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Take a Year Out - Have a Gap Year

Updated on May 11, 2011

Career Breaks - Take a Year Out from Work

As many of my regular readers on my Facebook friends list might already know, I have decided to take a gap year from my day job next year to travel more and update my online journals a long the way.

Many companies believe that team members are an important part of there success and recognise the importance of helping them maintain a suitable balance between their work and home life.

To help achieve this work-life balance they may reward team members loyalty by offering them the chance to take a gap year, ordinarily after five years service.

A year out can be taken for a number of reasons, for example, to undergo further education, or time off for family responsibilities. You could even pursue a personal interest, or use the time for overseas travel. A career break gives team members the opportunity to do all these things and return to work in the same or equal level afterwards.

Photo courtesy of foolstopzanet


In order to achieve a consistent approach to this policy and ensure that all all team members are treated fairly, career breaks will be based on the following principles:

  • Career breaks are available to all team members, ordinarily after five years of continuous service. 
  • A career break may be any period of time between three months and one year.
  • Career breaks are unpaid.
  • Length of service would remain unbroken throughout a career break. All pay and benefits will be frozen during the career break and commence upon return to work.
  • During a career break team members may not work with another organisation, become self employed, or undertake any other paid work.
  • Career breaks may not be taken more than once every five years.
  • The granting of a career break will be entirely at the company's discretion and will depend on the needs of the business at the time in question.

Photo courtesy of gray_um

Procedures - How do I apply for a gap year?

All applications could require anywhere between 3-9 months notice, all applications will be considered taking into account:

  • The difficulties of filling the post on a temporary basis.
  • The length of the requested break.
  • The retention of your skills.
  • The impact on the company's ability to deliver a strategic plan.
  • Poor timings e.g. imminent launch of a project.
  • Specialist skills/knowledge that the company would have difficulty covering.
  • Disciplinary records may be taken into account.

They are not responsible for any costs that you may have incurred through arranging your year out before it had been approved e.g booking tickets.

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Contract terms and pay

During a gap year the following conditions of service will apply:

  • The duration of the gap year will not be included as part of your total length of service for annual leave, sickness and redundancy.
  • You will return to the same grade and level after your gap year.
  • You may be asked to return a company car or mobile telephone or be asked for a financial contribution for the continued use.
  • You will not accrue any annual leave entitlement.
  • You will not accrue any sickness benefit entitlement.
  • You will not accrue any TPSS or bonus.

During the period when you are on a gap year, your contract of employment remains in forced but only some terms of the contract will continue to apply including:

  • Rights to notice of termination.
  • Statutory redundancy pay in the event of redundancy.
  • Disciplinary or grievance procedures.
  • The duty of trust and confidence.
  • The duty of good faith.

If you become pregnant or apply for adoption during a gap year you must notify your manager. The career break will be suspended and you will receive normal maternity and adoption benefits in accordance with the maternity, paternity, adoption and IVF policy. Resumption of the gap year on completion of maternity leave will be subject to further discussion with your manager.

Holidays and holiday pay

You are encouraged to take any outstanding annual leave before the start of your year out. Holiday must be taken in the year that it is earned. Any outstanding holidays will be paid at the start of your year out unless you notify HR administration department of alternative arrangements that you wish to make.

Keeping in touch

The company will probably aim to keep in touch with you during a gap year in order to ease your eventual return to work. If applicable, you may also be invited to training connected with the introduction of new courses, systems or procedures. Any time spent on such training will be compensated for by the equivalent time off.

Returning to work

If you request a career break you must be prepared to commit to an agreement to return to work on a specified date at the end of the career break. Providing that this, and the other conditions for gap years are met, they will guarantee you the opportunity to return to work at the end of the year out. This will be either a return to the same job as you occupied before your career break, or if that job is no longer available or if it is not possible to return to the same job, a return to another job on terms and conditions not less favourable.

If you decide you want to return to work earlier than the expected date of return, you may be required to give a minimum of 8 weeks notice.

If you decide you don not want to return to work, you should give written notice of your rsignation to the company as soon as possible and in line with notice periods.

Any failure to abide by the gap year agreement could lead to a termination of the career break and disciplinary action.

Relevent Legislation

  • Flexible Working(Eligibility, Complaints and Remedies) Regulations 2002
  • Flexible Working(Procedural Requirements) Regulations 2002
  • Part-time Workers (Prevention of less favourable treatment) Regulations 2000
  • Employment Rights Act 1996
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1975
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1995


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