Sometimes known as gardening leave, a garden leave is a policy that allows an employee who is leaving an employer to stay away from the workplace during the notice period. During the leave, the employee continues to remain on the payroll and is compensated for the duration of the notice. This term is most commonly used in the United Kingdom, although regions in a number of countries with some past or present connection to the British Empire may also have a policy that includes garden leave.
The fanciful name for this type of separation from an employer comes from the concept of being allowed to go home and enjoy working in the garden. During this period, the employee is free to pursue any interests he or she desires, without fear of losing the benefits specified in the leave arrangement. As long as the employee abides by the guidelines put in place by the erstwhile employer, wages or salary continues for the duration of the notice. In some cases, other benefits such as health coverage also remain intact until the leave is officially over, allowing the employee to make the transition a little easier.
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A garden leave may come about when an employee chooses to tender a resignation. In this instance, the amount of notice given in advance may result in the employer deciding that there is no need for the employee to work out that notice. Instead, he or she is allowed to vacate the position immediately, although wages or salary is still provided for the period of the notice.
Some employers will also make use of a garden leave as part of the process of dismissing an employee. In this scenario, an employee is notified that his or her position is terminated as of a certain date. The employee is normally allowed to collect his or her personal belongings and is escorted from the premises. As part of the termination arrangement, the employee continues to receive salary or wages for a period of time that is defined by the company’s policies and procedures, or the provisions regarding termination that are found in the employment contract.
During a garden leave, the employee must still observe all responsibilities that come with active employment, including any non-compete clause that is found in his or her employment contract. This means that the employee is not free to take on work that is in direct competition with the products and services offered by the former employer, usually for a specified period of time. Sharing proprietary information with those outside the company is also considered a breach of the garden leave and could result in the lost of wages or other benefits for that period. In addition, any breach of the terms of the employment contract could result in legal action filed by the offended party.