Teaching in Thailand? What Happens if You Break Your 1-Year School Contract?

One of the problems for Thai schools that employ western English teachers is the high rate of contract breakers. A contract breaker is a teacher who signs a one-year contract to teach at the school then, midway through the semester, ups and leaves. With many western teachers doing it, others often think it’s easy and there won’t be any consequences. But that’s not true at all. In fact, if you decide to sign a one-year contract with a Thai school to teach English, then break the contract, here are some of the things you might expect to happen to you .

What Does a One-Year Contract Mean? – Basically, a one-year contract teaching English in Thailand means just that. You sign a contract for a year and agree to teach at the school for the entire period of the contract. In return, the school agrees to pay you the agreed-upon sum and any benefits, vacation pay that’s in your contract. In some schools, a one-year contract also includes payment for all holidays. In other schools, it doesn’t. That’s why you should check the small-print on the contract before you sign it as, once it’s signed, breaking the contract can be a hassle. For you and the school .

Why Do Western English Teachers Break Contracts? – A myriad of reasons. Some valid, some not so much.

Particularly for young people who come to Thailand to teach, some think it will be one big party. When they realize teaching in Thailand is a job, just like anywhere else in the world and that they’re expected to show up every day and do it, that’s when the fun stops and they break their contract and leave.

Others break contracts because what the school agreed upon is not what the teacher is getting.

Others again break the contract for family emergencies, personal problems, too many late nights out drinking and being unable to wake up for school, and on and on.

All you need to know is breaking a one-year contract is relatively common in Thailand. Sometimes because of the fault of the teacher. Sometimes because of the fault of the school.

But…..if you break a one-year contract, what’s the worst that can happen? Will you have to pay a lot of money? Be kicked out of Thailand? Be taken to court and sued ?

What to Expect If You Break a One-Year Teaching Contract in Thailand

Work Permit is Canceled – The first thing you need to understand about teaching in Thailand is your work permit is attached to your job. That means, when you leave, you have a finite period of time to leave the country and go to a neighboring country to get another visa, so you can come back to Thailand look for another job.

The amount of time you have depends on your former-employer to some extent. Technically, when you quit you and your employer are supposed to go to the Immigration Department and tell them you are no longer working at the school. Your work permit will immediately be canceled and you’ll have only 24 hours to leave the country. You can get a 7 day extension, to get your life in order, but that will cost you another 1,900 baht (approximately $60).

In reality, what often happens is the school takes forever to cancel the work permit or doesn’t bother at all. So, you may have a week or two before you have to leave the country as Immigration doesn’t know you’re no longer working at the school. However…….if you try to leave the country and the work permit has been canceled, unbeknownst to you, you’ll end up paying 500 baht ($16.66) for every day you stay in Thailand illegally, up to a limit of 20,000 baht ($666).

Could be quite expensive at the airport, so leave as soon as you can.

Reimbursing School For Expenses – Many schools pay the cost of your Non-Immigrant B visa, work permit and teacher’s license. If you break your contract, you are now liable for the cost of all of these items and must reimburse the school. Costs change often, but expect to fork out at least $200 in reimbursement costs. Breaking your contract? Now is it worth it?

The School Could Sue You – While the school is well within its legal rights to sue you, it’s highly unlikely a school in Thailand would. I’ve only heard of it happening in two cases, but when it did the western teacher had to pay the school an exorbitant amount of money – well over $5,000 – so do you really want to risk it?

Basically, if you’re teaching in Thailand, hate your life and just want to quit your job, break your contract, leave Thailand and never come back, while I would never do that (I would never break a contract, but that’s just me), you would be safe enough doing it. As long as you leave the country soon after.

But, if you plan on staying in Thailand and continuing to teach at another school, unless life is absolutely unbearable or the school isn’t paying you, you really should be able to stand it a year. So suck it up, and do what you agreed to when you signed that one-year contract.

Plus, don’t forget, you’ve also made a commitment to the kids you teach. And a lot of them probably already like you.

(And by the way, if the school isn’t paying you or not paying you remotely enough money, file a report at the Labor Department. Surprising to many westerners (farangs), the Thai Labor Department is there to help employees and they will usually get you the money the school is owing you, regardless whether you’re Thai or farang.


Photo copyright -School kids in Thailand – Jchong – Creative Commons License