Under the Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015, employers are obliged to make reasonable accommodation for staff with disabilities.
In the Education sector, the employer is the Education and Training Board (ETB) for those employed in vocational schools/community colleges, community national schools and is the Board of Management/Manager in the case of primary (excluding community national schools) voluntary secondary, community and comprehensive schools.
In accordance with the Education Act, the terms and conditions of employment of teachers employed in approved posts funded by moneys provided by the Oireachtas are determined by the Minister for Education and Skills, with the concurrence of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.
The provisions regarding reasonable accommodation for teachers are set out in the ‘Terms and Conditions of Employment for Registered Teachers in Recognised Primary and Post Primary Schools’, Chapter 3, paragraph 16 of the Sick Leave Scheme.
This paragraph states:-
“The Employment Equality Acts require employers to take reasonable steps to accommodate the needs of employees and prospective employees with disabilities. Reasonable accommodation typically involves some modification to the tasks/structure of a job or workplace environment, which would enable such an employee to fully perform their work role and enjoy equal employment opportunities. An employer will make reasonable adjustments for teachers who have a disability, or who have acquired a disability, to have reasonable accommodation made to facilitate their return to work. However, employers are not obliged to provide special treatment or facilities if the cost of doing so is excessive or disproportionate. The employer should explore in conjunction with the teacher and the OHS any appropriate enabling options, for example: (these examples are not exhaustive):
- Making reasonable adjustments to the school building and/or working space
- Acquiring relevant equipment or modifying existing equipment
- Partial Return to Work as detailed below”
Details on Partial Return to Work are outlined in Paragraph 17 of the same publication.