Career break policy


The University is committed to developing work practices and HR policies that support work-life balance and enhance the staff experience. The aims of the Career Break Policy are to attract, retain and motivate staff by demonstrating a commitment to their long-term career and personal development.

There is no automatic right to a career break and it is recognised that not all roles or areas of the University are suitable for a career break. However, managers are encouraged to accommodate requests for a career break wherever practicable, and must provide clear business or operational reasons if a request is refused.

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. Very exceptionally, an extension beyond the two-year period may be possible by mutual agreement.

A career break may be taken in addition to maternity leave policy, paternity leave policy, adoption/surrogacy leave or parental leave.

An employee may apply 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 the individual employee. 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 policy, adoption/surrogacy leave, parental leave, dependent care, domestic emergency and bereavement leave, or flexible working.

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

  • Childcare responsibilities
  • Eldercare responsibilities
  • Travel
  • Study
  • Personal or professional development
  • 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. Holiday pay will not accrue during a career break.

Periods of unpaid leave can potentially affect maternity/adoption/surrogacy/paternity pay. Please contact Human Resources to check whether entitlement is affected

A career break is not counted as pensionable service. An employee can choose to make pension 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 written consent from the University before they undertake any 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.

If a career break is agreed, there is no automatic entitlement to an extension of the break. A fresh request will need to be made and considered by the line manager.


Periods of unpaid leave such as career breaks may affect pension contributions and associated benefits. You may have the right to purchase additional pension on your return to work. Staff are advised to refer to the rules of their relevant scheme, and take advice where necessary.

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 at risk of redundancy during the career break the University will inform the employee and where possible discuss the situation with them, as required by law 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 Faculty/Directorate (copied 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 written notice of resignation to the Faculty/Directorate and Directorate of Human Resources. The contract of employment will normally cease from the date when the resignation is received, i.e. it is not expected that a notice period will be worked.

Application procedure

An application should be made using the career break with their line manager in good time. This should be sent to the the Dean/Director at least three months in advance of the proposed start date of the career break, with a copy of the form to the Directorate of Human Resources.

An applications should be made using the Career Break Application Form. This should be sent to the the Dean/Director at least three months in advance of the proposed start date of the career break, with a copy of the form to the Directorate of Human Resources.

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.

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

Career Breaks may be refused for operational reasons, including for example:

  • Burden of additional costs
  • Inability to reorganise work satisfactorily amongst existing staff, bearing in mind the impact on their workload
  • Inability to recruit additional staff
  • Detrimental impact on quality and performance
  • Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • Insufficiency of work during the proposed working times
  • Planned changes to the workforce or other structural change to the service or department.

If the application is refused, the Dean of Faculty/Director will provide reasons for the refusal in writing to the employee. If the employee is dissatisfied with the decision, they should follow the procedure set out 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 interview 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.
  • Cover.

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.
  • Work objectives.
  • 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 may also consult 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. 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.

Updated 2017