It’s no surprise we’re often asked about garden leave’s meaning, given its unusual name. But as a process, it poses interesting notice period options for you and your staff.

So, let’s take a closer look at how you could apply it to your business.

What does garden leave mean?

Well, it has nothing to do with gardening. It is, in fact, related to employment contracts and an employee who is set to leave your business.

How does garden leave work? You can only use it in an employee’s notice period. So, either the employee resigns or you give notice to them of their dismissal.

If you do dismiss them, you either give notice to your employee of dismissal for conduct/capability, or they’re given notice of their redundancy.

The result is it provides a unique notice period. Usually, garden leave means you can:

  • Stop an employee from re-entering your workplace.
  • Stop your employee from contacting any clients or competitors.

You can use garden leave if you have a term in your contract of employment.

Your employee will stay bound to their job’s duties—this is because they’re still an employee. But the contractual terms lets you stop them from coming to work. All while keeping them bound to their duties as a staff member (such as confidentiality agreements, non-compete etc.).

Gardening leave doesn’t have to be in your employment contracts, though. You can offer it to your employee if, for example, they’ve handed in their resignation. However, this may cause a breach of contract depending on their role.

Garden leave will only breach an employee’s contract if there is an implied right to work. In most cases, this will only be there if it’s a highly skilled role.

In most instances, garden leave will last as long as the notice period, which is usually around 1-3 months. Yet, sometimes, a longer notice period will could make it last as long as six months. If this is the case, you might struggle to have garden leave applied for all of that time. But it only needs to be as long as necessary to protect your business.

You should also remember that while your employee isn’t working, you have to pay their wage until the end of their contract.

In addition, they’ll get holidays and benefits—the likes of private health insurance will continue until the end of the employee’s contract.

Reasons for using gardening leave

Why, then, should you consider garden leave when you’re paying a staff member to do nothing? There are a variety of reasons to think through:

  • If your employee is moving to a competitor after their notice, it ensures they cannot start working for your business rival straight away.
  • It means your employee isn’t coming to work every day, so they don’t have up-to-date information about your latest projects—in turn, they can’t take this to your competitor.
  • If your employee could be disruptive during the notice period, it minimises any risks they pose.

Is it bad for your business?

You may wonder if garden leave is a bad thing. In your average employee resignation, you continue to benefit from their contributions at work. But an ongoing misconception in the business world is it’s negative for you and your employee.

This isn’t the case. As we explain in Reasons for gardening leave above, for your business, it’s a way to protect your interests. This is why it’s common for some businesses to place all senior managers on garden leave in the event they hand in their resignation.

For your employees, it won’t damage their future work prospects.

But you should keep in mind that your employee’s replacement may face a problem if the handover process doesn’t happen.

Try to organise even the briefest of handovers to make up for this. Or ensure another employee is on hand to provide a thorough induction upon your new starter’s first day.

Starting a new job while on garden leave

It’s not uncommon for employees to ask, “Can I request garden leave?”. They’re within their legal rights to do this. But it depends on how you view their request.

Sometimes a staff member may gain a new role. Instead of working their notice period with you, they might want some paid time off. It’s entirely up to you whether you allow their request. Again, it could be in your best interests—such as if they’re moving to a rival business.

Consider your employee’s request carefully. Ask them if they’re happy to let you know what new role they’re moving to. You could establish other information, too, such as their new employer and the responsibilities they’ll have.

If it’s clear they’re not heading to a competitor, this can influence your decision on whether to give them garden leave.

But can your employee start a new job when they’re on garden leave? No. They must see out your contract with them. Again, this requires you to pay them in full, along with any benefits, until their contract with you is over.

Garden leave letter template

You may already have a clause in your contract explaining garden leave. Even if you do, it’s still good business practice to provide your employee with a letter explaining your process.

The letter you give to your employee will explain what you’re expecting from them during their notice period.

It can also cover other issues, such as if your employee has any of your company property—a laptop, for example.

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear [employee’s name],

I refer to our meeting on [date] and our subsequent letter of [date] confirming your dismissal with effect from [termination date]. This is from the role of [employee’s role].

Your period of notice starts from [date] and ends on [termination date]. During this notice period, we are exercising our contractual right to place you on garden leave. As set out within your contract, please refrain from entering the [business name] property for the length of this period. We also require you to avoid contacting any of our clients during your garden leave.

You must also avoid contacting any of our competitors.

 If you have any business property in your belongings, please arrange with your line manager a suitable time to return this to us.

For the avoidance of doubt, you remain bound by all the terms of your contract during the period of garden leave.

Should you have any questions, please contact your line manager.

Yours sincerely,

[Business representative]

Disclaimer: Our sample letter is a guideline. Your business should only use it as a reference point. For your official policy, consider additional local laws. Peninsula UK will not assume any legal liability if you use this template in an unaltered state.

Should you enforce a garden leave policy?

Still wondering, “What’s the purpose of garden leave?” Are you unsure if your business should use it? Get in touch for industry-leading guidance: 0800 028 2420.