A second teachers' trade union has questioned assurances given by the Minister for Education on Wednesday that any teacher in the early stages of pregnancy who takes pregnancy-related sick leave will suffer no adverse consequences in terms of overall sick leave entitlement as a result.

Second-level teachers' union the ASTI said the advice is not in accordance with its understanding of how sick leave provisions operate.

The union has asked the Department of Education for worked examples to illustrate what the minister has stated.

Yesterday, primary teachers' union, the INTO, said that it did not concur with the minister's interpretation of the provisions.

School staff in the early stages of pregnancy are expected to return to classrooms to work with unvaccinated children in the coming days, even though they themselves are not allowed to avail of the vaccine until 14 weeks gestation.

On Wednesday, Norma Foley said that, with the agreement of their doctor, individuals in this position could stay out of the classroom by availing of Pregnancy Related Sick Leave provisions and that they would suffer no adverse consequences.

She said this would "not impact going forward on any individual sick leave, should they need to draw that down in the future".

The Department said: "If you avail of sick leave in the future, all previous pregnancy related sick leave is discounted, and your balance of sick leave days will reflect what it would have been if you have never taken any pregnancy related sick leave."

But teacher unions are disputing this.

The INTO has said that "pregnant workers could find themselves on half pay after a period of time as a direct result of taking additional leave.

"Any worker, including a pregnant worker, in the public service can avail of three months (90 days) sick leave at full pay.

"Once exceeded it goes to half pay. This is clearly set out in circular 54/2019 and public service sick leave guidelines," it said.

INTO Deputy General Secretary Deirdre O'Connor said: "We don't believe that they can guarantee that no teacher will be adversely affected by being moved to half pay, if they take the advice of the Minister for Education and seek to avail of Pregnancy Related Sick Leave provisions".

RTÉ News has queried this half pay point with the Department of Education but has not yet received a response.

The Teachers Union of Ireland has said the department "needs to provide complete clarity on this issue in the light of the minister's comments on Wednesday".

The union said it still believed that these teachers should not have to take sick leave and should be allowed to work remotely for the short period of time until they achieve significant vaccine protection.