Changes are being introduced in relation to the maternity leave entitlements for teachers and SNAs, however the statutory 26 weeks of paid and 16 weeks of unpaid maternity leave available to teachers and SNAs are completely unaffected by this decision.Teachers and SNAs who have been absent on maternity leave can currently avail of a maximum of 30 additional paid absence days in lieu of any school closures which overlapped with the 26 week period of maternity leave to which a teacher or SNA is entitled.
These additional days, which are taken during a period when the school is open, require the school to employ a substitute teacher or SNA to cover the absence at considerable cost to the taxpayer.
The Government has decided it is no longer justifiable to provide additional paid days off for those on maternity leave. Under the new arrangements, a teacher/SNA can still avail of the minimum statutory annual leave entitlements during periods of school closure either before or after taking her maternity leave.My alternative choice in this Budget was to increase the pupil-teacher ratio for all mainstream schools and I decided to retain the existing ratio in order to avoid having larger class sizes for our children.
I am conscious that teachers may be already planning their maternity leave arrangements and I have given the sector as much notice as possible before implementing this change. It will take effect from 1st May 2013, and will deliver savings of up to €20m in a full year. Days in lieu of maternity leave will not be accrued on and from 1st May 2013 but any remaining leave in lieu on that date may be taken after it.
No budget decision is ever easy to make. However, I have tried my best to protect frontline education services as best as possible in this Budget.