Organisations need to now put in place arrangements to ensure that vetting applications are made for employees that have not been vetted previously. This must be done by 31 December 2017 to ensure compliance with the Vetting Acts. The Department of Education and Skills has published Circular 0016/2017 (the “Circular”), which sets out the obligations on schools/ETBs regarding retrospective vetting.
An application for retrospective vetting must be made by 31 December 2017. Failure to comply with this requirement is a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to €10,000 or a prison term of up to five years or both.
Who is exempt from retrospective vetting?
- A person for whom a Garda Central Vetting Unit (“GCVU”) outcome or a National Vetting Bureau (“Bureau”) disclosure, or in the case of a registered teacher, a Teaching Council Vetting Letter, has previously been received is exempt from retrospective vetting requirements.
- There are also no vetting requirements in respect of persons who assist a relevant organisation on an occasional and unpaid basis, provided such assistance does not involve the coaching, mentoring, counselling, teaching or training of children or vulnerable persons.
- Where an individual is involved in relevant work with two organisations, the Vetting Acts do not oblige one organisation to make a retrospective vetting application, provided the other organisation has received a GCVU outcome or Bureau disclosure in relation to that person. However, there must be a written agreement inplace between the organisations.
All organisations in which employees or volunteers undertake relevant work or activities, such as Universities, must be aware of the retrospective vetting provisions.
It is important that these organisations have arrangements in place to check and verify that employees/volunteers have been vetted and to establish which employees require retrospective vetting.
These employees should be informed that they are required to be vetted and cannot be employed/volunteer unless an application for vetting is made by 31 December 2017. The Organisation should then proceed with its usual vetting procedures for these persons.
Retrospective vetting of registered teachers
Retrospective vetting of registered teachers will be conducted by the Teaching Council in the context of the annual renewal of registration.
After receiving a vetting disclosure the Teaching Council will either renew the registration or refuse to do so where it is not satisfied that the teacher is a fit and proper person to have his or her registration renewed. Similarly, if no vetting disclosure is received, that teacher’s registration cannot be renewed.
Where a teacher’s registration is not renewed, that teacher cannot be employed in a publicly funded teaching position in any recognised school.
Schools/ETBs and teachers should also be aware that under the Teaching Council Acts, the Teaching Council may inform the school employer of information in a disclosure where it considers that such information is of such a nature as to give rise to a bona fide concern that the teacher may cause or attempt to cause harm to a child or vulnerable person.
The school/ETB must decide upon any actions it considers necessary in respect of the person’s employment in the school and legal advice should always be sought in such cases. It should be remembered that retrospective vetting applies to existing employees, which means that it is even more complex if a disclosure arises, than say, if it relates to a prospective employee.
The Circular provides that there may be a very small number of teachers in respect of whom a retrospective vetting application is not made by 31 December 2017. This may happen if a teacher does not respond to a vetting request or does not intend to renew his/her registration. In these cases, the teacher’s registration will continue up until his/her annual renewal date which may be after 31 December 2017. Schools will need to have arrangements in place to check that staff have undergone the retrospective vetting process in advance of 31 December 2017, as it will be a criminal offence to retain that person in employment if they have not been vetted.
Retrospective vetting of non-teaching staff and non-employees
As with registered teachers, schools should ensure that appropriate arrangements are in place regarding other persons who are required to be retrospectively vetted including:
- all non-teaching staff who undertake relevant work or activities
- all persons contracted by the school authority to undertake relevant work or activities
- all persons permitted by the school authority to undertake relevant work or activities on the school’s behalf.
Schools/ETBs should have arrangements in place to ensure that vetting applications for all such staff/volunteers are made by 31 December 2017.