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Have you ever heard someone was going on garden leave and wondered what it meant?
Garden leave, also known as gardening leave, is an option commonly used by employers looking to protect their business interests.
In this blog, we’ll look at why it might be used, and if there are any downsides to being placed on it.
You’ve just handed in your notice – or perhaps even been dismissed.
Your expectation is to serve out your notice period, ensuring you continue to deliver for your employer up to your final day in the office. However, you’re told you’ll be going on garden leave – and asked to vacate the premises immediately.
Sounds a little abrupt, but garden or gardening leave is a legitimate tool for many companies.
It’s typically used for departing senior employees, who have access to top-level business information. It’s especially common if they are leaving for (or hoping to join) a competitor.
If placed on garden leave, employees in the UK will normally be obliged to:
Throughout a period of gardening leave, an employee will receive their full salary.
But why would an employer opt to lose the output of a key employee before their final contracted date of employment?
We’ve touched on the fact that garden leave is used as a protective measure.
An employer may worry the leaving employee will be able to boost a competitor’s performance, for various reasons.
Executive-level staff may have access to information that could benefit a competitor. They also might be able to encourage clients to jump ship to a rival along with them.
The leaving employee could also target their former colleagues in the hopes that they’ll make the same move.
Garden leave keeps the employee away from the premises and blocks their contact with clients and former colleagues.
In the meantime, employers hope any business-sensitive information will lose its relevance (particularly if the gardening leave period is lengthy).
Employees shouldn’t take this as a question of their integrity. It’s generally used to avoid any conflicts of interest and to smooth out the transition process for all parties.
It may also help an employee’s successor to move quickly into the role, without the former’s presence impacting their plans and progress.
Paid time away from the workplace may sound appealing. Garden leave could mean time to engage in a hobby, or a chance to refresh ahead of a new role.
During this period, employees continue to be paid their full salary. Also, all benefits – such as health insurance – must remain available until the notice period is complete.
Employees can also keep company cars or equipment provided as a benefit by the employer until the end of their contract.
However, the inability to engage in new employment could soon become frustrating. Employees may feel that being forced to spend so long away from the workplace is a hindrance to their career. It could even jeopardise their ability to perform for the next employer.
If their notice periods are more than several months, employees could make a case that the length of their garden leave is excessive.
Also, the possibility of garden leave should be stipulated in your contract. While this is not a legal requirement, forcing someone to go on garden leave without a contractual basis is risky territory. If an employer does this, they could be open to a constructive dismissal claim.
To recap, garden leave is used by employers to protect their business interests. It keeps departing employees at arm’s length from their former company throughout their notice period.
If you have access to business-sensitive information or senior-level staff, you could be placed on garden leave if you quit your role.
It’s worth noting, though, that employers should always stipulate the potential for gardening leave in your contract.