1. Introduction

The University is committed to developing work practices and policies which support work-life balance.

The University recognises that some employees may wish or need to take an extended break from work for a variety of personal reasons, during the course of their employment.

Employees are not entitled to take a career break, but the University recognises that there may be circumstances where it may be beneficial to the employee, and to the University, to allow an unpaid period of time away from work.

This policy sets out the University’s approach to career breaks and the basis on which they may be taken.

2. Scope

The Career Break Policy applies to all employees with the requisite service (see Section 4.1 Eligibility). Due to immigration regulations, it may, however, not be feasible to consider requests from individuals who do not have a permanent right to work in the UK.

Reasons for a career break may include:

    • Care and/or responsibility for children or other dependants
    • Personal study, training or development (which is relevant to the employee’s work at the University)
    • Any other purpose agreed with the University e.g. overseas travel or voluntary work


Academic employees wishing to take leave of absence for academic purposes, which are directly linked to their work, should refer to the Leave of Absence Procedure for Academic Staff.

The terms of this policy do not apply to maternity or adoption leave, parental leave, paternity leave, compassionate leave, emergency leave for care of dependants or flexible working for which separate University policies are available.

3. Aims

This policy has been developed to enable employees to take an extended period of unpaid time away from work in order to balance their career with other commitments, responsibilities and interests. Developed in accordance with the University’s policy on equal opportunities, it aims to provide a sympathetic response to employees wishing to take time away from work and ensure that all employees are treated in a fair and consistent manner.

4. Principles

4.1 Eligibility

4.1.1 To be considered for the scheme, employees must have at least two years continuous service with the University. In exceptional circumstances, applications may be considered from employees who have less than two years’ service, on a case by case basis.

4.1.2 When considering a career break application, the following factors will be taken into account:

    • The purpose of, or reasons for, the career break;
    • The period of absence requested;
    • The employee’s length of service;
    • The employees’ remaining length of employment contract;
    • Whether the employee has taken a career break on a previous occasion;
    • The operational needs of the Department;
    • The need to retain key skills, knowledge and experience to achieve the University’s longer term strategic objectives and ensure that staff expertise is aligned to student demand/priority activities.
    • The potential to be able to cover the post on a temporary basis;
    • The potential for the employee to return to a similar / the same post;
    • The potential benefits to the Department / University/ Individual Employee

This list is non-exhaustive therefore other factors may influence the University’s decision.

4.1.3 Not all applications will be approved so an employee must not commit themselves to any plans prior to his/her application being approved.

4.1.4 The granting of a career break and the duration of the break will be entirely at the University’s discretion and the University’s decision will be final.

4.1.5 In certain circumstances, a career break may not be the most appropriate arrangement. Where this is the case, an alternative which is more appropriate to the individual case may be agreed between the employee, Head of Department, and relevant HR Partner.

4.2 Duration and number of career breaks

4.2.1 A career break will normally last between three months and one year. In exceptional cases, and where practicable, a career break of less than three months or more than one year may be taken by mutual agreement.

4.2.2 In normal circumstances, the University will not grant a career break which is longer than an employee’s length of service.

4.2.3 An employee may seek to take more than one career break, but there will normally be at least three years between each break and separate approval must be sought on each occasion.

4.2.4 A career break may be extended provided that the total period does not exceed two years.

4.2.5 The total period of career breaks during an employee’s career should not exceed 3 years.

4.3 Applying for a career break

4.3.1 An employee wishing to apply for a career break should discuss this with his/her line manager in the first instance.

4.3.2 The employee should then complete a career break application form (CB1) and send it to his/her Head of Department a minimum of six months in advance of the proposed start date. It is, however, recognised that there may be circumstances beyond an employee’s control which prevent an employee from adhering to this timescale (e.g. a sudden change in personal circumstances) and managers should consider requests accordingly.

4.3.3 On receipt of the application, the Head of Department will arrange a meeting with the employee and line manager to discuss the request.

4.3.4 Applications will be considered in line with the factors identified in Section 4.1.2.

4.3.5 The actual start date and duration of a career break will be subject to mutual agreement between the employee, line manager and Head of Department.

4.3.6 The Head of Department will inform the employee of the decision in writing at the earliest opportunity and will provide reasons in cases where a career break is refused.

