Are companies obliged to accommodate staff returning from a career break? Is it a reasonableness test and how long should this take?

Posted in : Seamus Says - Employment Law Discussion on 6 April 2018
Seamus McGranaghan
O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors

Q. Are companies obliged to accommodate staff returning from a career break? Is it a reasonableness test and how long should this take?

Seamus: There is no reasonable test, as far as I'm aware, in terms of career breaks. My experience with career breaks tends to be that they need to be well-defined. There needs to be a policy in place for career breaks and there needs to be a clear agreement between the employee and employer when it comes to how the career break is going to operate. Most of my experience in and around career breaks has probably been through advising a number of grammar schools on applications by teachers to take career breaks.

Certainly, there are very clear policies issued by the Department of Education and the Education Authority in terms of how career breaks working in those circumstances, but I think there's a difference between someone having a career break, maybe looking for six months away or a year away, as to maybe an undefined period where someone is looking to take three or five years away.

I think the longer the period, the less reasonable it would be for the employee's expectations to come back into the job they were doing or even for the job to be held open for them. There certainly is a grey area, I think, when you look at our Employment Rights Order as to...

Scott: Continuity of employment.

Seamus: Absolutely. The thing is if you're made redundant while you're on a career break, if you've been on a career break for two years, do those two years still add to your redundancy? There's nothing in place legislation-wise to tell us that. So, really, you're probably looking to the guidance of the tribunal in terms of how that's figured out.

 

This article is correct at 06/04/2018
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Seamus McGranaghan
O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors

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