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Career Break

Career breaks offer an extended period of unpaid time away from work without you having to terminate employment.

Career breaks can be taken for a number of reasons: to allow for volunteering, studying, travelling, to family and outside commitments. All requests for a career break will be considered on its merits. 

The career break scheme is discretionary. Every effort will be made to grant a request however there may be occasions where despite satisfying the criteria, we cannot grant a career break. In circumstances where a career break cannot be permitted, your line manager will discuss other arrangements, which are available to help meet domestic responsibilities or achieve personal development objectives such as flexible working.

Some restrictions apply:

  • You must have completed one year’s continuous satisfactory service.
  • Agreement is dependent on service needs.
  • If you are on sick leave you are not eligible for a career break until you return to work and if you are returning from a period of long term sickness absence an application can only be considered once you have completed a satisfactory phased return to work.
  • If you are on maternity leave you are not eligible to make an application for a career break until you have provided written notice of your intention to return to work in line with our Maternity Policy.
  • Not more than one career break can be taken within a five year period.
  • If you are returning from a career break you must complete at least one year’s service prior to applying for another career break.
  • It is not usual to agree to a career break for you to undertake paid work with another employer. If you submit a request to do so this should be considered through our Secondment Policy.
  • There are certain circumstances, such as, charity work, which may be permissible under the terms of the career break. Any intention to take part in such works should be discussed prior to the career break with your line manager. If necessary your line manager should contact HR for guidance.

Your application will be considered irrespective of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, language, disability, religion, age, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, and parental or marital status.

The length of a career break will be agreed in advance between you and your line manager:

  • This will be for a minimum of 12 months and up to a maximum of 3 years. Minimum and maximum timescales are in place to reflect the possibility that job roles may change making reintroduction to work difficult for you and your Department;
  • This cannot exceed the duration of any existing contract of employment;
  • If a break is requested for less than one year then the Compassionate Leave section should be consulted;
  • Managers should ensure that they agree a return to work date with you prior to you commencing your career break.

Where possible we will aim to support your return into your original post. However, it is important to recognise that this cannot always be guaranteed due to changes that may occur to service provision during your career break. The following guidance is recommended:

  • If the career break is for a 12 months duration you should return to your substantive post
  • If the career break is for more than 12 months and up to 3 years your Line Manager and Department are required to forward plan for your return and identify suitable alternative employment commensurate with your substantive grade, qualifications, skills and experience if the substantive post cannot be held open.
  • Line managers must forward plan for the eventual return of the employee to the Department.  
  • If in exceptional circumstances you cannot return to your substantive post or offered a suitable alternative post within the Department you will be offered the opportunity to join the Redeployment Register no later than 3 months prior to the expected date of return from your Career Break.
  • If you wish to return to work earlier than the date originally specified you are required to give at least 3 months notice of the request. Although every effort will be made to accommodate this request, it should be recognised that this cannot be guaranteed. Alternative options can be explored, for example, offering a position in a temporary post until the original end date role of the career break.

You can apply to begin your career break following Maternity, Paternity, Foster or Adoption leave:

  • As in all circumstances the intention to apply for a career break should be made at least 3 months prior to the proposed start date of the career break to enable the application to be explored reasonably;
  • If the application is accepted the career break commences the day after the expiry of maternity, paternity, foster or adoption leave;
  • If a career break follows maternity leave you will not be expected to repay maternity payments provided that you return to work for a minimum period of 13 weeks following your career break.

Where possible you should submit an application form for a career break at least 3 months before the intended date of commencement to your line manager.

Within 28 days of receiving an application for a career break, line managers are advised to meet to discuss the application with the employee.  

If you are a line manager you are advised to consult with a Departmental Human Resource Officer prior to considering a request for a career break.

The following factors need to be taken into consideration by both you and your line manager when considering a career break application:

  • The needs of the department
  • The number of staff who may be absent during the period of the career break, e.g. maternity leave, long term ill-health, etc
  • The nature of the work the employee does
  • The cost of covering an employee’s absence
  • Alternative methods of covering the post.
  • The effects on managing workloads - consider current and projected workload
  • The notice given
  • Whether they will need retraining on their return
  • Whether a return to the same job is guaranteed
  • The nature of the contractual relationship during the absence

At the meeting you and your line manager will discuss the practicalities of the proposed career break and will establish how long the career break will be.

If approval is not granted, your line manager should inform you within 14 working days. This should be set out in writing, and should clarify the reasons for not granting the career break. For instance it may not be appropriate to grant career break applications for the following reasons:

  • Burden of additional costs
  • Detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand
  • Inability to reorganise work among existing staff
  • Inability to recruit additional staff
  • Detrimental impact on quality
  • Detrimental impact on performance
  • Planned structural changes

If the career break is approved your manager will confirm this agreement to the Departmental Human Resource Officer who will issue a letter detailing all the arrangements. A copy of this letter will be put in your personnel file.

