How to Support Your Employee's Career Break

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‘Career breaks’ are becoming increasingly accepted in the workplace. Yet HR departments still face the daunting task of finding a practical procedure to provide a career break scheme for your employees. Career breaks are challenging to facilitate in the workplace, but HRMS software can help support your employees.


  • What is a career break?
  • Career break vs. Sabbatical
  • Is there any legislation for a career break?
  • How to support a career break in your organisation
  • Conduct a pre-exit interview
  • Re-interview upon return
  • Assess skills gaps
  • Ongoing support

What is a Career Break?

Dubbed the ‘professional gap-year’, a career break is is a period of time where the employee and employer reach a professional arrangement for an employee to take a leave of absence from their role.

For duration of the career break, individuals may choose to pursue travelling dreams, start volunteering, consider an alternative career path, have increased childcare or family carer responsibilities, or they may be returning to education. Human Resources have a large role in supporting those employees who need to take a pause from their jobs.


Career break vs. Sabbatical

Sabbatical: A sabbatical is a year long break from a career. During this time, an employee does not report to their workplace but is still employed and will return to their day job. A sabbatical policy may state that only long-term employees are eligible to apply for a sabbatical.

Career Break: A career break lasts anywhere from one month to two years and is typically unpaid. Some companies require the employee to resign from their role with a contract outlining that they will be offered employment in the same role when they choose to start working again.


Is there any Legislation for a Career Break?

Whilst there are no laws stipulating that the employer must provide a career break policy, you can find governmental advice on how to support your employees career break.

If your workplace chooses to support your employees’ career break, HR can ensure that the place of employment has a clear career break policy outlining:

  • Eligibility
  • A career break application form
  • Length of absence
  • Guidance on the return to work re-onboarding process
  • Contractual agreements about paid or unpaid leave
  • Whether working for another company is permitted during their leave


Most employers stipulate in their career break policy that leave is unpaid.

For example, the University of Oxford offer their employees an opportunity to pause their career, but do not offer paid employment breaks. The NHS offers a similar career break agreement, with human resource management within the ambulance service offering much needed career breaks and sabbaticals to employees.

However, many employers are cautious when it comes to offering long-term employment leave, as there is no legal obligation for the employee to return to work when the period of the career break ends. This is why many organisations require a resignation and/ or an agreed start date for their return to work.


How to Support a Career Break in Your Organisation:

Human resources (HR) are an essential part of supporting career breaks in an organisation. Requests for career breaks often occur when accrued leave, bank holiday and annual leave are insufficient for an employee’s needs. HR can support a career break, even if no specific career break policy is outlined in the organisational handbook.

Conducting pre-break exit interviews, return-to-work interviews and continued support of their professional development are all ways to support career breaks.

Losing long-term employees is not productive or beneficial for an organisation and supporting a career break shows employees that their employers value their wellbeing.

You may also be interested in: What can analytic data tell us about employee retention?


Conduct a pre- break exit interview

An employee’s commitment to return to your organisation must be specified in the pre-break exit interview. HR can then establish a timeline for the duration of their leave and how long their break may be.

A pre-exit interview is also an important opportunity to gain insight into employee morale. Understanding an employee’s reasons for taking a career break can allow internal improvements for a better employee experience.

Ask questions such as: ‘Did you feel like you had everything you needed to perform the duties of your role well?’

A pre-break exit interview offers a unique opportunity to promote and maintain positive employee relationships in their absence. To ensure these insights aren’t lost, use your Human Resource Management Systems (HRMS) to log this employee data on your internal HR software.

You may also be interested in: 10 Common Exit Interview Questions


Catch up interview upon return

The end of career break is a prime opportunity to ensure that your employee feels supported and welcomed back into the workplace.

A catch up interview is a key opportunity to discuss any hesitations the returner may have upon ending their career break. In the interview, etch out a plan for periodic catch-ups to ensure the returner has the chance to voice any concerns which may arise.

Top tip: provide an information pack with updates from the organisation to support your returning employee back into the workforce.

XCD’s HRMS software with onboarding functionalities can provide employees with a structured approach to their ‘re-onboarding’ procedure. Using intuitive workflows, onboarding procedures can be automated by HR software to encourage employee engagement with their own onboarding process, and can be tracked by management.


Assessing skills gaps

HR can reevaluate an individual’s skillsets to see whether a return to the same job is appropriate for the returner. Perhaps on their return, it is the right time to consider an alternative career options that may be more suited to their developed skillset.

In a study conducted by LinkedIn, 56% of employees on a career break actually upskilled and learned new transferable skills, such as communication, problem solving and budgeting. If the individual undertook professional development during their period of absence, it may be fruitful for HR to assess which other areas of the organisation they may be better suited to.

Human resource management systems (HRMS) software can aid HR professionals in identifying where it is to best place your employee upon their return. XCD’s intuitive self-service HR software platform makes it simple for employees to update their employee profiles with their new experiences and skills. This provides HR with enough information to assess the skills gaps in their organisation and place the returner accordingly.


Ongoing support

When your employee returns to the workplace, it’s important they have ongoing support in their work. Whether your employee simply needed time away from the workplace, tried new experiences or learned new skills in their break, they will need an adjustment period to readjust to work.

It may be the case that the processes and systems used in their job have changed in their period away. In these cases, the employee will need to be retrained when they start working again. This training can be implemented as a part of the onboarding process, or as continued professional development.

XCD’s HRMS software supports the learning and development of your employee by making their training tasks easily trackable. Using automation technology, XCD’s learning and development software boasts user-friendly arrangements of modules which are designed to organise learning. Employees can log on and see their learning workflows clearly displayed on the dashboard, and managers can easily track their progress.

The benefit of HRMS is that its automated platform allows Human Resources to oversee the collaborative process between employees and managers and assess the success of the training programs efficiently. This information can be integrated with the performance management software, allowing HR to automate data transfers for performance reviews.


Career breaks are only increasing in popularity.

Soon, Human Resources teams everywhere will have to adapt to new flexible working arrangements which allow employees to take time away from the workplace. HR software can ease many of the administrative headaches surrounding employee’s career breaks and their return to the workplace.

If you would like to see the full capabilities of HRMS software in your organisation, book a demo with one of our team.