HR Policy
To Be Categorised
Head of HR
HR Policy Group
Director of Workforce, Employee Director
01 February 2016
01 November 2018
01 November 2021

General Note

NHS Fife acknowledges and agrees with the importance of regular and timely review of policy/procedure statements and aims to review policies within the timescales set out.

New policies/procedures will be subject to a review date of no more than 1 year from the date of first issue.

Reviewed policies/procedures will have a review date set that is relevant to the content (advised by the author) but will be no longer than 3 years.

If a policy/procedure is past its review date then the content will remain extant until such time as the policy/procedure review is complete and the new version published, or there are national policy or legislative changes.

Only change is amended Application Form.


The policy is designed for staff who wish to have a break from full or part time work, but who would like to return to the NHS at a later date, eg after a course of further education, bringing up children or having cared for a dependant relative.

To provide the framework for the operation of employment break facilities within NHS Fife.


All substantive staff employed within NHS Fife, who have continuous service of 12 months or more with NHS Fife are eligible to apply for an employment break. Separate provisions apply in respect of Sabbaticals for Medical and Dental staff.


The responsibility for the application of the policy rests with Line Managers and HR staff within NHS Fife.


NHS Fife is committed to equal opportunities and the promotion of flexible, employee friendly work practice opportunities for all members of staff. By implementing this career break policy, NHS Fife aims to create an environment which will allow all employees to utilise their skills, talents and expertise, and thereby allow it to both recruit and retain a well motivated and committed workforce.

The purpose of the career break policy is to allow staff an opportunity to leave their employment, for up to two years, mainly to undertake further education or to fulfill domestic commitments. The policy will enable staff to keep up-to-date during their career break and help them return to work at the end of the break.

An career break will not be allowed solely for the purpose of taking up alternative employment outwith, or within, NHS Fife.

Separate arrangements apply to those staff participating in Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) or equivalent.

There are separate provisions for Sabbaticals for Medical & Dental Staff.


The term career break refers to an agreement with NHS Fife for an employee to take unpaid leave for a specified period of time, up to a maximum of two years. The member of staff applying for a career break should understand that, depending on the length of the career break, it may impact on their pension rights. They should check the terms of the pension scheme they are a member of as they will be subject to the rules of that scheme.


All staff with a minimum of 12 months’ service with NHS Fife, are eligible to apply for a career break.

Examples of where applications for employment breaks could apply include:

  • caring for a dependant relative;
  • continuing childcare following a period of maternity leave; or
  • undergoing further education and training of benefit to the organisation.

Each application will be considered on the merits of the individual case and a decision made within 14 calendar days following receipt of an application. Full details should be provided in writing to the employee if an application has been rejected or delayed, clearly explaining the reasons for doing so. Where a request has been refused, the applicant has the right of appeal via NHS Fife’s Dealing with Employee Grievances Policy.


The minimum period of an employment break is three months. The maximum period of an employment break is two years. An employee may, however, take a number of breaks throughout their employment provided that the total periods of absence do not exceed five years. Once a career break has been agreed, it cannot be extended A new application must be made for each employment break requested. The number of breaks already taken by an employee can be checked via the HR Directorate, from personal files or via eESS (in future).


5.1 Employees who wish to apply for the scheme, mustdiscuss the matter initially with their line manager. They should also contact their Pension Scheme contact.

The Line Manager should:

  • Ensure the employee has the necessary information with which to make an informed decision as to the appropriateness or otherwise of making an application for a career break.
  • Gain an understanding of the circumstances involved and discuss the options available to the employee and where relevant, the duration of any career break required.
  • Ensure, by providing a copy of the career break policy, that the employee is appraised of the process involved in making an application; the resultant loss of contractual rights for the duration of the career break (as outlined in Section 9); the requirements placed on them while on a career break (as outlined in Section 6); the management commitment (as outlined in Section 7) and the process involved in effecting a return to work at the end of the career break (as outlined in Section 8).

5.2 Applications should then be made using the agreed application form (Appendix 1). Applications should be made at least three months before starting the proposed break, although this period may be reduced in exceptional circumstances.

5.3 The Line Manager will consider the application and advise the employee within 14 calendar days of the outcome. Managers should be mindful of the possibility that a skilled and experienced employee may resign from NHS Fife if their career break request is denied.

5.5 If approved, HR will issue the employee with appropriate documentation which requires the employee to abide by the terms and conditions of the career break. The employee will be issued with an alternative annual hours contract. This contract should enable the member of staff to keep in touch and remain up to date with their required continuous professional development. The hours to be worked within the alternative hour’s contract should be mutually agreed between the member of staff and their Manager. It is however recommended that these should not be less than 15 hours per annum. The employee should sign the Career Break agreement and return to HR.

5.6 Line Managers are responsible for ensuring that employees on career breaks have complied with the terms and conditions outlined in the career break agreement., and that appropriate payments are made for these hours. This will be audited at the end of each year.

5.7 All documentation in relation to this policy is available from the HR Directorate, or via the intranet.


6.1 Employees are required to have fully considered the implications and potential loss of any contractual or pension rights before committing to a career break. Employees are also expected to fulfill the following requirements while on an Career Break. The purpose is to maintain his / her skills, knowledge and expertise to enable a smooth transition back to work. In particular s/he is required make him / herself available to undertake a minimum of ten days paid (pro rata) employment per annum, as agreed with their Line Manager. This may include:

  • attending any seminars or meetings to which s/he is invited by NHS Fife;
  • maintain his / her professional membership or state registration, where this is required for employment purposes;
  • keeping knowledge updated by reading relevant professional journals and attending professional meetings, updates etc; and
  • attending a minimum number of training sessions, as agreed with the Line Manager to update and refresh her/his knowledge and skills.

