Leave Management

What is Garden Leave?

Our guide to garden leave, it's uses and rules in the UK...
Sean QuinnPosted on Monday, August 21st 2023

What is the definition of garden leave?

'Garden leave' or 'gardening leave' refers to a type of employee leave where the employee is relieved of their work duties, but is kept on the payroll. During this time, they are not expected to show up to work or have contact with other employees at the company, but have not had their employment terminated - so they cannot begin working elsewhere.

The purpose of garden leave makes it distinct from other types of paid leave. Gardening leave is often given at the end of someone's employment, or whilst they are subject to an investigation. Placing the employee on gardening leave means they are not involved in the businesses' day to day operations; in the case of someone who is leaving to join a competitor, this means their insider knowledge will be out of date by the time they begin their new role. If an employee is subject to an investigation or even personal scandal, garden leave can help to minimise the impact on the business and other colleagues until the situation is resolved.

Why is it called garden leave?

As the employee cannot start a new job elsewhere, but isn't required at their current workplace (or even allowed on the premises in some cases), they have no alternative but to work on personal projects - such as tending to their garden.

Garden leave is the most common way to refer to this type of leave in the UK, but elsewhere in the world it can be referred to as 'administrative leave'.

Are you still paid when on garden leave?

Yes - employees on garden leave remain on the payroll and are paid as normal. Any other benefits they usually receive also continue until the official end of their employment.

Can you work whilst on garden leave?

No - you cannot undertake any work at all whilst on garden leave, even for yourself. During a gardening leave period, an employee remains employed and therefore is prohibited from beginning employment with another company.

How long should garden leave last?

The length of gardening leave depends entirely on the employee and their contract. In most cases, garden leave is given instead of employees working their notice - so this may be a period of 1 to 3 months. In some cases though, it could be up to 6 months.

Why should employees be put on garden leave?

There are many reasons that an employee should be put on garden leave.

In the case of resignation, it may simply be decided upon that the business is happy to relieve the employee of their duties immediately, and would like to keep them off the job market for the next few months. In businesses such as finance this is very common, in order to avoid sensitive information making its way into a competitor's hands.

Putting an employee on gardening leave can also prevent them sabotaging the business, if they are leaving on bad terms. As they are not permitted to communicate with team mates or enter the premises, they don't have the opportunity to derail existing projects or encourage other employees (and clients) to follow them.

Placing an employee on gardening leave doesn't need to be a negative though. It may simply be easier to allow them to take this leave rather than working through their notice when they don't wish to be there. A new employee can join the team and take over their role without being interrupted, or feeling like they are stepping on anyone's toes.

Do employees have a choice about being put on garden leave?

Whether or not an employee can be forced to take gardening leave is usually specified in their contract.

Their contract must lay out a specific, enforceable right of the employer to place the employee on gardening leave - otherwise, they will need to make a mutual agreement with the employee.

Employees can also voluntarily offer to take gardening leave when they resign from their role, and this can be negotiated as part of their departure terms.

The bottom line

An employee choosing to leave a business can have big repercussions, and it's a situation that needs to be handled carefully to ensure all parties are happy and have their rights respected. It's a good idea to account for any agreed periods of leave in your leave management system, which can also be used to check whether they have any remaining annual leave to take before terminating their contract.

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