Extreme weather

Met Éireann has issued weather warnings nationwide as Storm Emma approaches. There are three categories of weather warning: status yellow, status orange and status red. You can check the current status of the weather warning in your area on met.ie.

Visit winterready.ie for detailed advice on how to cope with winter weather. The website has categories covering the home, road safety, schools, the farming community and the business sector and includes a Be Winter Ready booklet (pdf). You can find tips on preventing frozen water pipes and unexpected leaks on water.ie.

Employers and employees disrupted by the weather can find information about their rights and obligations on workplacerelations.ie.

The Department of Education and Skills provides guidelines for school management (pdf) with advice about ensuring school premises are safe, communication with parents and what action to take in the case of each weather warning. Many schools close when a status red weather warning is issued.

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is providing ongoing updates about its services and supports for people who may have difficulty with heating costs.

Follow the Office of Emergency Planning on Twitter @emergency.ie for updates.

Know Your Rights: Treatment Abroad Scheme


I know that medical treatments available in Ireland can be accessed in other EU countries instead. What if I need a treatment that is not available in Ireland?

Answer (January 2018)

If you are entitled to public health services that are available in Ireland, you can access these services in the European Economic Area (EEA) and be repaid the cost under the Cross-Border Healthcare Directive.

If you are a public patient and need treatment that is not available to you in Ireland, you may be able to use the Treatment Abroad Scheme to get the treatment in another country in the EEA, or in Switzerland. The Scheme may provide help with your travel fare and, in some cases, the fare for a travelling companion.

You must be referred for treatment abroad by an Irish-based consultant who is treating you as a public patient. You cannot refer yourself or be referred by a GP.

You and the consultant complete an application form and include a copy of your referral letter. Your application must be approved by the Health Service Executive (HSE) before you travel or start treatment abroad. You usually get a decision on your application within 15 to 20 working days.

If your application is approved, the HSE will issue a form called E112. This authorises treatment abroad so that you do not have to make any payment to the healthcare provider. The treatment you have abroad must be in public healthcare under a registered medical practitioner. It must be in a recognised hospital or other institution that accepts the form E112. If you don’t have the form when you attend at your appointment, you may be charged and not be refunded. Any treatments or consultations that are not pre-approved will not be covered.

The Ombudsman has produced a report that suggests improvements to the application and appeals process. It recommends that, by the end of February 2018,  the HSE produce a plan and schedule for making the suggested changes.

To apply for the scheme, contact the Treatment Abroad Scheme Office for an application form. You can get the contact details for your area by calling the HSE Infoline on the Callsave number 1850 24 1850 or online at hse.ie/treatmentabroad.

Know Your Rights: Maternity leave


I recently started working in a new job on a part-time basis. I have just learned that I am pregnant – will I be entitled to maternity leave?

Answer (January 2018)

If you are pregnant while in employment, you are entitled to take maternity leave. The entitlement to a basic period of maternity leave from employment applies to all female employees (including casual workers), regardless of how long you have been working for the organisation or the number of hours you work per week. You are also entitled to additional unpaid maternity leave. The Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004 provide your statutory minimum entitlements in relation to maternity at work, including maternity leave.

You are entitled to 26 weeks’ maternity leave together with 16 weeks additional unpaid maternity leave, which begins immediately after the end of maternity leave.

Your entitlement to pay and superannuation (pension payments) during maternity leave depends on the terms of your contract of employment. Employers are not obliged to pay women who are on maternity leave. You may qualify for Maternity Benefit from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) if you have enough PRSI contributions. However an employee’s contract could provide for additional rights to payment during the leave period, so that, for example, the employee could receive full pay less the amount of Maternity Benefit payable.

If you have a dispute with your employer about maternity leave or if you have been dismissed due to a matter connected with your pregnancy or for claiming your rights under maternity leave legislation, you may make a complaint within six months of the dispute or complaint occurring. You must use the online complaint form available on workplacerelations.ie. The time limit may be extended for up to a further six months, but only where there is a reasonable cause which prevented the complaint being brought within the normal time limit.

You should apply for Maternity Benefit at least six weeks before your baby’s due date. Apply to the Maternity Benefit Section of the DEASP.

Are you registered to vote?

The Register of Electors for 2018-2019 was published on 1 February 2018 and comes into force on 15 February 2018. You can check to see if your name is on the Register.

If you are eligible to vote but are not on the Register of Electors, you can apply to be included in a supplement to it, using Form RFA2.

If you are on the Register but have changed address, you use form RFA3 to apply for inclusion on the supplement at your new address. This will also remove you from the register for your previous address.

You can apply at any time. However, you can only be included in the supplement used at an election or referendum if your local authority receives your application at least 15 days before polling day. Sundays, public holidays and Good Friday are not counted as days for this purpose.

Read more about registering to vote.

Safer Internet Day

Safer Internet Day is an EU wide initiative to promote a safer internet for all users, especially young people. This year it takes place on Tuesday 6 February. The theme for Safer Internet Day 2018 is “Create, connect and share respect: A better internet starts with you”.

Find out more about how to stay safe when using the internet on webwise.ie.

CAO dates in 2018

You apply for almost all full-time undergraduate courses through the Central Applications Office (CAO). The CAO provides a handbook that lists all the courses on offer and gives information on how to apply. The closing date for 2018 applications from Irish and other European Union nationals is 5.15 pm on 1 February 2018. Late applications are allowed up to 5.15 pm on 1 May 2018. You can get a full list of dates on the CAO website.

Decisions on offers of places are normally made in August, after the results of the Leaving Certificate have come out.

Application deadlines and fees for 2018

Early online discounted rate € 30 20 Jan 2018 (5:15pm) – now closed
Normal online application € 45 1 Feb 2018 (5:15 pm)
Late online application € 60 1 May 2018 (5:15 pm)
Change of mind (opens from 5 May 2018) Nil 1 July 2018 (5:15 pm)

You could  amend your course choices free of charge until 31 January (the day before the normal application deadline). From 5 February to 1 March 2018 you can pay €10 to amend your course choices online. There is a further chance to change your mind, free of charge, from 5 May 2018.

Late applications are not accepted for the HEAR (Higher Education Access Route) and DARE (Disability Access Route to Education) schemes or for certain restricted courses. You must apply for these by 5.15 pm on 1 February 2018.

Read our document on applying to college.