Donegal County Childcare has this week spoken out about the serious implications for the early childhood sector in Donegal regarding Minister Joan Burton’s proposal to transfer the responsibility for paying sick pay from the Department of Social Protection to employers.
Donegal County Childcare has taken numerous calls from concerned early childhood service providers who are worried that if they are forced to pay the extended period of sick pay they may be put out of business.
The Donegal County Childcare annual census 2011 revealed the importance of the early childhood sector in Donegal in terms of direct employment, early childhood education and women’s access to the labour market.
More than 700 people are employed in the Donegal early childhood sector made up from a total of 151 early childhood services– 88 community managed and 63 privately managed. Donegal has achieved 100% uptake on the Government supported Free Pre-School Year in County Donegal providing 780 full-time childcare places and 3,348 part time childcare places in early childhood services across the county.
Avril Sweeney Manager of Donegal County Childcare insisted: “This proposal has serious implications for both private and community childcare employers as under the conditions of the Childcare (Pre-School Services) Regulations 2006, early childhood service providers are legally obligated to maintain specific adult-child ratios in order to operate their service.
“Unlike businesses where work can be delegated to other staff or shelved until such times as an employee returns from sick leave, early childhood staff need to be replaced to maintain legislated ratios. In practical terms, this means that early childhood services already struggling to meet their running costs will be forced to pay double in terms of sick pay and replacement staff pay.
“To further compound these difficulties, even if substitute staff could be employed to cover sick leave, the Garda Vetting procedures are taking anything between 8-16 weeks to process, leaving employers in an altogether impossible situation regarding the operation of their service.”