Employers and career breaks

The information in this guide was last updated on 26/02/2014

Some companies encourage career breaks, offering employees a sabbatical period with their job held open for them when they come back. Employers aren’t obliged to do this, and some might consider it on a case-by-case basis. If your employer offers career breaks, check their policy to see whether you’re eligible and how long you can take a break for. Check also whether the terms and conditions of your contract apply during the break,eg: whether you’re still eligible for pay increases.

Can a career break help your career?

A career break is more than just a holiday. It can be a few months’ sabbatical, a gap year, or a longer period like your first child’s pre-school years. Some people take a career break to take stock after being made redundant, retrain for a new career or take a degree or vocational course.

Your career break can give you new transferable skills. It can also help give you more experience in solving problems and using your initiative, and a better perspective on work.

  • If your career break takes you overseas, you could gain new language skills and knowledge of other cultures. It also shows a level of independence and the ability to adapt to new situations.
  • Running your own business means you’ll gain experience of selling, accounting, project-managing and marketing, among other things.
  • If you’re taking a break to become a parent, you’ll learn more about communication, negotiation, planning and research, managing conflict and prioritisation, to name but a few.

According to the international development charity VSO which places volunteers overseas: “findings indicate that individuals who take sabbaticals or a career break in order to pursue volunteering opportunities dramatically increase their commitment and motivation in the workplace after the experience.”