Career Break: arrangements

The guidance below explains the issues that should be considered before, and at all stages of, a Career Break.  Departments and individuals should familiarise themselves with all the guidance before an application is made to ensure that all parties are clear about the way that the scheme works and their duties and responsibilities.

Before a period of leave

PDR

It may be helpful for the employee and line manager to have a PDR discussion before the leave begins to review recent work performance, and consider the plans both for the work the individual normally does during the period of their absence, as well as their career plans and aspirations for after they return.

Departmental equipment, email, etc

Before a career break commences employees will be expected to return all departmental equipment (laptops, phones, credit cards, keys, etc). Individuals should not expect to be granted access to the department’s facilities during the leave.

Agreement should be reached about redirecting or providing delegated access to email, and arranging for access to other work-related systems, files, etc during the absence.

Loans

Any ‘loan schemes’ such as travel passes, cycle purchase or hardship loans must normally be paid in full before the period of unpaid leave commences.

Annual leave

Where a career break period will run across more than one holiday year, any annual leave that has been accrued but not yet taken must be taken before the period of unpaid career break may be started. During the period of unpaid leave statutory annual leave entitlement will accrue (28 days per year inclusive of bank holidays). This will be included within the career break and will be on an unpaid basis.

Recording in CoreHR

Career breaks should be recorded in CoreHR in accordance with QRG CH22 Unpaid Leave (348kb).  A new code CB (Career Break) is available in conjunction with the action code UNPL (Unpaid Leave).

During the Career Break

Work during the leave

Departments may require an individual who is taking a career break to attend work for particular short periods or particular dates during the leave: for example for training, to assist at an event, or for particular periods of intense activity.  The employee will be given reasonable notice of the dates and details of any such work, which will be agreed in advance, and employees would be paid at their normal rate of pay for work done.

A career break cannot normally be used to enable an employee to take on employment with another employer, or to develop a personal business venture. However, there may be circumstances under which the employee needs to take on some paid employment during their agreed leave. In such circumstances they must seek prior approval, in writing, from their Head of Department before taking up the employment. Such approval is at the absolute discretion of the Head of Department, and in all circumstances it must be clear that there is no conflict of interest. The normal arrangements concerning approval to hold outside appointments will apply.

Annual leave

Employees on a career break will accrue entitlement to statutory annual leave only (28 days per 12 months inclusive of bank holidays) which must be taken during the period of the career break and will be on an unpaid basis.

Reward and Recognition and other merit schemes

In common with other staff who work for part of the review period, those taking unpaid leave should be considered for their contribution in the portion of review period that they work and any payment made on a pro-rata basis.

Continuity of service and associated benefits

The career break will not be treated as a break in continuous service with regard statutory entitlements and benefits. In calculating total years of continuous service for the purposes of redundancy pay the period of unpaid leave will be counted as continuous service. With regard to contractual, enhanced, benefits which rely on continuous service it will not count as eligible service, eg the contractual sickness leave scheme or long service additional leave where the level of benefit is determined by the number of years’ continuous service. For such purposes the period of the unpaid leave will be discounted and total eligible service will be aggregated by adding service before the career break leave to any service after return from career break leave.

An employee who becomes a parent, or an expectant parent, during a period of unpaid leave should be aware whilst an unpaid leave break may not affect eligibility for statutory unpaid family leave, in order to qualify for both statutory and contractual paid family leave schemes the eligibility criteria require a minimum earning threshold to be met during a particular period. Individuals should seek advice about their own circumstances and read the guidance carefully.

Reorganisation and redundancy

In the event that reorganisation or redundancy needs to be considered during the period of the career break the employee will be treated in the same way as other employees, but may be kept up to date by correspondence, if necessary. Redundancy pay, where due, will be based on the salary immediately prior to the period of leave. In the event that notice is served during the planned period of unpaid leave the notice will be on an unpaid basis.

Changes to agreed length of career break

Should the employee’s circumstances change such that they wish to return to work earlier than the planned date, this may be arranged by mutual agreement but there is no automatic entitlement to return early, particularly where a replacement has been appointed to cover the role during the employee’s planned absence. Notice of any change will normally require at least 12 weeks’ notice.

Should the employee wish to apply to extend the period of the career break (the total maximum period of 1 year for the period of leave applies) then a request for a change should be made at least 12 weeks before they were due to return. There is no automatic right to have a period of leave extended although in exceptional circumstances such requests may be approved on a case by case basis.

Sickness during a career break

In the event that an employee is sick during their career break they will not be entitled to the provisions of the paid sickness absence policy.

Keeping in touch

A career break presupposes an eventual return to work, and as part of considering an application for unpaid leave, the University and the employee must consider the most appropriate mechanisms to keep in touch in order to ease this return. Agreement should be reached about how, and how frequently, contact will be maintained. For example, the employee might agree to contact their line manager on a monthly basis for a brief update, or the line manager might arrange to send a regular email attaching departmental updates such as newsletters.  In any event the employee must ensure that the department has current contact details so that any time-sensitive communications can be sent to them promptly.

Employees may, by agreement and where appropriate, engage in up to 10 days of work for the University during their period of leave, in particular if this is necessary to maintain particular job related skills, or undertake training to enable them to return to their job effectively. Where the department has agreed to the career break on the basis that the individual will come into work, for example to assist at an event, or to work during a period of particular intense activity, or to undertake training that is required to enable a return to previous duties, it is expected that every effort will be made to attend. Payment for such days will be at the normal daily rate the employee earned prior to their period of leave (calculated as 1/260th of annual salary for each day worked). Such work does not count towards continuous service for enhanced, contractual entitlements.

During the period of leave the employee will be expected to keep abreast of developments in their field and maintain any memberships of professional bodies which may be required for their return to work.

Return to work

The University will make all reasonable efforts to allow employees to return to their previous post, or an equivalent post, at the end of the career break (except in the event that a reorganisation or redundancy process has commenced, see above). However, the University reserves the right to allocate the employee to a similar post on no less favourable terms and conditions of employment either within the original department or another department of the University.

Where the individual wishes to request to return to work on different terms and conditions, for example to a different working pattern, such a request should be made through the normal flexible working route but there is no automatic right to return to different terms and conditions.

Employees are encouraged to make contact with their department in good time (and no later than one week) before their expected return date to finalise arrangements. As noted above, 12 weeks’ notice is required to make any changes to agreed arrangements.

Departments are encouraged to consider setting in place a programme of re-introduction or reintegration for the individual as they would for an employee who has been away on family or other extended leave.

Should the employee decide to resign from their post and not return to work the contractual notice period will apply. In the event that the employee fails to return to work on the agreed date this will be treated as a serious disciplinary issue, unless the absence relates to sickness in which case the normal sickness notifications arrangements apply.