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The Scheme for Career Breaks for teachers came into effect at the beginning of the school year 1985/86. The ASTI at its Annual Convention 1986 amended its Rules to allow teachers who avail of a career break to remain in the Association as Members on Leave.
The objectives of the scheme are twofold, firstly, to provide new employment opportunities in the teaching sector and secondly to facilitate serving teachers who wish to take career breaks. Managerial authorities are strongly urged to consider favourably requests from serving teachers for special leave without pay for the purpose of enabling them to take career breaks.
Teachers who have satisfactorily completed 12 months continuous service with the current employer and who have not reached compulsory retirement age may be granted special leave without pay for a career break.
Teachers going on Career Breaks should be advised of the desirability of maintaining entitlement to social welfare benefits by payment of voluntary contributions to the Department of Social and Family Affairs.
Teachers on career breaks cease to be eligible for membership of the ASTI Group Scheme as their VHI subscription can no longer be deducted from their salaries and paid over to the Board of VHI by the Department of Education and Science.
In these circumstances, the teacher may apply to VHI to maintain insurance cover with them as an individual. The VHI will allow the lower group rate of subscription to continue to apply and the member will have the option of paying annually, half yearly or quarterly in advance.
As soon as these subscribers return to their posts and deductions from salary can recommence, they must notify the VHI that they wish to re-register as a member of the ASTI Group Scheme.
Members of the Scheme who plan to take a career break should contact Cornmarket Group Financial Services Limited to ensure that cover is maintained so that they will not have to undergo a medical examination for readmission to the scheme on return to teaching.
Teachers on career breaks may transfer to the category of "Member on Leave". The subscription shall be at a rate determined by Convention from time to time. The subscription is payable in advance for each year of Career Break. (2012/13 Rate - €28.20 for each year of Career Break).
Note: The full text of the Department Circular letter 0010/2011 on Career Breaks is set out below.
(1) WHAT IS A CAREER BREAK?
A career break is a period of unpaid leave from your employment of not less than one school year and not more than ten school years with an entitlement to resume employment at the end of the period, subject to whatever regulations are in force regarding redeployment. The maximum amount of time that can be taken for a career break at any one time is 5 years, with a return to work for the equivalent amount necessary before the remaining years are used for the purpose of a career break.
(2) WHO IS ELIGIBLE?
Teachers who have satisfactorily completed 12 months continuous service with their current employer, who have not reached the compulsory retirement age and who registered with the Teaching Council are eligible to apply for a career break.
(3) WHAT IS THE LATEST DATE FOR SUBMISSION OF APPLICATION?
The latest date for submission of application is 1st March prior to the school year in which teacher intends to take leave, except in exceptional circumstances.
(4) TO WHOM MUST APPLICATION BE SUBMITTED?
Application should be made in written format to the Board of Management / Manager of your school.
(5) CAN THE TEN YEARS BE BROKEN INTO DIFFERENT INSTALMENTS?
Yes, the ten years can be broken into different instalments. A teacher may engage in this scheme subject to an overall maximum absence of 10 years in the course of his/her professional career. A career break shall be a period of not less than 1 school year and may be extended on an annual basis provided the total period of the career break does not exceed 5 years at any one time.
A career break shall commence on the start of a school year and a return to duty in the school/VEC which granted the career break shall not be permitted other than on the start of a succeeding school year. In exceptional circumstances, an employer may authorise a teacher to commence a career break during the course of a school year and terminate not earlier than the end of that school year. This is deemed to be a one year career break but each period must not be for less than one year and teachers may only return at the commencement of a school year.
(6) IS ANNUAL APPLICATION NECESSARY?
A teacher wishing to continue on a career break for a second or successive year, must renew his / her application by 1st March of the previous school year. A subsequent career break may not be taken until the teacher has served for a period equal to the duration of the previous career break. In the case of a teacher wishing to avail of a career break to undertake voluntary service abroad /missionary/diplomatic/military/oireachtas/or study leave this requirement will be waived.
(7) WHEN SHOULD NOTIFICATION OF INTENTION TO RETURN TO SCHOOL BE SUBMITTED?
Notification of intention to return to school should be submitted no later than 1st March of preceding school year. Failure to do so may result in the return being deferred for a further school year (e.g. in the event that the late notification resulted in contractual difficulties for the employer).
(8) IS GRANTING OF CAREER BREAKS AUTOMATIC?
No, granting of career break is not automatic. Discretion lies with the management of the school as to whether or not a career break is to be offered to a teacher.
ASTI advice is that applications should be favourably considered by the school authorities and provisionally accepted subject to approval by the Department of a funded replacement and should only be finally rejected for adequate reasons e.g. Departmental refusal to fund a replacement, loss to school of all permanent teachers of one subject, agreed staff management policy on career breaks would be breached by conceding same, etc.
The ASTI will offer assistance and make representations to the school.
(9) WHAT ARE THE APPLICATION PROCEDURES?
A teacher seeking a career break must submit a written application to the employer not later than the 1st March of each school year prior to that in which s/he proposes to commence/continue the career break. The application must provide clear details of the exact purpose of the career break.
