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Career Breaks

For comprehensive details of the career break scheme, refer to Chapter Eight of the DES publication Terms and Conditions for Registered Teachers in Recognised Primary and Post Primary schools (Edition 2)




Withdrawing from career break

Teaching while on career break

Returning from career break

Deferring panel rights


Salary Protection and INTO Membership


TC002/2018 - Changes to the Career Break Scheme for the 2018/19 school year



Registered teachers that will have, at the end of the school year in which they are applying, completed at least twelve months of continuous service with the same employer are eligible to apply for career break.


A career break shall last a minimum period of one school year and may be extended yearly to a maximum of five years at any one time.

A teacher can’t take another career break until they have served for a period equal to the length of the career break. This requirement will be waived if the teacher wants to take a career break to undertake voluntary service abroad/missionary/diplomatic/military/Oireachtas/ or study leave.

A teacher may avail of the career break scheme to a maximum of ten years’ absence over the course of their career.

A career break ordinarily starts on the first day of the school year and ends on the last day of the school year. In exceptional circumstances, an employer can grant a career break starting during the school year but it must continue to the end of that school year and will be considered a one year career break.


A teacher wishing to avail of a career break should apply in writing to the Board of Management by 1st February of the school year prior to that in which s/he proposes to start/continue their career break. There is no specific application form but, in their letter, the teacher should give clear details of the purpose of the career break.

While not an exhaustive list, the career break scheme was designed to facilitate teachers with:

-          Personal development

-          Voluntary service overseas

-          Accompanying a spouse/partner on diplomatic/military posting

-          Education

-          Public representation

-          Caring for children/dependents

-          Self-employment

Teachers wishing to extend their career break must apply yearly to their employer.

Withdrawing from career break

Other than in exceptional circumstances, a teacher won’t be allowed to withdraw his/her application for career break later than 14th April.

Teaching while on career break

As a general rule, teachers on career break are precluded from taking up an appointment in any capacity in any school within the State.

Under the terms of the scheme, in exceptional circumstances a primary teacher on career break may be employed as a substitute for a maximum of 90 days in the school year. However, in light of an ongoing shortage of substitute teachers, this limit has been temporarily removed for the 2018/19 school year.

Teachers on career break will move to their personal rate of pay after completing the first 40 days of subbing. Substitute work undertaken while on career break will not count toward their increment.

Returning from career break

Teachers intending to return from career break must notify their employer by 1st February of their intention to return to work at the start of the following school year.

Teachers should ensure that they are registered with the Teaching Council prior to returning to school. Particularly if Teaching Council registration has lapsed while on career break, it is advisable to start this process early.

Teachers that have been on career break for more than two years will have to be screened by Occupational Health Services and deemed medically fit for teaching duties before returning to school.

Deferring panel rights

Providing they meet the eligibility criteria, a teacher due to be placed on the main panel can defer their panel rights to avail of a career break. The teacher must notify the Department in writing that s/he wishes to defer panel rights in order to avail of a career break. The teacher’s name will be placed back on the panel at the end of the career break period.


It is a matter for each employer to draw up and maintain its own policy on teacher absences, including career breaks. In any such policy, the welfare and education needs of pupils should be prioritised.

The employer must issue a written notice of approval/refusal of career break to the applying teacher by 1st March at the latest.

Where a career break is granted, the employer should notify the Department of the career break absence via the OLCS/relevant ETB system on or before 1st April. With the exception of ETB schools, the employer should also name any teachers taking career breaks on the annual change of staff form. Where a career break is refused, the employer must inform the applicant in writing, setting out the grounds for refusal.

Salary Protection and INTO Membership

Members going on career break are strongly advised to take out Career Break membership of the INTO. This entitles you to the benefits and facilities available to INTO members generally. For members who are in the INTO Salary Protection Scheme (SPS) it is especially important to retain career break membership.

Salary Protection Scheme options while on career break:

Under the terms of the Salary Protection Scheme (SPS) negotiated through Cornmarket Brokers, it is necessary to be a member of the INTO to benefit. There are options ranging from

(i) retention of full cover to

(ii) partial cover to

(iii) retention of the medical immunity provision (which applies on re-entry to teaching with SPS resumption without need for a medical) while on career break.

A member’s choice of a particular option should be arranged with Cornmarket in advance of going on career break. An alternative is to allow cover under the SPS to lapse entirely which will entail a member applying in full as a new applicant for SPS on resumption.

In order to retain full or partial SPS cover while on career break, it is essential to be a member of the INTO during each year of your break.

Rate of career break membership subscription:

The annual rate payable by career break members is €30 per school year.

Members wishing to take out career break membership should contact the Membership Section directly at INTO Head Office by ringing (01) 8047780 or (01) 8047790 or by emailing or


Last updated: June 2018

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