If you need expert legal advice in relation to garden leave, Slater and Gordon Lawyers are here to help.
What is garden leave?
Garden leave (or gardening leave as it’s sometimes known) is a term used to describe the period when an employee spends part or all of their notice period away from the workplace. This sometimes happens when an employee hands in their resignation, or is asked to leave by their employer, who prefers that they stay away from the office. It is different to being suspended from duty pending an investigation, although in both cases, you remain employed during this period.
People who are put on garden leave by their employers usually continue to receive pay and benefits as normal, but they are generally also subject to certain additional restrictions. For example, they may be forbidden to contact colleagues, suppliers or clients, and also usually asked to return company property such as phones, computer equipment and company vehicles.
Why do employers use garden leave?
To some, garden leave may seem a little unnecessary, since it is paying people not to do any work. After all, why not simply let a person who’s resigned work their notice and then leave? However, some employers have very good reasons for wanting to keep a person on the payroll but away from the office. Common scenarios for using garden leave include:
- A company’s best salesperson may be placed on garden leave rather than working his or her notice, to avoid the possibility that the employee may join a new company and start to poach clients. This can happen when a salesperson has a close relationship with the company’s best clients, so it can seem to make sense to cut off all contact between the employee and clients until the notice period is up. During this time, the company may want to introduce a new salesperson to try to retain their loyalty.
- An employee is considered to be a disruptive or otherwise negative presence on other employees, so having him or her in the office working notice could affect productivity.
- An employer suspects that a particular employee may be a risk when it comes to stealing company property or even confidential company information. This might be even more of a risk when an employee is moving to or has been headhunted by another rival firm.
If it’s against the company’s interests to have an employee work their full notice period, the company can protect itself by putting the employee on garden leave.
What are my rights as an employee during garden leave?
Your rights in relation to garden leave will very much be affected by the exact terms of your contract of employment. Anyone who’s placed on garden leave can expect pay and benefits as normal, but they’ll also need to abide by the restrictions placed on them - for example, not contacting clients, returning company devices and property - by their employer.
As an employee of the company, you’re still bound by the restrictions of your employment contract while on garden leave. This means that although you’re not likely to be expected to work - although you may be called back to work at any time - you may need to be available to be contacted by your employer and cannot accept another offer of employment. However, you can still look for other jobs if you wish.
Garden leave isn’t always straightforward, especially when it comes to your rights as an employee. Examples of complexities that can arise in relation to garden leave include the following:
- Unless it’s explicitly stated in the employment contract that the employer has the right to place an employee on garden leave for all or part of their notice period, the employee could have a legal case for arguing that they’ve a ‘right to work’. Recent court cases have placed an obligation on employers to provide skilled employees with work, even if they still receive full pay and other benefits while on garden leave.
- Being accused of breaching your contract while on garden leave, most commonly one of the restrictive covenants in the employment contract . For example, an employee is accused of contacting the company’s clients, which could result in the forfeit of pay and benefits.
- An employee such as a salesperson, whose normal remuneration for employment involves bonuses or commissions, but doesn’t receive these on garden leave, only standard pay and other benefits. In this case, you could take legal action against your employer for potentially substantial loss of earnings.
If you have a query about garden leave, believe your rights as an employee are not being upheld or wish to pursue legal action, please don’t hesitate to contact Slater and Gordon’s employment law team on freephone 0161 830 9642. You can also contact us online.
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Slater and Gordon Lawyers is industry-renowned for our expertise in the field of employment law. We have a large team of employment lawyers based in our offices throughout the UK, so we’re able to offer the services of our highly skilled, experienced solicitors to as many people as possible.
Our aim in every employment law case is to provide honest, reliable and straightforward advice, to help employees make the best decisions and to achieve the right solutions.
If you need legal advice in relation to garden leave or another employment law issue, please get in touch with Slater and Gordon’s employment law team.
Contact us online to ask a question or to arrange a consultation or callback. You can also call freephone on 0161 830 9642 - this line is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you need our help, we won’t let you down.