People Management and Performance will inform payroll & pensions department of the career break. You are advised to seek advice on the impact of a career break on state benefits, occupational pension and life cover. For information on pension contributions see the terms and conditions section.

Where your line manager turns down an application, you have the right to appeal against the decision to the appropriate Head of Service. You should set out the grounds for the appeal as soon as possible upon receipt of the written notice of the decision. The Head of Service will hear the appeal within 14 days of your line manager’s decision. The decision of the Head of Service will be final, and you will be notified within 7 working days of the hearing.

Keeping a level of contact in place is important as those on a career break can feel isolated, and may not be encouraged to return to work. If contact is retained throughout the break, the need for training may be reduced and can assist with ensuring the retention of a skilled member of staff.

Arrangements for maintaining contact should be agreed before the commencement of the career break. Contact can be maintained through the following suggested ways:

  • ensuring the employee continues to receive newsletters
  • departmental publications/updates
  • Y Gair

The onus is also on you to maintain contact and appropriate registration with any professional bodies and organisations that you are a member of.  You should keep your manager informed of newsletters, literature etc. you may need.

You are required to work a minimum of 10 working days in each calendar year of the career break. The details of which are to be arranged between you and your line manager before your career break begins.

This 10-day period does not have to be continuous. You may be invited to training sessions/ seminars and briefs, of which a total of 5 days can count towards the 10 days service.

You will be paid pro rata salary for these days. The retainer term in the policy is designed to help preserve your skills and knowledge, and will assist with keeping you up to date with developments. You strictly cannot partake in any work outside of this given 10-day work period with the Council. Keeping in touch days are regarded as pensionable salary.

To apply for a KIT day(s) please complete the ‘KIT’ form. Your Line Manager will authorise and forward to the Absence Team for processing.

The terms & conditions and procedures that apply during a career break, will be detailed in the confirmation letter. After you have read this in full, you need to send a signed copy to the appropriate Departmental Human Resource Representative, confirming agreement of terms and conditions.

Any queries/questions should be discussed with your line manager or a Departmental Human Resource Representative.

Where possible all outstanding annual leave entitlement should be taken before commencing a career break. In the event that this cannot be accommodated your line manager has the discretion to authorise up to 5 days carry over of annual leave to the leave year on return from the career break.

Annual leave does not accrue during the career break.

The career break will count as continuous service for employment protection purposes and will count towards long service on return. However during the career break period you will not be entitled to occupational sick pay.  Statutory Sick Pay may be payable depending on qualifying conditions.

Whilst on a career break you will not accrue continuous service for the purposes of incremental progression up the salary scale which is suspended for the period of the career break.

As a member of Local Government Scheme Pension Scheme (LGPS), you are able to reinstate any ‘lost pension’ arising from a period of unpaid leave by paying additional contributions under an Additional Pension Contribution (APC) arrangement.  On your return to work, you will be given the option to reinstate the pension lost during your period of unpaid leave.  If you elect to do so within 30 days of your return to work, the repayment will be split between you and the Authority (1/3 to the member and 2/3 to the Employer).  However, if your election is made outside this 30 day period, the entire cost of reinstating your lost pension will be payable by you, as the member.

As a career break is deemed to be continuous service if you die in service or become permanently incapacitated whilst on a career break entitlements under the Local Government Pension Scheme continues. You or your representative is responsible for ensuring retrospective pension contributions are paid.

During the career break you are required to continue to abide to the Council’s Code of Conduct, Disciplinary Policy and all other policies and procedures. You still remain obligated to the standards required by local government employees.

A career break is classed as continuity of employment for redundancy purposes in the calculation of length of service. Redundancy pay is calculated on the salary point as at the commencement of the career break including any national pay awards.

Occupational and statutory maternity pay may be affected depending on when qualifying week for maternity pay calculation falls. Further advice can be sought from Departmental Human Resource Officers.

You have a duty to inform your line managers at the earliest opportunity of any changes, problems and issues that may occur in relation to the career break. If you wish to change the terms of your career break this must be done with the agreement of your line manager. For example, request an extension to the career break or utilise the break for a different reason as originally outlined.

If you wish to resign during your career break then you must give written notice to terminate your employment as outlined in your terms and conditions of employment.

We reserve the right to terminate a career break if the terms of the career break agreement are changed or breached without agreement. For instance, an employee outlining in the application that he/she will be using the time for travelling and it transpires they are working for another employer. We may consider using the Disciplinary Policy in such circumstances.

If you are undertaking a course of study funded by us prior to the career break, you may be asked to pay for training costs.

It is recognised that the circumstances in which this might occur will vary, thus your line manager must exercise discretion depending on the circumstances. For example, if we have already committed to fund a course, which has to be terminated due to the career break, you are required to pay back the cost of the course prior to the commencement of the career break or explore if the course can be postponed until your return. If the purpose of the career break is to devote more time to study and the completion of a course of study it may be reasonable to continue to fund this.

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Page updated: 13/07/2020 11:33:01