Human Resources

Apply for a career break

Flexible working request procedure

Career breaks

The University is committed to providing a facility whereby staff can request an unpaid extended period away from employment to meet their personal needs whilst at the same time providing for regular contact between the University and the member of staff with a view to facilitating a later return to work.

 The granting of a career break is subject to the agreement of the Head of Department and the relevant line manager and after consultation with Human Resources.  Applications should be made via the Flexible Working Request Procedure at least 15 weeks in advance of the proposed commencement date.  This notice may be varied where exceptional, compassionate circumstances exist.

Reasons for requesting a career break

Possible reasons for staff seeking a career break are listed below but this is not an exhaustive list and each request will be considered on its merits:

• to take care of dependants e.g. pre-school children, or during the serious illness of a child or close relative;
• to undertake long term, full-time study (the course must be relevant to the job role)
• to travel or work on a voluntary basis (including visits to relatives overseas and to accompany a partner working abroad).

Examples of the type of activity for which a career break would not be allowed include:

• to take up any other employment (either permanent or fixed term);
• to start own business;
• to look after a child where both parents work for the University and one parent has already been allowed a career break for this purpose.

Eligibility

The scheme applies to all staff on a permanent (or ‘open-ended’) contract.  Staff must have completed a minimum of five years continuous service with the University at the point of application.

General terms and conditions

  • Duration of leave: a career break must be between a minimum of six months and a maximum of twelve months;
  • Pay: during the inclusive dates of a career break, the leave will be unpaid.
  • Continuous service: the inclusive period of a career break will be classed as a period of unpaid leave and will not count as a break in service.  This period will not however count as continuous service for the purposes of accruing contractual annual leave and maternity pay entitlement. Statutory holiday entitlement will not be accrued during this period as it is not working time
  • Sick pay: there is no right to sick leave and sick pay during the inclusive period of a career break.  On return to work at the end of a career break, staff will return with the same entitlement to sick pay that they had on their last working day before they started the career break.
  • Pension: both employee and employer pension contributions to the pension scheme (USS and LGPS) will cease during the period of a career break.  Unpaid leave is treated as suspended membership and will not count as pensionable service.  On return to work staff may be entitled to pay additional pension contributions subject to the rules of the pension scheme and where necessary subject to the agreement of the University. Please refer to further details on the USS scheme and the LGPS scheme.  
  • Salary increments: any incremental increases occurring during a career break period  would be frozen during the period of the career break and would only be payable from  the return to work date.
  • Redundancy: staff will retain their right to redundancy pay in line with paragraph 4.9 of the University’s Managing Organisational Change Policy & Procedure.
  • Other employment: other full time or part time paid employment: should not be undertaken during the period of a career break.
  • Changes of address, contact details etc. and/or circumstances: it is the responsibility of the member of staff to inform the Human Resources Department as soon as possible of any changes during the career break. 
  • Alteration of dates: once an agreed time period for a career break has been approved, any alteration can only be made by mutual agreement with the line manager.
  • Eligibility for a further career break: staff will need to accrue five further continuous years’ service after their return to work before being eligible for a further career break. 
  • Skills and knowledge essential to the post and to their successful return to work: it is the responsibility of the member of staff to ensure that these are kept up to date during a career break.
  • Failure to return to work on specified dates or failure to fulfil other requirements of the scheme: can result in the termination of employment by the University.
  • Staff taking a career break immediately after maternity/adoption leave: will only be entitled to statutory maternity/adoption pay and not occupational maternity pay (OMP) as they will not meet the return to work requirements under the provisions of the maternity/adoption leave policy. 

Returning from a career break

  • At least 12 weeks before the agreed return date: staff must write to their line manager, confirming that they will be returning to work on the agreed return date, copying this to the designated Human Resources Manager.
  • Meeting: the line manager will arrange a meeting to discuss return to work options and any relevant training and/or induction session. 
  • Alteration of dates: once dates for a career break have been agreed, staff will not normally be allowed to return before that agreed date.  However, if personal circumstances change, the line manager will give consideration to a request for an earlier return than planned made at the earliest possible opportunity.  In doing so the line manager will have to consider this request within the operational requirements of the department and its staff and the University and therefore it should be noted that it may not be possible to agree to an earlier return to work date depending on the circumstances.
  • Not returning to work: if staff decide not to return to work at the end of a career break, they must give their line manager and the University written notice in line with their contract of employment, before the end of the absence period.
  • Delayed return due to sickness: if staff are unable to return to work on the agreed return date due to sickness, they must provide a medical certificate (‘fit note’/MED3 or 5 form) from the first date of their return to work to cover this absence.
  • Returning to the same post: the University will endeavour to facilitate the return of the member of staff on a career break to the post which they occupied prior to the period of leave or to a post that is similar in terms of duties and skills and on terms and conditions no less favourable than those which applied before the career break.
  • Keep in Touch (KIT) Days: to maintain skills and workplace knowledge managers and staff may agree paid keeping in touch (KIT) /training days during the break.  Should the member of staff return to University employment at the end of a career break they will be paid the equivalent number of KIT days under their new contract.   The original employing Faculty/School/Service is responsible for meeting the costs of any training or work experience activities.
  • Recruiting to the vacant post:  the vacant post will normally be covered as a fixed term appointment or could be offered as a secondment opportunity.  Requests for replacement will be subject to the usual University procedures for vacancy filling as outlined in the Recruitment and Selection Code of Practice