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'Absolutely unacceptable': Teachers unsure of when they'll be paid after starting new jobs

Concerns have been raised about the length of time it takes to process teachers’ appointments.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/n_defender

CONCERNS HAVE BEEN raised about the length of time it takes to process teachers’ information on the Department of Education’s payroll system.

As a result, a number of teachers who are starting new roles in the upcoming academic year are unsure of when they will be paid.

Teachers who are due to start new positions must send the department appointment forms before 12 July in order to ensure they are paid in September.

However, some teachers are only offered jobs around this date, making it difficult to meet the deadline.

James*, who is due to begin a new role at a primary school in Dublin next month, has found himself in this situation.

His job interview took place in early July and he was offered the role around 12 July, leaving him unable to submit the application form on time. As a result, James said he has been told by the department he won’t be paid until October at the earliest.

James worked as a substitute teacher in a number of schools over the past three years and is not entitled to summer pay, leading him to take up work at a summer camp in recent weeks in a bid to pay rent and other bills.

He said he’ll have no income for September and possibly part of October, and is most likely going to have to take out a loan to pay his €800-per-month rent.

James is critical of the length of time it takes to process teachers’ pay, particularly if they are already registered on the department’s system – as he is. He said the situation is “absolutely unacceptable” and results in some teachers struggling to pay bills.

“I’m a registered teacher who just finished in a school in June. I have the same details, back account etc, yet it will still take them over two months to register me to be paid because I wasn’t able to get the appointment form in by 12 July,” he told TheJournal.ie.

James said he is aware of other teachers who have also had to supplement their income with a second job.

The teaching wage is not great and rent is pretty high in Dublin. I’m working a second job for the summer.

James has called for the “completely outdated” payroll process to be upgraded, and for schools to arrange to hold interviews earlier than July where possible.

20,000 appointments every year 

Responding to the situation, a spokesperson said the Department of Education and Skills “appreciates the concerns raised over the timing of salary payments for teachers whose forms were not received by the payroll section until after the 12th of July”.

They said that in 2018 “almost 100% of primary teacher appointment forms received”  before the July deadline were processed in time for payment the following September.

The spokesperson said staff in the department are currently processing appointment forms received before 12 July last. Once this is completed, they will “process as many appointment applications as possible received after the 12 July in time for the primary teacher pay issue dates in September”.

The spokesperson noted that the department “acts as paymaster to over 4,000 schools”, while boards of management are the direct employers of both teachers and non-teaching staff.

They added that there are a variety of teaching employment types within these schools, such as permanent whole-time, fixed term contracts, contracts of indefinite duration and also casual and non-casual substitution work. 

“Prior to the start of the school year in September there are approximately 20,000 primary school teacher appointments or re-appointments to be processed.

The processing involves a number of checks and verifications before a teacher appointed by a school can be set up on the primary payroll system for payment. These checks include verification of Teaching Council registration and Garda vetting.

The spokesperson said the department has given a commitment that completed appointment forms which are received by 12 July will be processed in time for payment next month. 

Appointment forms received after 12 July will continue to be accepted and dealt with in the order they are received. “Salary payment date in relation to these appointments will depend on the volume and date of receipt of late appointment applications from schools,” the spokesperson added. 

‘So many issues’ 

James was one of the substitute teachers who had money incorrectly deducted from their wages in February of this year. Some teachers had over half of their income deducted as tax because of a fault in the department’s payroll system. The department apologised at the time and the issue was resolved. He told TheJournal.ie

I was impacted by that too. I was a couple of weeks without pay, then heavily taxed at 50%. It was just after Christmas, the worst time for it to happen.
“I’m [teaching] three years now and ever single year there’s something else with them, everything is so outdated,” James told us. 

He is considering leaving the profession due to pay and other issues, but noted that this is easier said than done.

“I’m actively looking to get out of teaching, the wage it doesn’t cut the mustard. I know a good few people who are considering leaving. One or two have tried and come back, it’s hard when you’re trained in one area. It’s one of those things, you’re qualified to teach, what else can you do?”

James said there is rightly a focus on pay equality for teachers – entrance salaries and a range of allowances were cut for those employed after 2010 – but that “there are so many other issues, there is so much more to it”.

*James’ name has been changed to protect his identity

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Órla Ryan

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