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Covid-19 Pandemic

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 1 December 2020

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Questions (372)

Johnny Guirke


372. Deputy Johnny Guirke asked the Minister for Education the reason teachers who are 28 weeks plus pregnant are being denied Covid-19 based health and safety leave by Medmark occupational health care for teachers on HSE advice despite the recommendations of their doctors, and the relevant medical bodies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39634/20]

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Written answers (Question to Education)

My Department has an enhanced Occupational Health Service (OHS) in place to provide employers with occupational health advice in relation to employees’ fitness for work. Medmark, the current OHS provider has a process in place for school staff with health concerns about their risk of serious illness from contracting COVID-19, through workplace attendance.

A detailed on-line questionnaire is submitted by the employee to Medmark, along with detailed medical evidence to provide clarity with respect to the medical complaint(s) in question. All of this information is reviewed by the OHS specialist occupational health physician, including the combined and cumulative risk that can arise when an employee suffers from more than one health condition. The risk categorisation is comprehensive and follows the same process that is being applied across other sectors. An employee is categorised into one of three COVID-19 risk categories. These are general population risk, higher risk, and very high risk. The outcome of the risk categorisation is governed by the HSE guidance.

Under the current HSE guidelines, a pregnant employee is not deemed to be at very high risk of serious illness from contracting COVID-19, unless suffering from a serious heart condition. A teacher who is well must therefore attend the workplace. The school has a responsibility as the employer to assess the school environment using the COVID-19 Response Plan for the school, to ensure that all the appropriate HSE recommendations for safe school operations during Covid-19 are being implemented in full.

If this, or any other relevant medical matter, is reviewed and updated by the HSE, Medmark will be informed as the occupational health service provider, by the HSE, and will adjust their decision making processes accordingly.

Where an employee considers the OHS ‘COVID-19 Health Risk Categorisation Report’ places him/her in an incorrect risk category, a review can be requested by the employee where Medmark will re-evaluate the medical evidence provided. The employee may provide additional medical evidence as part of the review process.