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Taking a career break

Understand the policy and procedure for taking a career break.


The University is committed to providing a facility whereby staff can request an unpaid extended period away from employment to meet their personal needs. And at the same time, allowing 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 as follows, but this is not an exhaustive list and each request will be considered on its merits:

  •  to take care of dependants such as 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


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.


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.


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 will be frozen during the period of the career break and will only be payable from the return to work date.


Staff will retain their right to redundancy pay in line with paragraph 4.9 of the University’s Managing Organisational Change policy and 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 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 their 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

This can result in the termination of employment by the University.

Staff taking a career break immediately after maternity or adoption leave

Staff will only be entitled to statutory maternity or adoption pay and not occupational maternity pay (OMP) as they will not meet the return to work requirements under the provisions of the maternity or adoption leave policy. 

Read our guidance on returning from a career break.

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