What is garden leave?

Valentina GolubovicValentina Golubovic
Last updated on:
November 19, 2022
Published on:
November 16, 2022

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Garden leave or gardening leave refers to the practice of placing restrictions on an employee or a period of leave in which an employee is prevented from working for his or her employer, usually as a result of having been given notice that the employee's employment will be terminated.

Why do companies put employees on garden leave?

If an employee resigns or the employer is forced to serve notice, placing the employee on garden leave protects the business interests of the company. The purpose of garden leave is to safeguard the business as well as the employee.

There can be many reasons why an employer would want to restrict access to work for an employee that is leaving the company. If the employee is going to work for a competitor, garden leave can prevent or reduce the risk of them using confidential information or trade secrets for the competitor's benefit.

Placing an employee on garden leave can help prevent future conflict between the employee and employer. If they were not placed on garden leave they would be able to work during this notice period which could cause friction if their working relationship had become strained because of disagreements over their departure.

How long is garden leave?

The length of garden leave depends on the duration of the employee's notice period. It can be as long or as short as the employer needs it to be as long as it is within the employee's notice period. The employee may have a 3-month notice period, in which case the employer can require the employee to take garden leave for:

  • the whole 3 months
  • a portion of the 3 months (1 or 2 months)
  • no garden leave
An infographic of a person in a garden

Is garden leave paid?

If the employer decides to put an employee on garden leave they are still required to provide the employee with the same pay and contractual benefits.

Can garden leave be unpaid?

By law, the employee is required to work their notice and if they are required to take garden leave, it must be paid as the employer is still under contractual obligation to do so.

Is garden leave good or bad?

The impact of garden leave depends on the parties involved. In some cases, it can be beneficial to both or just the employer.

Impact on the employee?

If an employee is asked to go on garden leave and their notice is a month, it can be seen as a benefit by many as they are not required to work, so can spend time pursuing hobbies, yet still, receive the same contractual pay and benefits.

Where garden leave is longer than 6 months, it can be detrimental to the employee's career. A loss of skill and failure to stay up to date with recent developments in their specific field may arise as a result of significant time out of work.

Impact on the employer?

Placing an employee on garden leave may protect the employer's business interests however having an employee absent from work will result in lower productivity. The employer may decide to hire a replacement however this would be an additional expense.

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What can an employee do while on garden leave?

A gardening leave clause in the employee contract can restrict the employee from being physically present in the office, speaking to clients or working on existing projects. The employee cannot start their new job until the notice period ends. Aside from this, they can engage in any other activities provided there is no conflict with the employment contract.

Can an employee go abroad if on garden leave?

Some garden leave clauses can state that the employee's manager must know where the employee is and how they can be contacted during work hours. Furthermore, the employer may engage the employee in alternative tasks during garden leave so unless the employee requests an official holiday during their notice period, then going abroad may be in breach of their contract.

Is garden leave for senior employees only?

Garden leave can apply to any employee, it is merely a decision taken by management if they feel like it would be more beneficial to not involve the employee leaving in any work carried out. It may be more common to place senior employees on garden leave, as they have access to sensitive information which could be detrimental to the business if such an employee leaves to work for a competitor.

How does garden leave impact your notice period?

Garden leave does not impact the employee's notice period as it is carried out during the notice period.

Should you have a garden leave clause in your contract?

Without an express garden leave clause in your employee's contract outlining that the employer may place the employee on garden leave, it can constitute a breach of contract if the employer excludes and isolates the employee from work.

If the employment contract doesn't contain garden leave, the employer and employee can agree if garden leave is suitable for them both.

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