Pay and conditions in the overseas jobs market
One thing you can be sure of is that the pay and conditions offered at international schools won’t be on a par with salary deals you get in the UK. As in the independent sector over here, your salary and benefits are all up for negotiation between you and your employer.
Given the level of uncertainty over the financial deal you’re getting it pays to research the school you’re applying to before you accept any overseas teaching job. The first thing to look out for is whether a school is accredited by one of the global agencies (you’ll find a list of the main global accreditation agencies at the end of this article). If it’s not, ask yourself why not.
The second area to investigate is the school’s purpose and aims? We’re used to schools being non-profit organisations, but some schools overseas are run as profit-making businesses. If you’re uncomfortable with this notion, look for another school.
Once you get your contract of employment make sure you check the areas listed below and do remember teaching contracts are generally subject to the laws of the particular country you’ll be working in.
Length of contract
How long is the contract, and what’s the notice period on either side? A minimum of a school-year for a contract is desirable, but if it’s a southern hemisphere school where the year ends in December, do you want to be able to leave in July or will a contract term ending in December be OK?
If it’s a one-year contract, find out what happens at the end? Is a return flight offered or are you expected to pay airfares out of your salary, including any holidays back home to see family? The NUT guide to teaching overseas pay and conditions states that it’s usual practice for the overseas employer to pay the outward travelling expenses of a teacher moving abroad to work and that there should also be provision for the return leg of the journey to be paid once the contract has been completed.
Salary in international schools
The contract should set out the salary payable and what currency it will be paid in. The contract should also outline any provision for salary increases and any conditions applied to these increases.
It’s very difficult to give typical salaries for overseas roles, the amount paid will usually reflect the cost of living and will probably take into account any other benefits such as reduced tax payments and subsidised or free accommodation. To find out if you’re going to be better off overseas you need to do a direct comparison of final take home pay after taxes, housing and transportation costs are taken into account.
Check the TES Teaching Overseas forum for the latest conversations on overseas salary packages. Here are a few examples of the kind of chat going on in there:
Taxes in international schools
Remember tax-free salaries are only tax-free in the country where you earn the money, you might still owe taxes on foreign-earned income back home. In the UK you have to be out of the country for more than 183 days in a tax year for a salary to be untaxed back home.
Countries all have different tax rules, for example in Taiwan you may only pay 10% tax, but in Poland you will have to pay closer to 20%, so it’s vital to find out how much tax you’ll have to pay and establish how this will affect your overall take home salary. Also, some benefits are taxable as well, so it is wise to check whether the amounts you’re quoted are gross (before tax) or net (after tax).
There’s an interesting discussion on the TES Teaching Overseas forum about overseas teacher and tax which is definitely worth reading.
Other benefits to look out for
Other benefits offered by many international schools that can add to the overall package include:
- Housing allowance. Often international schools will pay you a monthly housing allowance, or even provide accommodation for you in an apartment or a housing complex. If you’re offered a housing allowance you might even find yourself with a bit extra every month if you can find accommodation cheaper than the allowance.
If the school provides accommodation make sure you get detailed information and specific assurances on the type of accommodation to be provided; the NUT warns that “experience shows that teachers are frequently disappointed with the accommodation provided.”
- End-of-contract bonus. To encourage you to stay for the full length of your contract some international schools provide financial initiatives if you make it through to the bitter end. If this is not in your contract it’s worth trying to negotiate a bonus of between 10-15%.
- Find out if the school offers health insurance and a pension scheme. If you have to set money aside for a pension, and health insurance, do deduct these costs before considering the level of any income offered by a school. What seems generous at first sight can be less so after taking these costs into account.
- Check your contract for sick pay and sick leave details as they may well be less generous than in the UK and there may be conditions attached to entitlement. The same words of caution also apply to maternity leave and pay conditions.
Do check that the school can help with visa arrangements, and with any paperwork that has to be put in place before arrival, such as a new driver’s licence. The responsibility for getting the visa lies with you not the employer, but if you need to provide any work permits then these should come from your employer.
Unless you have accepted the job at the last minute, be wary of any suggestion that you arrive on a visitor’s visa and change status after your arrival. This would put you in a weak bargaining position if anything goes wrong.
School hours may be different, and night owls may find those countries with early starts more difficult to get used to. Sunday may also be a working day in non-Christian countries, although most have Saturday as non-working day. Hours may be longer than you are used to, as can the length of the school year, so read any contract carefully.
What happens when you return to the UK?
In the UK, employees’ statutory employment rights such as protection against unfair dismissal and rights to redundancy payments are generally dependent on the length of continuous service. Remember that your ‘continuous service’ will be broken for many purposes by your period of employment abroad.
Where to go for more information on teaching abroad
Check out what it’s really like to work in these countries on the TES Teaching Overseas forum.
Check out the main accreditation bodies
International school organisations
Educational school groups
Some of the most prestigious international schools in the world are part of groups including:
Finding a teaching job overseas
We list hundreds of international teaching on the TES website every week, here are some of the most popular job searches. Don’t forget to set yourself up with a job alert for your chosen role so you will get the latest overseas teaching jobs emailed direct to your inbox as soon as they become available on TES Jobs. You have to register with TES to set up a job alert but registration is quick and free.
International jobs by workplace
Overseas jobs by regions