4.3.7 Where a career break is approved, the employee will be required to sign a form to confirm his/her agreement to the terms and conditions of the career break.

4.4 Contractual position during a career break

4.4.1 All career breaks will be unpaid.

4.4.2 A career break will not be regarded as a break in service for the purposes of statutory employment provisions. However, the period of the career break will not count towards any service related benefits e.g. occupational sickness payments, occupational maternity provisions and occupational redundancy payments. For these purposes service before the career break will be aggregated with service after the career break.

4.4.3 Incremental progression will not take place during a period of a career break, and a career break will result in the normal increment date being delayed by the period of the career break.  This delay will be implemented for all cases, whether the increment date is due within the period of the career break, or after the career break ends.  This delay to the increment date is imposed because annual increments are awarded to reflect the development of skills, knowledge and experience within the role for which an individual is employed.

4.4.4 Taking a career break can affect your pension. The impact of a career break on your pension is dependant upon the pension scheme you are a member of and your own personal circumstances. The University recommends that you contact the Pensions Team to find out how taking a career break will affect your pension before you apply for any such break.

4.4.5 There will be no entitlement to holiday pay whilst on a career break and the employee will not accrue annual leave. Any annual leave owing must be taken before commencement of the career break. There will be no payment in lieu for any leave outstanding.

4.4.6 There will be no entitlement to sick pay whilst on a career break.

4.4.7 Employees on a career break will not be eligible for Occupational Maternity Pay (OMP) and should be advised that entitlement to Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP) may also be affected since SMP is calculated on the basis of the employee’s salary 15 weeks before the Expected Week of Childbirth (EWC). An employee wishing to know how the rules apply to a particular situation is strongly advised to seek advice from the HR Department.

4.4.8 Consent must be obtained from the University for any paid work undertaken during the career break, to avoid any conflicts of interest. Providing that paid-work is not the primary reason for the career break, consent will not usually be withheld.

4.4.9 It is the responsibility of the employee on a career break to establish with the Social Security Agency whether he/she is entitled to any social security benefits and to check the position regarding National Insurance contributions.

4.5 Keeping in touch

4.5.1 An employee on a career break should supply his/her Head of Department and/or line manager with contact details for the period of absence and notify the University if these details change.

4.5.2 The employee and Head of Department/line manager should maintain reasonable contact during the career break period to make the return to work easier for both parties. It is recommended that the employee and Head of Department/line manager discuss what kind of contact there will be in advance of the career break commencing.

4.5.3 The Head of Department/line manager is responsible for keeping an employee on a career break informed of any significant workplace developments which may be relevant to his/her employment.

4.5.4 An employee on a career break is expected to maintain any professional links and keep-up-to-date with any significant developments in his/her area of work.

4.5.5 With mutual agreement an employee on a career break may occasionally be requested to attend work to update skills and/or familiarise themselves with changes in the work place. An employee is not obliged to do any work or attend any events during a career break and will not be penalised for refusing to do so; nor is a Head of Department/ line manager obliged to offer work to an employee on a career break. Any arrangements for working during the career break must be agreed by the employee and the Head of Department/line manager including the work to be undertaken and arrangements for payment. Work could include any activity done under the contract of employment, but may also include training or other events.

4.5.6 An employee will be given a minimum of one month’s notice of any request to attend work during a career break, and will be paid at the rate of pay applicable prior to the start of the career break. Any period of work for the University during a career break will count towards service related benefits.

4.6 Appointments

An employee on career break may apply for any advertised post that arises at the University during the career break, but will be required to accept the post at the time of offer and take up duties when required.

4.7 Promotion / Role Review

Academic, Research and Teaching staff on a career break will not normally be considered for promotion, but may apply in accordance with usual procedures upon their return to work. It is possible that the role of any employee will be reviewed in their absence and that a change in grade may occur or that a restructure will take place that will affect an individual's future employment. In these circumstances every effort will be made to consult with the employee as appropriate.

4.8 Resignation

If an employee decides to resign from his/ her post during a career break, s/he must submit a written statement of resignation to the Head of Department in advance of the agreed return to work date in accordance with his/her contractual notice period.

