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Taking a Leave of Absence As A Teacher

Any regularly appointed teacher may apply for a leave of absence. But it’s important to understand how a leave will affect your pension!

There are two types of Leaves:

  • Any situation requiring your full-time attention, such as child care, taking care of a sick family member
  • Your illness would be considered a leave of absence.

These two Categories can be Divided as Follows:

  • FMLA 
  • Parental Leave 
  • Leave of absence without pay for restoration of health due to medical circumstances.
  • Child Care Leave normally begins six to eight weeks after the birth of the baby. This leave can last up to four years from the next September following the baby’s birth/adoption. 
  • An appointed pedagogue may be granted additional leaves without pay, such as teaching at CUNY or SUNY, service in the Peace Corps, or acceptance of a supervisory or teaching position in a foreign country. Please call your UFT Borough Office to discuss other types of leaves.
leave of absence as a teacher

Important to Know Before You Take Leave!

Are you exhausted, planning to take parental leave, want to take care of sick relatives, eager to try another profession for a period, or want to travel around and live a good resting life for a while? Then think about this before making any hasty decisions:

  • Leave includes the non-health portion of maternity leave, adoption, sabbatical, and educational leave, and even other employer-approved unpaid leaves. Periods of short-term and long-term disability are not considered leaves, and you continue to accrue pensionable service based on the plan provisions.  
  • During your leave, you do not contribute to the plans and do not accrue pensionable service. But of course, when you return, you will once again begin contributing and earning pensionable service. 
  • The more pensionable service you have, the greater your pension will be at retirement. Since you do not earn pensionable service while on leave, you may wish to purchase that service when you return. Purchasing service fills in gaps in your pensionable service, increases your pension, and may even allow you to receive a pension without a reduction earlier than if you opt not to purchase it. It depends on your situation.  

If you are considering purchasing the service associated with your leave when you return, keep in mind that the cost generally increases over time, so it is usually better to apply sooner rather than later. You can estimate the cost to purchase service online in your MyPension account. 

  • It’s not a requirement that you apply to purchase your leave immediately once you are back to work, but to be eligible to apply, you must be on a teaching contract with an ATRF employer and not be on leave at the time you apply.  

All Leaves must be Reported by Your Employer to TRA when Approved – Whether paid or unpaid.

This enables TRA to accurately calculate your service credit (or, for Minnesota State University employees, full-time equivalent) and, ultimately, your annuity benefit. Your employer must report the leave type and effective date to TRA within 14 days after the last day of the payroll cycle in which the leave was approved.

When your employer reports your leave of absence, you will receive a confirmation letter from TRA. If your employer does not report the leave, you will be unable to purchase service credit for it. If you did not receive a confirmation letter, contact your employer to verify that your leave was reported to TRA. You can log in to your TRA account and review your leave history at any time.

You cannot request a refund of TRA contributions while on a leave of absence.

The leave of absence confirmation letter explains:

  • Whether you are eligible to purchase service credit for your leave.
  •  How your purchasable service credit will be calculated.
  •  When can you expect correspondence from TRA with the cost and payment deadline to purchase your leave?

TRA will provide you with the cost to purchase service credit after your employer reports all the earned salary for the fiscal year of your leave of absence and processes it.

So, What does Service Credit mean?

You earn service credit for each year or partial year you work for a CalPERS-covered employer. It accumulates on a fiscal year basis (July 1 through June 30) and is one of the factors we use to calculate your future retirement benefits.

Your CalPERS retirement benefits are based on your:

  • Age at retirement
  • Highest salary for either a 1- or 3-year period, depending on your employer’s contract
  • Years of service credit

To earn a full year of service credit during a fiscal year, you must work at least:

  • 1,720 hours (hourly pay employees)
  • 215 days (daily pay employees)
  • 10 months full time (monthly pay employees)

Service credit for retirement purposes may differ from the service credit used by your employer to accrue leave time. Refer to your Annual Member Statement for details.

Increased Job Satisfaction! 

  • A leave of absence can help improve job satisfaction by allowing employees to rest, recharge, and refocus on their career goals.

Improved Mental Health!

  • Taking a break from work can benefit mental health and well-being.

Disclosure: This information is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice. Please consult with a qualified financial advisor before making any investment decisions.

bill wallace author teacher retirement plans

About Author

Bill Wallace blends his academic background in Literature with his ventures in International Business and finance. His professional journey took him across Europe, especially in Spain, where his passion for writing evolved. Since then, armed with his literary finesse and investment acumen, he has been crafting financial content for teachers worldwide. More about me.

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