Considering a Career Break?

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With everything that’s been happening over the past few months, this might be the perfect time to reconsider your options. Do you enjoy your job? Are you fulfilled by it? While quitting on the precipice of an economic downturn is not the right move for everybody, it could be the right time for you to consider a career break. We’ve complied a handy list of FAQs to see if this option might work for you. 

What is a Career Break ?

A career break is a period of unpaid leave agreed between an employer and employee. It’s for a specific duration, usually lasting somewhere between one and five years. During this time your contract of employment is in effect suspended. But take note – a career break is not used in calculating such benefits such as pension entitlements.

What’s in it for the employer?

For the employer, a career break can be a way of holding on to experienced but restless staff. It can lead to renewed vigour from the employee on returning to the company. It can increase the skills and promotional prospects of valuable staff members. It can be a valuable human resource tool, integrating an employee’s family and domestic needs with job requirements. The employer may also introduce the scheme as part of an Equal Opportunities Programme.

How do I know if I’m eligible?

A lot of companies have formalised approaches to career breaks. Many have a minimum service requirement that must be satisfied before an application will be considered at all. So go ask your boss and start getting the info.
But in general there’s no clear, consistent policy on career breaks, and many companies deal with each case on its own merits. This sometimes causes inconsistencies and can give rise to equal opportunity problems and charges of biased treatment in favour of an individual or group. So watch out for that and talk to your colleagues.

Usually management decides whether career break requests are granted or denied. Consideration has to be given to the needs of the employer: how busy the company is, and whether or not it will be easy to replace the employee on a temporary basis. Some companies only give breaks in certain circumstances, like personal or career development, further education, voluntary or charitable work, or domestic and personal reasons.

A formalised policy on leave leads to a more coherent approach. It should still enable management to assess each case on its own merits. From the employee’s perspective, well- defined career break rules at work should obviate the need for intermittent absences to deal with personal or domestic matters.

A company can assess the effectiveness of such schemes over time by recording and comparing the allocation of special leave with productivity costs.

Will my job be the same when I get back?

A lot of people worry about not being able to get their job back. Job guarantees can vary from scheme to scheme or company to company. Most organisations will undertake to provide a position at the equivalent salary level and status previously held by the employee. But you may find yourself moved to a different department. And, by the way, you must give prior notice of your return – one to three months’ notice is required.

Does a career break include secondment or a sabbatical?

In short, no. Secondment is the temporary loan of an employee to another company or part of the same organisation. It is usually agreed by two employers on a commercial basis. A sabbatical is unpaid leave that usually entails work and study.

Should I go for it?

Now that, my friend, is entirely up to you!


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