What is 'Gardening Leave'

Gardening leave refers to the period during which an employee, who is in the process of terminating their employment, stays away from the workplace or works from home or another location during their notice period. The employee remains on the payroll but is neither permitted to go to work nor to commence any other employment whilst on gardening leave.

Gardening leave is a term most commonly used in the UK.

BREAKING DOWN 'Gardening Leave'

Why is it called Gardening Leave?

Because gardening leave often prevents the employee from involvement in any work for their current employer, and typically restricts them from either taking on another job or working for themselves, an employee is likely to spend their time pursuing hobbies such as gardening.

Gardening leave is sometimes considered to be a euphemism for being suspended, and can be perceived to have negative connotations, such as the employee being unfit for anything other than tending their garden.

Reasons for Instigating Gardening Leave

Following the resignation or dismissal of an employee, an employer may decide to place the employee on gardening leave. The primary reason for doing so is to safe-guard against possible detrimental actions or behavior that the employee might indulge in during his or her notice period.

The employer may fear that the employee could be uncooperative, or that they may negatively influence the working environment and other employees. The employer may also prefer that the employee limit contact with clients for fear that the employee may persuade the clients to follow the employee to his or her new employer.

Another reason for implementing a gardening leave is that the employee may have access to up-to-date information which could be beneficial to the employer’s competitors. Placing an employee on gardening leave could help to ensure that by the time the employee is contractually free, he or she would have been out of the loop long enough to reduce this threat.

Gardening leave can be an employer’s way of taking the employee off the market for a period of time, which is why some employers may opt for this method, rather than ending the employment abruptly with a cash settlement in lieu of notice.  

Rights and Obligations

An employee is entitled to their salary and benefits during gardening leave, but depending on their employment contract, may not be eligible for bonuses or accrual payments.

It is typical, during gardening leave, for an employee to be prevented from accessing the employer’s data and computer system, and to be prohibited from contacting clients, suppliers, or fellow employees. The employee will usually be required to return company property such as laptops, smart phones, or vehicles while on gardening leave.  

During the period of gardening leave, the employee is required to be available if the employer wants them to provide information, support, or even to resume working. For this reason, an employee should not plan to travel during gardening leave, unless approved by his or her current employer.

Furthermore, an employer may compel the employee to take any accrued holiday time during the period of gardening leave.

While the name gardening leave may sound pleasant, and in fact an employee may sometimes prefer to serve their notice time relaxing at home rather than being in the workplace, the restrictive nature and negative implications of this leave can make it less than ideal.

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