4.9 Returning to work

4.9.1 Providing that the terms and conditions of the career break policy and any subsequent agreement between the employee and the University are met, the University will guarantee the employee the opportunity to return to work at the end of the career break.

4.9.2 The University will seek as far as possible to place an employee returning from a career break into his/her former post. Where this is not possible, the employee will be offered suitable employment on terms and conditions not less favourable, and induction and ongoing training will be provided as necessary.

4.9.3 Before returning from a career break, an employee must give his/her Head of Department at least three months’ written confirmation of their intention to return to work.

4.9.4 An employee who exceptionally is granted a career break of more than one year’s duration must also confirm their intention to return to work, in writing, at the end of each twelve month period.

4.9.5 If an employee wishes to return from a career break early, they should put in a request in writing to their Head of Department at the earliest opportunity and at least three months in advance of the date on which they wish to return.

4.9.6 If an employee wishes to apply for an extension to a career break, they should do so using the extension to career break form (CB2), at least three months in advance of the agreed return to work date. It is recognised that there may be circumstances beyond an employee’s control which prevent an employee from adhering to this timescale and managers should consider requests accordingly.

4.9.7 The Head of Department (in consultation with the relevant HR Partner) will give sympathetic consideration to requests to return early or to extend a career break. However there is no guarantee that requests to return early or extend a career break will be accommodated.

4.9.8 If an employee is prevented from returning to work on the date agreed due to ill-health, they must contact the Head of Department as soon as possible. The right to return to work may be extended beyond the notified date of return, providing an appropriate medical certificate has been submitted.

4.9.9 If an employee is prevented from returning to work on the date agreed due to other events outside of the employee’s control, they must contact the Head of Department as soon as possible. The right to return to work may be extended beyond the notified date of return providing that appropriate evidence to support the reason for the delay is submitted.

4.9.10 Where there is failure to return on the due date and no alternative date has been agreed, the employee may lose their right to return to work.

4.9.11 On the employee’s return to work, the Head of Department should ensure that a comprehensive re-induction process is put in place which includes, for example, training on any new systems or procedures that have been introduced during the period of absence and briefing on any changes that will affect them such as pay awards, reorganisations or new legislation.

4.9.12 Employees for whom professional or other registration is a pre-requisite of employment must ensure that such registration is up to date before their return. Failure to do so will result in a delay to their return to work and in some circumstances the University's guarantee of employment may be withdrawn.

5. Responsibilities

Role Responsible for
Individual Employee
  • Discussing the application with his/her line manager.
  • Submitting an application to his/her Head of Department in accordance with required notice periods.
  • Signing a form to confirm his/her agreement to the terms and conditions of an approved career break.
  • Providing his/her Head of Department / line manager with contact details for the period of absence.
  • Maintaining good two-way communication with his/her Head of Department / line manager during the career break.
  • Maintaining professional or skill competencies whilst on the career break.
  • Making a request in writing to his/her Head of Department to undertake paid employment during the career break.
  • Giving his/her Head of Department notice of his/her intention to return to work in accordance with required notice periods.
  • Notifying his/her Head of Department if unable to return to work on the agreed date.
Head of Department
  • Giving full consideration to career break applications in consultation with the employee and his/her line manager.
  • Notifying the employee of the decision in writing, providing reasons where a career break has been refused.
  • Forwarding the completed Career Break Application Form (CB1) to the HR Department.
  • Ensuring that approved career breaks can be accommodated within the work group and that suitable arrangements are in place to cover the period of absence.
  • Keeping the employee on a career break informed of any significant workplace developments which may be relevant to his/her employment.
  • Ensuring that the employee receives a comprehensive re-induction on his/her return to work.
Human Resources
  • Providing guidance and advice to the individual, the line manager and the Head of Department on any aspect of the career break policy.
  • Confirming the terms and conditions of an approved career break in writing.
  • Informing payroll of any changes to salary or pension contributions relating to the career break.

6. Monitoring and review of policy

Application of the policy will be monitored by the Director of HR. The policy will be reviewed after a period of 4 years.

7. Approval

Approved by HR Policy Committee in December 2008.

8. Related Documents

This policy is not contractual and is not intended to be incorporated into individual terms and conditions of employment. It may be subject to review, amendment or withdrawal.