Should you let an employee take a career break?

Taking a career break is a big decision for anyone, and impacts on more than just the individual considering an extended period away from work.

Why do employees take career breaks?

There are many reasons to take a career break. Family commitments, travelling, volunteering or studying are all some of the motives that would cause an employee to think about taking a sabbatical. However, there are no laws that cover taking a career break or sabbatical. Your employees do not have a statutory right to take extended leave from your business.

Do you have to offer career breaks?

Legally, employers do not have to offer career breaks and there are no laws specifically dealing with taking one.

However, there are benefits to your business of employees taking sabbaticals. These extended periods of leave are usually unpaid, and can be used as a reward and motivation. As well as increasing retention of employees, they can increase the skills of your workforce.

How should I deal with employees who want to take career breaks?

You should have a clear policy regarding career breaks, available for all staff.

Career breaks are not a set length of time and can vary (with sabbaticals being seen as a shorter period). Some employees may request a couple of months, others a couple of years. You need to set the terms and conditions of such breaks in your policy, including the length of break that you are prepared to offer.

Other areas that need to be included in your policy are eligibity, and how to apply for a career break, as well as the required notice period. You also need to consider how it will affect the terms and conditions of your employee, such as their annual leave entitlements and contractual benefits.

Can I refuse a request?

As Acas states, “Employers should look at requests on a case-by-case basis, as they will need to consider how the employee’s work and responsibilities will be covered while they’re off. This will help employers if they need to refuse a request for business needs. Employers should be fair and consistent when considering requests to ensure they don’t treat some employees unfavourably or discriminate against them.”

You may wish to refuse a request when the employee has a record of poor performance and attendance, if you are unable to cover their role during their break, or if the demands of your business are too high at that time.

If you are struggling with HR policy and process, contact me today for guidance and support




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