Career Break Scheme operational policy

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					                  CAREER BREAK SCHEME
                   OPERATIONAL POLICY


1.      Introduction                                          1.

2.      What Is A Career Break?                               1.

3.      Advantages and Disadvantages Of The Scheme            1.

4.      Who Can Apply For A Career Break?                     2.

5.      Returning To Work                                     2.

6.      How To Apply For A Career Break                       3.

     Proposed Date of Implementation:       1st January 2003
     The Policy Monitoring Officer is:      Director of Human Resources
     The Policy will be reviewed:           Every Two Years
     Approved by JSCC:                      21st November 2002
     Approved By PCT Board:                 17th December 2002
     This Policy Replaces:                  Not Applicable – New Policy
                               CAREER BREAK SCHEME

1.      Introduction
Career break schemes are a means of managing the employment relationship during
periods when staff need to take a break from their working lives, but with the intention of
returning at a later date. This may be either male or female staff who want time away to
bring up children, care for a relative, undertake research, re-enter further education or

The purpose is to retain the valuable skills and experience of people who will be a real
asset in the future, and to ensure that individuals returning to work can do so on similar
terms as at the start of the break. The scheme aims to encourage staff to return to work
and make this easier and more productive.

This policy applies to all directly employed staff excluding Doctors, for whom alternative
arrangements via other National schemes are available.

2.     What is a Career Break?
A career break is an agreed and extended period of unpaid leave from work that begins
with an intention to resume working at an agreed date in the future. Lengths of breaks
may vary, although the PCT scheme allows for up to a maximum of five years away,
with each request considered on a case-by-case basis.

Breaks may be taken over one continuos period, or by an agreed series of ‘blocks’ of
time away (except in exceptional circumstances, minimum periods of 6 months will
apply). During this period the employee has to commit to work for agreed minimum
periods each year in their old role to maintain their skills and abilities, and to keep up to
date with developments within their professional role and the PCT. Such periods must
be for no less than the equivalent of 10 days per year, but may be more as is deemed
necessary to maintain skills and knowledge. This must be agreed at the outset of the
break, and the period worked during the break must also meet the minimum
requirements of the individual’s registering body to maintain registration. The employee
is responsible for checking with their registering body and making arrangements to work
accordingly to ensure that this is the case, as requirements vary among professions.
Any periods of work undertaken for the PCT would be at full pay. Staff will also receive
updates in developments and will be encouraged to continue with further education and
maintain mandatory training throughout the break. Staff granted a career break may not
work in paid employment for anyone else during the break.

3.    Advantages and Disadvantages of the Scheme

The benefits for staff and the PCT of career breaks arguably outweigh the
disadvantages, however, it is important that both the positive and negative effects are
considered carefully before an agreement is entered into.

The benefits for staff include:
  The ability to take a break from work with the confidence of returning at an agreed
  future date
  Continued contact with work and colleagues during the break
  Extending the standard maternity leave period until children have grown older
  The chance to step outside the world of work to refresh attitudes and skills
  Taking time out when younger with the intention of extending a career later

The benefits for the PCT include:
  Reducing the loss of trained and experienced people who may otherwise leave and
  not come back
  A better return on the investment in training
  A pool of committed employees available for short periods to cover peaks in
  workload, holidays and leave
  Employees return for career breaks refreshed and with a richer quality of experience
  Prevents ‘burn-out’ in mid-career

The drawback for staff is:
  A career break involves a break in service, which means that the service cannot
  count towards length-of-service pension calculations

The drawback for the PCT is minimal, relating to the additional management time
invested in setting up and maintaining the career break, but always with the benefit of a
return at a later date.

4.      Who Can Apply for a Career Break?
The scheme is open to staff from all disciplines and who have a minimum of one year’s
previous continuous NHS service where the break is to care for children or an elderly
relative. Where the break is for other purposes, a minimum of two years continuous
service is required. Each case will be considered on its merits with requests granted
wherever possible. In exceptional circumstances it may not be possible to agree to the
requested period of break or return conditions specified, but the PCT will seek to meet
needs or agree as close a suitable alternative as possible to retain its skilled staff over
the longer term. It should be noted that any member of staff with a current disciplinary
warning on file will not be eligible to apply for a career break until such warning has
been fully expunged.

5.      Returning to work
Staff intending to return to work after their career break must give at least one months
notice in writing of their intended date of return to their manager where this is the same
as the original date agreed. Where the date is altered, three months notice must be

given as outlined below. The PCT cannot guarantee to offer a return to equivalent work
after a career break as clearly it depends upon the circumstances at the time. However,
provided that the conditions of the break have been adhered to, at the end of the career
break the PCT will make every effort to offer re-employment in the same or a broadly
similar role, and at an equivalent level to commence on the planned return date. Where
this is not possible the parties can agree return to an available post at a lower level until
an equivalent post to the original can be offered, or an extension of the career break
until the maximum time is reached or a suitable post can be offered; whichever occurs
the soonest.

Where staff wish to return on a reduced hours basis, this should be requested at the
outset, or alternatively three months notice of such a request should be given. This will
be considered in line with the terms of the flexible working policy.

6.      How to Apply for a Career Break
Any member of staff who wishes to apply for a career break should do so in the first
instance through a written request and discussion with their line manager. The request
must specify the reason for the request, the intended start date for the break and date of
return, and any special conditions that may apply, such as a wish to return to different
hours from those presently worked. The terms of the break must be agreed in advance,
which must include the amount of work commitment and/or development that the
employee will need to engage in over each year to ensure skills are adequately
maintained and updated to facilitate the return to work. Career break agreements
reached will not require the person to formally resign, but will instead be managed by a
formal contract amendment to recognise the break, and Human Resources can assist
with this. The manager of the service is responsible for managing the career break with
the individual concerned and ensuring that the arrangements agreed are adhered to.
This may be via personal contact, or through a nominated member of staff within the
department to act as a mentor and contact during the period of the break, but should be
clarified at the outset.

As with requests for changed patterns of working, where agreement cannot be reached,
the issue may be referred to the relevant Director for a decision, and at all stages
Human Resources are available to assist and advise.

If an individual already on a career break wishes to change the date of return at a later
stage or change the hours of work that s/he wants to return to, s/he must give at least
three months notice in writing of this request to the manager to remain on the scheme.
Similarly if in exceptional circumstances the employer needs to change the originally
agreed return date, 3 months notice of this with reasons for the change must be given. It
may not always be possible to accommodate changes after the start of an agreed break
period; particularly where staff want to return earlier and others have been engaged on a
fixed term basis for the duration of the period. However, wherever possible to PCT will
seek to support such changes in line with this policy.

M Wise
November 2002


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