Career Break Scheme

  1. Purpose
  2. Eligibility
  3. Duration
  4. General Conditions
  5. Employee Commitment
  6. Retaining skills and knowledge
  7. Pension
  8. Annual Leave
  9. Sick Pay
  10. Maternity Pay
  11. Return from the Career Break
  12. Redundancy
  13. How to apply

Forms: Career break scheme application (Office document, 45kB), Career break KIT day form (Office document, 60kB)


1.0 Purpose

1.1 The University is committed to developing policies that support work-life balance and recognises that some employees may wish or need to take an extended period of unpaid time away from work in order to balance their career with other commitments, responsibilities and interests.

1.2 This scheme allows the University to:

1.3 The Career Break Scheme is not a contractual entitlement and can be withdrawn or amended at any time.

1.4 Although there is no statutory or contractual entitlement to a career break the University will give due consideration to all requests from eligible staff. The request will be considered with regard to the operational and strategic requirements of the University and in all cases the University’s decision will be final. Employees are advised not to commit themselves in advance of this decision.

1.5 In certain circumstances a career break may not be the most appropriate arrangement for the employee. Alternative arrangements may include leave of absence and study leave (academic), paternity leave, maternity leave, adoption leave or parental leave. Employees who wish to request flexible working in accordance with their statutory rights should refer to the University’s flexible working policy. Individuals who are unsure of which policy is applicable to their particular set of circumstances should seek further advice from their faculty/divisional HR team.

2.0 Eligibility

2.1 The University will consider career break applications from all University employees who have a minimum of 3 years’ continuous service unless:

2.2 The following factors will be considered when reviewing an application for a career break:

2.3 Members of staff who are taking maternity leave may apply for a career break provided they meet the criteria above. The career break would normally begin at the end of the period of maternity leave.

2.4 The scheme is capped at a maximum of 3 career breaks per employee during the course of their career with the University.

2.5 A minimum of 5 years’ continuous service is required between each career break.

3.0 Duration

3.1 The start and end dates of the career break must be clearly defined and will be by mutual agreement between the University and the individual. These dates should take any outstanding work activities and alternative staffing arrangements into consideration.

3.2 The break will be no shorter than 3 months and would usually last no longer than 1 year, other than in exceptional circumstances.

4.0 General Conditions

4.1 A career break is a period of unpaid leave. Incremental progression through the salary spine will be suspended during the period of absence although cost of living increases will be applied as per usual.

4.2 During the career break the individual remains an employee of the University and will continue to be bound by the terms and conditions of their contract including disciplinary and grievance procedures, confidentiality and intellectual property. Academic Staff will continue to be subject to the University’s Policy on Outside Work (Academic Staff).

4.3 In accordance with the Employment Rights Act (2006) the employee will continue to accrue continuous service for the purposes of statutory entitlements.

4.4 University property, including laptops, mobile phones and credit cards should be returned to the University for the duration of the career break.

5.0 Employee Commitment

5.1 The employee will normally be required at their manager’s discretion to undertake work for the University for up to 10 days per annum in order for them to keep in touch with their colleagues, team activities and developments. There may also be a requirement to attend any training relevant to their role.

5.2 These requirements will be defined prior to the commencement of the career break and will be paid at an hourly rate based on the full time equivalent salary. This work will not count towards continuous service for enhanced, contractual entitlements.

5.3 The employee should continue to be copied in to any appropriate information circulated to staff where practicable during their absence.

6.0 Retaining skills and knowledge

6.1 Individuals will be required to keep abreast of any developments in their field of expertise and to maintain links to any relevant professional networks.

6.2 Where membership of a professional body is a requirement of the role it is the employee’s responsibility to maintain this membership during the duration of their career break.

7.0 Pension

7.1 All pensionable service earned prior to the career break will be maintained and individuals will retain membership of their scheme during the break.

7.2 With the exception of any period spent working at the University, the career break will not count towards pensionable service unless the employee wishes to maintain both employee and employer superannuation contributions.

7.3 Where the employee does not wish to maintain employee and employer contributions this may affect their death in service or incapacitation benefits for the duration of the career break. Where this is the case, individuals are advised to contact the Payroll and Pensions Office to discuss alternative arrangements.

7.4 Individuals taking a career break will be unable to continue to participate in the Pension Salary Exchange Scheme for the duration of the break as they will not be in receipt of any earnings.

7.5 Members of staff who are considering a career break are strongly encouraged to contact the Payroll and Pensions Office to discuss how their individual circumstances will impact their pension scheme entitlements.

8.0 Annual Leave

8.1 Employees on a career break will not accrue contractual annual leave or paid University closure days. Instead they will accrue statutory annual leave only at 28 days per annum (inclusive of bank holidays).

8.2 Statutory annual leave must be taken during the career break and will not be paid.

9.0 Sick Pay

9.1 Employees on a career break are not entitled to contractual sick pay but are entitled to statutory sick pay. It should be noted that the career break may affect the amount of statutory sick pay the individual is entitled to.

10.0 Maternity Pay

10.1 Employees on a career break are not entitled to contractual maternity pay but are entitled to statutory maternity pay. It should be noted that the career break may affect the amount of statutory maternity pay the individual is entitled to.

11.0 Return from the Career Break

11.1 At the end of the career break the employee will return to their substantive post. On returning to work the employee should be welcomed back with a re-entry interview to help them to reacclimatise to the organisation.

11.2 While returning to work on the basis of an alternative working pattern is not a right, the University will give appropriate consideration to such requests, which should be submitted under the flexible working procedure.

11.3 If an individual does not wish to return to the University at the end of their career break they are required to give notice in accordance with the terms and conditions of their contract of employment.

11.4 If an individual resigns during the course of their career break the notice period that falls within the career break will be unpaid.

11.5 Although an individual is not entitled to return to work before or after the expected end of the career break the University appreciates that in exceptional circumstances an individual may wish to extend or reduce their career break. Under such circumstances the University at its absolute discretion can agree an early or delayed return to work providing this does not impact negatively on other employees. Requests should be submitted at the earliest opportunity to allow the University time to consider the request.

12.0 Redundancy

12.1 Where an individual’s post is put at risk of redundancy during their career break they will be treated the same as other employees in accordance with the University’s policies and procedures.

12.2 Individuals who are unable to physically attend group consultation meetings will be kept up to date with the on-going redundancy process in writing.

12.3 The University prefers that individuals are physically present during redundancy consultations but appreciates that this is not always possible. Under such circumstances individuals will be allowed to participate in writing or by telephone or video conferencing technology, where this is available.

12.4 Where an individual is entitled to enhanced redundancy pay, this will based on service accrued up to the start of the career break.

12.5 Any notice period that falls within the duration of the career break will be unpaid.

13.0 How to apply

13.1 Employees interested in making an application under this policy are encouraged to raise the matter informally with their line manager at the earliest opportunity.

13.2 Formal applications, supported with appropriate evidence should normally be submitted to the individual’s line manager at least 6 months in advance of the requested start date. The line manager will then forward their application to the Head of School/Division for consideration.

13.3 The final decision will be made by the Head of School/Division and Human Resources Manager who will seek to ensure that the policy is applied consistently.

13.4 Employees will normally receive a response within 2 months of their application.

13.5 If a career break is refused the reasons for the refusal will be given to the individual concerned. There is no right to appeal.