A career break is generally a prolonged, unpaid period away from the workplace – for several months or even several years – and is taken for many different reasons. This article looks at the reasons people choose to take a career break, whether you are entitled to take a career break and have your job ‘kept’ for you until your return, and issues that you may face when returning to work after a career break.
Career breaks are usually taken voluntarily and can be taken by men or women, by full or part-time workers, and by senior managers or more junior members of staff. Reasons for taking a career break are numerous and include taking time off work to have children or spend more time with your family, taking time off to travel the world, spending time taking care of a sick or elderly relative, time off to deal with personal problems or taking time off to retrain or take further academic qualifications.
Employers are not legally entitled to agree to your request to take a career break. That is to say, your employer cannot prevent you from terminating your employment contract with them if that is what you wish to do but they are under no legal obligation to keep the position open for you until you choose to return. It is down to the discretion of your employer as to whether your position is kept open for you and it will be up to you to discuss matters fully with your employer and explain the reasons that you wish to take a career break and why you think your position should be left open for you. Some employers, as is advisable, have a policy on how requests for career breaks are dealt with and the circumstances under which they are granted, or not granted. You should ask your employer for a copy of this policy as this may give you some idea as to how your request to take a career break will be received.
When returning to work after a career break, whether to a position that has been left open for you, or to a different role, you may feel anxious and your confidence may be lacking after several months or several years out of the workplace. You should familiarise yourself with any major changes that have taken place within your profession during the time you have been off and should also be able to account for the time you have been out of the workplace to any new prospective employer.
Taking time off for a career break is not a decision that many people take lightly. You should assess your reasons for doing so and ensure that your finances are allowing you to take such a break. Talk things over with your employer and familiarise yourself with their policy on careers breaks to increase your chances of securing the outcome you desire.
Copyright (c) 2012 Robert Gray