Career Break scheme details

Length of leave

Staff may request to take a career break of between one and 12 months. The period of leave must be agreed in advance. Each employee may take a maximum of two breaks (of up to 12 months each) during their working career with the University and must have at least five years continuous service between each agreed break.

Eligibility

All support and academic-related staff with a minimum of three years continuous service may apply for a career break provided that:

  • they have not made a request for a career break within the previous 12 months; and
  • they have not taken a career break within the last five years of continuous service and have taken no more than one previous career break during their working career with the University.

It would also be expected that a member of staff had completed their probation period in their current job.

If you have come from another employer under a TUPE arrangement please check with your HR contact whether there is an alternative scheme under your terms and conditions.

Academic staff should speak to their division. Further guidance on leave arrangements for academic staff may be found at http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/personnel/staffinfo/academic/guidelinesforleave/#d.en.41015

Notice

Individuals requesting a career break must normally do so at least six months before they intend to commence their period of leave. This is in order to allow time for a request to be considered and, where agreed, for arrangements to be made to cover the post during the leave. This may involve recruiting a fixed-term replacement, engaging temporary agency staff, organising a secondment, or other appropriate reorganisation of work. It is recognised that in some circumstances it is not possible for an individual to give this much notice (ie a sudden change in personal circumstances) and managers are expected to use their discretion in considering requests.

Pensions

Employees are strongly encouraged to speak to a pensions adviser to see how the break will affect their pension before applying for a period of leave. The period of the career break will not count as pensionable service and during the unpaid leave the pension will be suspended. The pensions team can advise whether the employee can make special contributions in order to maintain death in service and ill-health entitlements during the period of leave. No employer pensions contributions will be made. Upon return to work the individuals who are members of OSPS or USS will be automatically re-enrolled into the salary exchange scheme unless they give notice that they do not wish to participate.

Contract

The employee will continue to be bound the terms of their contract during the break, in particular with regard to the provisions related to intellectual property, confidentiality, conflict of interest and IT regulations.

Salary

Career breaks are unpaid.

Incremental progression rewards experience gained in the role during the year running up to the incremental date. In order to qualify for normal incremental progression, an employee taking an unpaid career break must have been at work, in their normal role, for at least three months of the incremental year (ie 1 August to 30 July for support staff and 1 October to 30 September for academic-related staff). This mirrors the arrangements for new starters who qualify for incremental progression if they have accrued three months continuous service at the incremental date.

The individual will benefit from any cost of living rises which have been applied to the University’s salary scales, upon their return to paid work.

Any salary sacrifice arrangements will be suspended during the career break. If you are in receipt of childcare related benefits, such as childcare vouchers, please contact the Childcare Services team to find out how a period of unpaid leave will affect those schemes. See also https://www.gov.uk/help-with-childcare-costs/childcare-vouchers

Staff with fixed-term contracts and those funded by external sponsors

Staff with fixed-term contracts must have sufficient service remaining on their contract to cover the full period of the requested leave and a period of at least six months after their return to work.

A Research Principal Investigator may also need to consider the requirements of the research project and may not be able to agree to a career break for operational reasons.

Where the salary for the post is provided by an external sponsor, or where the individual is engaged in work funded by an external sponsor, it may be necessary to seek the approval of the sponsor. Research Services should be consulted.

Staff working on Tier 2 or Tier 5 visas

The Staff Immigration Team must be consulted before considering any applications from this group of staff. Staff working on limited term visas may not be eligible to take unpaid leave under the terms associated with their immigration status.

Interaction with family leave

Other than in exceptional circumstances it is not expected that a career break would be attached to a period of family leave. Where it is agreed that an employee can take a career break immediately after maternity, adoption or shared parental leave and the employee subsequently resigns without returning to work the employee will normally be expected to repay the contractual elements of the family leave pay and the career break will not count as a ‘return to work’ for these purposes.

Claiming other benefits

Individuals who are taking a career break for caring responsibilities should seek advice from statutory agencies regarding any entitlements to benefits during their leave, for example carers may be able to claim some carers’ allowance.

Tax and National Insurance

As leave is unpaid there will be no tax deductions, but a tax adjustment may be required in the event that tax has been overpaid, or, for example, where an employee goes overseas during their career break. Employees are responsible for exploring their personal tax liabilities directly with HMRC.