Fórsa has today (23rd March) received an assurance from the Department of Education and Skills (DES) that special needs assistants (SNAs) will not be temporarily redeployed to clerical posts in the HSE or social welfare.
But they may be reassigned to other posts as a result of the coronavirus emergency. This is most likely to be Covid-19 contact tracing, which can be done remotely.
Schools, which are currently closed, are being asked to identify staff including teachers and SNAs who are now available to work in other areas during the crisis. The education department may also reassign some SNAs to other roles commensurate with their existing duties.
An official departmental communication is expected later this week.
New arrangements for a public service-wide mobilisation to tackle the Covid-19 virus and maintain essential public services, were outlined by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform last week. They allow for the temporary transfer of staff to critical roles for up to three months.
The measures also confirm that HSE-recommended social distancing will be observed in work settings, and that transferred staff will receive necessary training and upskilling. Transferred staff may be able to continue to work from their present location, and there is also potential for remote working where this is practical.
Staff who take on temporary roles will continue to be employed, and paid by, their existing employer. And they will return to their existing employer and role once the temporary transfer is over.
Throughout the crisis, Fórsa has strongly urged members to volunteer for temporary critical assignments if they are able to do so – and to co-operate with requirements arising from such redeployments.
Fórsa’s head of education, Andy Pike, said he was awaiting precise details of the proposals for school-based staff.
“SNAs and other school-based workers will be treated in the same was as other redeployed public servants. They will be able to work remotely wherever possible. Those who are self-isolating or on sick leave will not be affected. Nor will staff with underlying health conditions,” he said.
It is not yet know how many SNAs will be required for other roles, but it’s expected that the Government will identify a pool of staff who can be called on if needed.