Career Break Policy

Introduction

The University is committed to equality of opportunity in employment for all its staff and to developing work practices and human resource policies that support work-life balance. The University has developed a career break scheme to enable employees to take extended periods of unpaid time away from work and to help employees strike a balance between paid work and personal life.

The aims of the Career Break Policy are to attract and retain staff by demonstrating a commitment to their long term career and personal development, to reduce the numbers of leavers and resulting recruitment and training costs, to support the University’s Equal Opportunities Policy and to contribute to work-life balance.

Career break conditions

Employees must have 26 weeks or more continuous service before any request for a career break can be made.

All career breaks will be subject to operational requirements.

Employees may apply for a career break of between three months and two years depending on their individual needs. An extension beyond the two-year period may be possible by mutual agreement.

A career break may be taken in addition to maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave or parental leave (see appropriate policies).

An employee may seek to take more than one career break period, but there would normally be at least three years between each period.

In certain circumstances a career break may not be the most appropriate arrangement for individual employees. In such instances alternative arrangements more appropriate to the individual case may be agreed between the employee and their Faculty/Directorate. Alternative arrangements could include leave in accordance with the University’s policies for maternity leave, adoption leave, parental leave, paternity/maternity support leave, dependent care, domestic emergency and bereavement leave, or flexible working. The suitability of any of the above for any situation should be considered as a possible alternative if it is appropriate.

A career break could be taken for any of the reasons listed below, or simply to have a break from paid employment. Possible reasons for a career break could include:

  • Childcare responsibilities.
  • Eldercare responsibilities.
  • Travel.
  • Study.
  • To pursue a personal interest.

Conditions of service during a career break

Career breaks are unpaid.

The period of the career break will count as continuous service.

Periods of unpaid leave can potentially affect maternity/paternity pay.  Please contact Human Resources to see if your entitlement is affected

During a career break an employee will accrue the statutory minimum leave entitlement. As the period is used in calculations of continuous service an employee may return to an increased annual leave entitlement according to their length of service. A career break is not counted as pensionable service. An employee can choose to make superannuation contributions during the career break. The payment mechanism will depend on the pension scheme to which they belong.

Standard salary progression will continue during a career break.

An employee must obtain consent from the University if they are undertaking paid work for another organisation during a career break. Such consent will not be unreasonably withheld and the requirement is primarily designed to avoid any conflicts of interest.

Pension

See Summary of pension arrangements for employees taking maternity leave, adoption leave, paternity/maternity/adoption support leave

Keeping in contact

Faculties/Directorates will aim to ensure that contact is maintained with employees who are taking career breaks. This may include, for example, provision of information through email or inviting them to seminars, training sessions or social events that the Faculty/Directorate may organise.

It is particularly important that employees are invited, where practicable, to any training which may be connected with the introduction of new courses, systems or procedures and are kept up-to-date with information on changes which may affect them, such as pay awards, Faculty/Directorate reorganisations or new legislation. Any time spent on such training will be compensated for by the equivalent time off when the employee returns to work.

Employees should also be sent copies of Faculty/Directorate newsletters where appropriate and any other relevant information that will help them to keep in touch and to facilitate their return to work. Ideally there should be a named person in the Faculty/Directorate responsible for sending on relevant information and maintaining contact.

In addition, employees taking a career break are encouraged to keep in contact with their Faculty/Directorate during the break.

Organisational changes during a career break

If organisational changes occur, the University will ensure that, where possible, employees taking a career break are involved in any consultations or other appropriate procedures on the same basis as all other affected employees.

Where an employee’s post is likely to become subject to redundancy during the career break the University will inform the employee and where possible discuss the situation with them, as required by statute and the University’s procedures.

Returning to work

Unless the employee has given a firm return date on the career break application form they must provide at least two months written notice to the Directorate of Human Resources of their intention to return to work. The actual date will be subject to mutual agreement between the employee and their Dean of Faculty/Director.

Faculties/Directorates should ensure that, prior to returning to work, employees are offered training on any new systems, procedures or courses that have been introduced and are brought up to date on changes that will affect them such as pay awards, Faculty/Directorate reorganisations or new legislation.

In order to ensure the effectiveness of the Career Break Policy, the University will seek as far as possible to place an employee returning from a career break in their former job or in one at an equivalent level.

Salary on return to work

At the end of a career break, an employee will return to a salary that reflects cost of living increases and any increments due during the career break.

Resignation during a career break

If an employee decides to resign during a career break, they must submit a written statement of resignation to the Directorate of Human Resources. The contract of employment will normally cease from the date when the resignation is received, ie it is not expected that a notice period will be worked.

Application procedure

Employees who wish to take a career break should follow the procedures detailed below:

Apply to their Dean/Director and line manager at least three months in advance of the proposed start date of the career break, using the career break application form and forward a copy of the form to the Directorate of Human Resources.

The Line Manager will arrange to meet with the employee in order to clarify any aspect that may need resolution.

The Dean of Faculty/Director will consider the request and they may decide to approve or refuse the request.

If, the line manager and or Dean of Faculty/Director has any concerns about the practicalities of an application, a member of the link Human Resources team should be consulted before a final decision is made.

Career Breaks may be refused for operational reasons. If the application is refused, the Dean of Faculty/Director will provide reasons for the refusal in writing to the employee.  If the employee concerned is dissatisfied with the decision, they should follow the procedure laid out in refusal of a career break below.

The date for commencement and termination of the career break will be by mutual agreement between the employee and their Dean of Faculty/Director and will need to take into account outstanding work activities and replacement staff arrangements.

Before the career break commences the relevant line manager should carry out a pre-break interview. The interviews should cover areas of mutual interest including:

  • Mechanisms for keeping in touch.
  • Name of contact person.
  • Arrangements for any periods of work/training.
  • Arrangements for returning to work.
  • Pension. 

A written record of the pre-break interview should be forwarded to the Directorate of Human Resources for placing on the personal file.

On returning to work, after completion of the career break, the employee should be welcomed back by the line manager with a re-entry interview. The interview should cover areas of mutual interest such as:

  • Changes within the Faculty/Directorate and University.
  • Employee’s salary and holiday entitlement on return to work.

Refusal of a career break

Staff who feel that they have been unreasonably refused a career break or who feel that they have been victimised for requesting one should, in the first instance raise the matter with their line manager and inform their link HR manager. They can also consult with their union and have the right to raise the matter through the grievance procedure.

Any complaints will be recorded by the Directorate of Human Resources and reported to the Work-Life Balance Steering Group. They will be monitored, with the aim of bringing about consistency between Faculties and Directorates in the way that policies related to work-life balance are implemented throughout the University.

Appendix A Career Break Application form

Updated Mar 2011