- this is now down to a day or less.

Any problem with uncertified sick leave has been concentrated among a small number of teachers. Only about 15 out of more than 30,000 teachers take more than 20 days, said INTO general secretary Sheila Nunan.

Last year, the McCarthy report on numbers and costs in the public service highlighted the uncertified arrangements for teachers, describing them as "more generous than the norm in the public sector".

Some months later, there was a Budget announcement that changes would be introduced from the current school year and schools are now being officially advised of the changes.

Ms Nunan said over a third of teachers did not take any uncertified sick leave, more than half took between one and four days while just over 10pc took between five and nine days.

It showed that for 99pc of teachers, changes to uncertified sick leave was not an issue, she said.

Irish Independent

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