Carer’s Leave Scheme
Carer’s leave is a period of unpaid leave for a teacher to look after someone in need of full-time care. It may be taken for a period of up to 104 weeks in total, and generally for not less than thirteen weeks, though an employer may facilitate a shorter period of leave. (refer to Circular 54/19 for further details).
If a teacher is not taking the full 104 weeks consecutively, they are required to return to service from carer’s leave for at least six weeks before a further period of carer’s leave may be taken.
The leave is unpaid, though with sufficient Class A PRSI contributions, the teacher may be eligible for Carer’s Benefit, of €237 per week when caring for one person.
A period of carer’s leave will be covered by a substitute teacher.
Applying for Carer’s Leave and Benefit
A teacher who has completed one year of service with their school will be eligible to apply for carer’s leave. For a teacher who has been compulsorily redeployed, or whose school has amalgamated, this service requirement is waived.
Ideally, six weeks’ notice will be given to the board when a teacher is requesting carer’s leave, and the OLCS should be updated with the details of the leave at least four weeks before it commences. (Insufficient notice to payroll may result in an overpayment of wages, which will be dealt with under the terms of Circular 84/2015).
Applications should be made with the application form at Chapter Six (PDF) of Department of Education circular 54/2019. The Board will use the confirmation document at Appendix B to approve the leave, at least four weeks before its commencement.
The care requirements of the “relevant person” for whom the teacher is caring must be assessed and confirmed by the Department of Social Protection, so the teacher must apply for Carer’s Benefit during this time, using the CARB1 form.
However, importantly, a board of management can allow carer’s leave to commence pending the approval of the DSP, having confirmed that the CARB1 benefit application has been made. (The benefit approval can take a number of weeks to process, and carer’s leave is often needed at shorter notice.)
Applying for Carer’s Benefit as a Job Share Teacher
A teacher with caring responsibilities may seek to reduce their hours initially, by applying to job share, and then subsequently need to take a period of carer’s leave. Unfortunately, teachers should be aware that working as a job sharer may affect their claim for carer’s benefit.
The rules for eligibility for carer’s leave are set out in detail here, and include the requirement that:
- You have been employed for at least 8 weeks, whether consecutive or not, in the previous 26 week period.
- You must be in employment for a minimum of 16 hours per week or 32 hours per fortnight.
- You don’t have to meet this condition if you were getting Carer’s Benefit in the previous 26 weeks.
In a job share contract, you will be paid for 12.5 per week, irrespective of the pattern you’re working, and therefore, you may be turned down for carer’s benefit on the basis that you were not in employment for 16 hours per week or 32 hours per fortnight.
Supplementing your job share with additional substitute work may address this shortfall, but questions about your eligibility for carer’s benefit for should be directed to the relevant section of the DSP.
Summer Closure and Carer’s Leave
Teachers are advised to end their carer’s leave at the commencement of the summer closure, returning to service for July and August. As they are subject to an overall limit of 104 weeks on carer’s leave, being able to pause carer’s leave like this can gain them a valuable eight to nine additional weeks per year to care for their loved one.
Prior to summer 2017, such teachers were subject to a scaled reduction to their salary for the summer months, depending how much leave had been taken in the preceding school year.
Following representations by the INTO, teachers on carer’s leave are no longer subject to any reduction to their summer holiday pay, and if they choose to end their carer’s leave at the end of June, will return to normal salary for the duration of the summer months. It is then possible to apply for a further period of carer’s leave beginning in September. (So, in practical terms, a teacher using carer’s leave for 104 weeks may be able to gain an
additional sixteen to eighteen weeks of leave, because they will have resumed service for two summers during that period.)
Working on Carer’s Leave
A teacher may substitute teach (or undertake other work outside teaching) while on carer’s leave provided:
- Permission is obtained from the Department of Social Protection before commencing employment (so they can confirm that adequate care is still being provided)
- The aggregate hours of employment don’t exceed 18.5 hours a week (increased from 15 hours to 18.5 hours in January 2020)
- Their net earnings from all employment do not exceed the approved weekly limit set by the DSP (as of July 2023, €350 a week after tax, details at Carer’s Benefit (www.gov.ie))
A teacher may substitute in their own school, but they may not cover any part of the vacancy created by their own carer’s leave.
Returning from Carer’s Leave
In normal circumstances, carer’s leave will end on the date agreed in the confirmation document.
However, it may be ended earlier if the relevant person is no longer in need of full-time care, or dies. In the case of the latter, the teacher can remain on leave for a further period of six weeks, or until the date specified in the confirmation document, whichever is earlier.
If the DSP believes a teacher is no longer meeting the criteria to be in receipt of carer’s benefit, the board will terminate the carer’s leave. (This may occur if the relevant person is no longer in need of full-time care, if the teacher is no longer providing that care, or if the teacher is taking up employment for more than the statutory 15 hours per week.)
The contract of the substitute teacher who is covering for carer’s leave should specify that the leave may end earlier than the date set out in the confirmation document, and that the substitute’s contract will be terminated when the teacher on carer’s leave returns.
Carer’s Leave Benefit under the INTO Salary Protection Scheme
Scheme members should be aware of the tax-free lump sum benefit, introduced in 2019 under the INTO Salary Protection Scheme, for those who have completed 26 consecutive weeks or more of unpaid Carer’s leave. For claims information, please contact the Scheme Administrators, Cornmarket https://www.cornmarket.ie/contact-us/
If you have questions about your Carer’s Leave, the INTO QueryLine operates 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday, on 01 804 7700.
Updated July 2023