A late application may be considered by the employer in exceptional circumstances. A teacher who wishes to extend his/her career break must apply for this extension on an annual basis. Each application for or extension of a career break shall be considered on its own merits by the employer within the context of the school’s policy statement. The decision of the employer shall be final.
The employer shall issue a written notice of approval or refusal to the teacher by 1st April at the latest and submit notice of the career break absence to the Department (via the On Line Claims System)/VEC on or before 1st May. The employer must also list the names of all teachers availing of a career break on the annual change of staff form.
(10) CAN A TEACHER WITHDRAW A REQUEST FOR A CAREER BREAK?
Taking account of the extent of arrangements to be put in place by the employer to cater for the career break, the applicant shall not be permitted to withdraw his/her application after the 14thApril. In exceptional circumstances the employer in its sole discretion may consider a later withdrawal of a career break application.
(11) WHILE ON CAREER BREAK, IS ALTERNATIVE EMPLOYMENT AS A TEACHER PERMITTED?
A teacher on a career break is precluded from taking up an appointment in any capacity in any school within the State. Schools must give priority to qualified teachers when making appointments for periods of substitution. In exceptional circumstances a teacher on a career break may be employed on the following basis:
(12) ARE VACANCIES RESULTING FROM CAREER BREAKS FILLED?
Vacancies created in schools as a result of a teacher taking a career break may be filled on a temporary basis, and will normally be funded by the Department of Education and Science provided posts can be accommodated within the normal staffing allocation. Where a replacement teacher is to be employed he/she shall be offered a fixed term contract for the duration of the career break to be terminable on the return or resignation/retirement of the teacher on career break.
(13) ARE REPLACEMENTS FUNDED IN OVER-QUOTA SCHOOLS?
Prior approval from the Department of Education and Science is required to fill a vacancy created by a career break.
(14) WHAT HAPPENS TO THE POST OF RESPONSIBILITY HELD BY A TEACHER ON CAREER BREAK?
Due to the moratorium Posts of responsibility vacated by teachers taking career breaks will not be filled.
(15) ELIGIBILITY TO APPLY FOR A POST OF RESPONSIBILITY WHILE ON A CAREER BREAK
A teacher on career break will retain eligibility to apply for a Post of Responsibility which occurs in the school and s/he shall be notified of any vacancies by the employer.
(16) IS THE PERIOD SPENT ON A CAREER BREAK RECKONABLE FOR PURPOSE OF SERVICE FOR PROMOTIONAL POSTS?
Years spent on career break are reckonable for purposes of determining seniority in Voluntary Secondary Schools and in respect of agreements on promotion and redeployment.
No such agreement exists in relation to reckoning of these years for teachers in Community and Comprehensive Schools or Colleges.
(17) WHAT HAPPENS TO PENSION WHILE ON A CAREER BREAK?
A period of unpaid leave of absence does not reckon for pension purposes. However, pension contributions at full actuarial cost in accordance with the relevant pension scheme may be paid, either during the career break (by making arrangements with the Pension Section of the Department/VEC prior to the commencement of the career break) or following a return to teaching. Further information on the purchase of notional service for a career break is available from the Pensions Section of the Department/VEC.
Where a pension scheme member is granted approved unpaid leave of absence to work as a Volunteer Development Worker (VDW), in a developing country, under the auspices of APSO/Comhlamh, it is open to that agency to pay the full actuarial cost to the public service pension provider subject to conditions in place from time to time. Further information is available from the Pensions Section of the Department/VEC.
(18) WHAT EFFECTS DO CAREER BREAKS HAVE ON PRSI BENEFIT?
The teacher on a career break remains an employee of the employer for the duration of the absence and the absence does not constitute a break in service for PRSI purposes.
Teachers seeking to maintain their Social Welfare entitlements during a career break should, therefore, contact the Department of Social Protection for advice prior to taking a career break.
(19) HOW MUCH IS ASTI SUBSCRIPTION WHILE ON A CAREER BREAK?
Members may retain membership and benefits of ASTI by remaining in membership. The rate for 2010/11 is €29.10 per annum.
(20) WHAT IS THE RATE OF PAYMENT OF P.H.I. (SALARY PROTECTION) WHILE ON A CAREER BREAK?
The cost is 1% of gross current salary, payable, by cheque, at the commencement of the career break. This confers continued entitlement to death benefit while on career break and readmission to the scheme without the need for a medical examination. A cost is 0.80% of gross current salary, payable, by cheque, at the commencement of the career break confers continued entitlement to medical immunity only whilst on career break.
(21) I AM CURRENTLY ON A CAREER BREAK, DO I NEED TO MAINTAIN MY TEACHING COUNCIL REGISTRATION?
In accordance with the requirements of the new circular letter eligibility for the scheme requires a teacher to be registered with the Teaching Council. If you allow your registration to lapse while you are on a career break you will need to apply to the Council for registration, in accordance with Section 31 (5) of the Teaching Council Act, 2001 and The Teaching Council [Registration] Regulations 2009, at least four months prior to the end of your career break. At that point, you would be required to undergo the full application process including the submission of transcripts and a process of Garda Vetting.
The ASTI strongly advise our members to consider the implications of non-renewal before your registration with the Teaching Council has lapsed.