Gardening Leave: When Does it Apply & Why?

June 3, 2016
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What is Gardening Leave?

Garden leave is a notice period where employees are restricted from working but they still get a normal rate of pay.

Employees on gardening leave can’t re-enter the workplace and can’t work elsewhere during the period of leave. There may be further restrictions, and these are included as part of a garden leave contract.

If you hand in your notice or resign and you’re told to stay at home (with your normal rate of pay), then this is gardening leave.

If you’re moving to a competitor, you may be asked to sign a ‘compromise agreement’ too. This type of agreement may try to restrict you in your new role. So be careful of the terms and read any contract before you sign it.

employee being dismissed on gardening leave

In the U.S, garden leave is euphemistically called ‘administrative leave.’ The term may be a callous nod to thumb-twiddling as employees are not going to have a lot to do. 

But this is a guess as no one knows quite where this strange term originated from. What we can do is clarify what gardening leave means and how it may affect you.

Why Do Employers Use It?

Typically, employers use gardening leave for strategic reasons. This is often when their employee is planning to move to a competing business.

Garden leave is used to keep the resigning employee away from confidential data and sensitive information (it also limits what they can pass on if they’re moving to a competitor).

It’s also used to keep the former employee away from clients and customers or to prevent the resigning employee from encouraging others to join them.

What Rights Do You Have?

During gardening leave you:

  • Receive the same pay and contractual benefits.
  • Are entitled to a company bonus (if there is one).

What are the Restrictions?

During garden leave, you are still under contract (and still bound by all your contractual clauses such as a duty of confidentiality). This means that if your employer changes their mind, they can ask you to return to work at any point during your notice.

During garden leave you could also be:

  • Blocked from accessing certain information.
  • Prevented from attending or undertaking any work.
  • Denied access to clients, customers, and suppliers who have attachments to their employer.
  • Stopped from making statements about their employer to the media.
  • Forbidden from working elsewhere.
  • Required to take outstanding annual leave.

Man on laptop during garden leave

What Shall I Do If My Employer Has Put Me On Gardening Leave?

Read the terms of your garden leave contract very carefully. Your employer may terminate this contract if you breach it. If they do this, they won’t have to pay out the notice period or any other benefits.

If you’re concerned about your contract, always seek independent legal advice.

Why is it Called Gardening Leave?

Garden leave prevents you from doing any further work for your current employer, and restricts you from starting another job. As a result, you’re likely to spend your time pursuing hobbies (like gardening), hence the term garden leave.

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