Career Breaks

For comprehensive details of the career break scheme, refer Chapter Seven of circular 54/2019, published 1 September 2019.

Eligibility to Apply for Career Break

Teachers who will have completed at least twelve months of continuous service with the same employer by the end of the school year in which they apply, are eligible to go on a 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 apply as many times as they wish, and can avail of the career break scheme to a maximum of ten years’ career break absence over the course of their career.

A career break ordinarily starts on the first day of the school year (1 September) and ends on the last day of the school year (31 August). 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 to their Board of Management using the form at Appendix A of Chapter Seven of Circular 54/2019 by 1 February of the school year prior to that in which they propose to start or continue their 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 annually to their employer.

Withdrawing from Career Break

Other than in exceptional circumstances, a teacher won’t be allowed to withdraw their application for career break later than 14 April. (refer to Chapter 7 for further details).

Teaching while on Career Break

Under the terms of the career break scheme teachers on career break are precluded from taking up an appointment in any capacity in any school within the State, and may only in exceptional circumstances, 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 90 day limit has been temporarily removed for 2023/24, per the terms of Information Note TC/IN 0007/2023 (PDF).

Teachers on career break are restricted to work which is paid through the OLCS only.

As career break is a type of leave, teacher’s engaging in substitute work while on career break do not accrue other leave entitlements and cannot avail of other leave types while on career break leave.

Teachers on career break will be paid at their personal rate of pay, reflecting their point on the salary scale, after completing 40 school days of subbing, and substitute work undertaken while on career break will count toward their increment and pension.

Returning from Career Break

Teachers intending to return from career break must notify their employer by 1 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. 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 they wish to defer redeployment 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 1 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 1 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 retain benefit. There are three options available while on career break ranging from:

  1. Retention of full cover
  2. Move to partial cover
  3. Retention of the Medical Immunity Provision (which applies on re-entry to teaching allowing the resumption of SPS cover without the need for a medical).

A member’s choice of which option to take, will depend on what the member plans to do while on Career Break and should be discussed with Cornmarket at least four weeks prior to 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 upon their return to service.

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

Members wishing to take out career break membership can click here or contact the Membership Section directly at INTO Head Office by emailing

If you have questions about your career break, the INTO QueryLine operates 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday, on (01) 804 7700.

Last updated: July 2023

Still have questions?

Submit your query by email to INTO. Please include your payroll or membership number.