What's garden leave? (6 things you can do during your leave)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 May 2022

If you're planning to leave your job or your employer decides to terminate your employment, they may ask you to go on gardening leave. During this time you're still their employee, but you don't go to the office or perform any tasks related to the job. Knowing what gardening leave is and what to do when your employer requests it from you can help you better prepare for what's next in your career. In this article, we define garden leave, explore the benefits and drawbacks for employees and list some things you can do during the leave period.

What is garden leave?

Garden leave, also known as gardening leave, is a transition period when an employee doesn't come to work or works remotely during their notice period. Typically, this happens as a result of their employer's request. Gardening leave may refer to both employees who have resigned and those whose employment terminated for other reasons. During the leave, it's common that employees:

  • don't perform any tasks related to the job

  • don't visit the organisation's premises

  • don't use company equipment

  • refrain from contacting all members of the organisation

Related: What is a notice period?

What happens during gardening leave?

During this period, an employee receives their normal pay. Even if the employer asks them to stop working, employees on gardening leave don't have permission to work somewhere else, such as for a competing organisation. The leave's main purpose is to protect the employer when an employee submits their resignation or receives a dismissal notice. Because this type of leave is restrictive, some people consider this a suspension from work.

When do employers consider gardening leave?

Most commonly, your current employer may use the gardening leave clause when you leave your job because you plan to work for their competitor. By requesting this leave, they prevent you from accessing or using confidential future-looking information and sharing it with that competitor. Putting you on gardening leave also allows them to make sure you're available to help another employee take over your responsibilities.

How long does gardening leave last?

Your employer is likely to take into consideration your employment contract and level of seniority within the organisation when they decide to request gardening leave for you. This can be a few weeks when you're a junior, a few months when you're in senior management and up to a year when you're a member of the company's C-suite, such as a chief financial officer (CFO) or a chief operating officer (COO). Typically, this period reflects the notice period that the employer stated in your employment contract.

Benefits of gardening leave for employees

If your employer decides to put you on gardening leave, it means they're trying to protect themselves from the competition. Seeing this transition period as an opportunity rather than a necessity can help you maintain a positive mindset. Here are some benefits of going on gardening leave:

Salary and benefits

Throughout the duration of your gardening leave, you receive your full salary. You also have access to all your employee benefits. Some employers may even let you continue using your company car until this period ends.

Protection

Although your employer may ask you to stop working when your gardening leave begins, they'd technically still consider you a regular employee. For this reason, employment law would still protect you. It would also continue regulating your relationship with the employer.

More free time

Because you're likely to work less, or fully stop working, during the leave, you'd have more time for yourself. You can spend this time developing new skills, pursuing your passions or travelling. Some people also decide to concentrate on applying for new jobs and interviewing during their gardening leave. If that's what you want to do, make sure to inform your new potential employer about the situation and when would be the earliest that you could start a new job.

Related: How to find your passion in life and use it successfully

Drawbacks of gardening leave for employees

For some people, staying away from the workplace is one of the most challenging aspects of gardening leave. If you're someone who likes their job, you may find it hard to adjust to having so much free time with not much to do professionally. The thought of not being able to pursue a new work opportunity for some time may also create a negative impact on your emotional well-being.

To overcome this, it's helpful to develop a personal development plan. When you determine how long your leave is, consider creating a schedule that outlines the things you want to learn or courses you want to complete before starting a new job. Perceiving the leave as an opportunity for growth and regularly reminding yourself that it's just a period of transition, can help you better manage your emotions and mood during this time.

How to approach your gardening leave

When you're planning to leave your job, preparing for a gardening leave may help you transition smoothly. If you're unsure how to approach this period, here are some things you can do while on your leave:

1. Review your contract carefully

To avoid a contract dispute while on your gardening leave, read the leave clause carefully. It's also helpful to go through your employment contract in case it mentions this period in any way. You can also talk to your manager or a human resources representative at the organisation, who can explain what you can and can't do during this time.

2. Search for a new job

Because during the leave your responsibilities are limited or you stop working, you have more time to think about the next step in your career and look for a new job. If you decide to go to interviews, it's important that you don't share any delicate or confidential information about your current employer. As you progress to the next stages of recruitment, make sure to inform the hiring manager how long your gardening leave is. This way, you can be honest about your situation and help them schedule your onboarding accordingly.

Related: How to have a smooth first day back at work after time off

3. Improve your qualifications

To take advantage of the free time during the leave, you can focus on expanding your skill set. For example, you can learn a new programming language or a new software that can help you impress potential employers when you start looking for a new job. It's helpful to spend this time working on your soft skills, such as organisation or time management skills. You can also attend industry events or conferences in other cities and countries, which gives you a chance to network and meet new people in your field.

Related: How to improve self-management skills and use them at work

4. Redefine your goals

While on the leave, you can also spend some time redefining your goals. You can do this by learning more about yourself and planning what you want to accomplish in the next year or two. Because you'd have more free time and still earn your normal salary, this could be a great moment to prepare for starting your own business, changing careers or relocating to a different city.

5. Work on your portfolio

If you work in a creative field or plan to become self-employed, the leave might be a great time to work on your portfolio. A professional portfolio is a document, file or website, that some professionals, such as programmers, graphic designers and architects, attach to their job applications. In the portfolio, they showcase their work and skills, which potential clients and employers can assess before hiring them.

Read more: How to build an effective work portfolio for your career

6. Relax and reward yourself

If you work in a highly competitive and intense field, being on gardening leave might be the perfect moment to just relax. You can spend this time rewarding yourself for the efforts you've put into your career in the past few years. To do that, consider going on holiday, investing in your hobby or buying something nice for yourself. Relaxing and getting some rest can also be a great way to prepare for going back to your intense routine when the leave ends.