6.2 Employees who participate in the scheme will be obliged to advise their manager of any changes in circumstances, such as home address, births, adoptions etc.

6.3 If the career break has been agreed for a period of more than one year, employees must notify their manager of their intention to continue the break for a further agreed period, at least three months prior to the end of each year.

6.4 If all of the conditions specified above are not met, the employment with NHS Fife will be deemed to be terminated.


7.1 NHS Fife is committed to ensuring that, as far as is reasonably practicable, employees returning from a career break shall be offered priority consideration for any post at the same grade / band and undertaking broadly similar work as that undertaken prior to the career break. Where the employee is not returning to their previous post, the search for suitable alternative employment will be conducted in line with NHS Fife’s Redeployment Policy.

7.2 NHS Fife will guarantee to provide career break participants with at least 10 days’ paid employment per year (pro rata for shorter breaks) in order to keep participants abreast with changes and developments in the service. This may include training courses and professional updates.

7.3 Local departmental information packs will be available to staff on a career break advising of any relevant changes in their area of work.

7.4 The provisions of the NHS Fife Organisational Change and Redeployment policies will apply to staff who are affected by Organisational change while on an career break.

7.5 An annual re-commitment to the career break will be made by management to the employee.


8.1 While no guarantee of return to a particular post can be given, every effort will be made to place individuals in a post at a minimum of a similar grade / band and responsibility to that held immediately prior to the break, and will take into account the employee’s experience, achievements and qualifications. Where this is not possible, every effort will be made to identify suitable alternative employment, in line with NHS Fife’s Redeployment Policy.

8.2 A minimum of three months’ notice of an intention to return to work must be given to the line manager concerned. During this period copies of the internal vacancies bulletin will be sent to participants in the scheme by HR. Where the employee is not returning to their previous post, NHS Fife’s Redeployment Policy will apply during this period.

8.3 If, prior to the commencement of a career break, an employee works in a part-time / job share arrangement every effort will be made to allow the employee to return to a post on the same basis. However, there is no guarantee that this will always be possible.

8.4 To ease the transition back to work the employee may be allowed to return to work on a part-time basis for up to three months before returning to full duties. Remuneration for this part time period will be on a pro rata basis, for the hours worked. This must be discussed with the Line Manager at the time of notifying the employee’s intention to return to work.


9.1 General Conditions

A period of absence on a career break will not be regarded as a break in service for NHS continuous service purposes, although the break will not itself count as reckonable service. For the purposes of the Employment Rights Act 1996, career breaks will not be regarded as continuous service.

Any periods of paid employment during the career break as agreed at the outset of the break with the employer) will count as reckonable service.

As an employee has continuous employment whilst on a career break, any entitlements accrued prior to the break will not be lost.


The NHS Scheme provides for members of both the 1995 to 2008 sections (excluding locum practitioners) who are on an authorised break (including a career break), to choose to continue to pay contributions towards membership for a limited period. This is provided that their contract of employment is retained.

Members who choose to continue to pay contributions to the scheme can do so for a period of six months. During this period, contributions also remain payable by the employer. The member can choose to extend the period for a further 18 months. However, if this option is taken, the member would be responsible for payment of both employee and employer contributions. Please notethat contributions must be paid for the first six months to allow the member the option to extend for a further 18 months if required.

Contributions should be submitted by employers in the same way each month as for all other active members. These should not be paid as arrears on return to work. The employer should make arrangements with the member before the leave begins, to collect the contributions due and pay promptly to Scottish Public Pensions Agency (SPPA). It is not compulsory for a member to continue to pay contributions during an authorised break. If a member chooses not to continue with their membership of the scheme, employers must submit leaver information to SPPA in the normal way.

Members of the scheme should check their positions with SPPA in respect of pension before embarking on a career break. This is advisable as changes to the scheme may affect which scheme or section of the scheme the member is able to join on return to employment if there has been a break in payment of contributions. Those who hold “Special Class” or MHO status should especially check whether this can be retained. Full details of the changes are published in the SPPA website at

9.3 Lease Cars

A member of staff who is provided with a lease car will be required to return the car to the Car Leasing Section for the period of their Career Break if it has a scheduled duration of over 12 months.

In the event of a lease vehicle being returned early, a termination fee will apply. In the event of business only lease arrangements, a termination fee may also apply. Advice can be sought with a member of the Car Leasing Team.

However, as the full leasing cost of the vehicle will be borne by the employee if it is retained for personal use during a Career Break of less than 12 months, s/he is advised to discuss the matter with a member of the Car Leasing Team, prior to embarking upon such a break.

9.4 Organisational Change

NHS Fife’s Organisational Change policy will apply equally to employees on Career Breaks.

9.5 Sick Leave

As there is a contract of employment in place for the duration of a career break, there is an entitlement to provisions under NHS Sickness Benefits scheme.

9.6 Annual Leave / Public Holidays

Employees on a Career Break will only accrue annual leave or public holidays for any paid employment carried out for NHS Fife during their career break, i.e., in respect of the minimum 10 days paid employment required per year, which is required for breaks of longer than three months, (pro rata).

9.7 Maternity Leave and Pay

A member of staff who discovers that she is pregnant during the course of her Career Break should seek advice from HR at the earliest opportunity to ensure that the appropriate maternity benefits are received.

9.8 Paternity Leave and Pay

A member of staff who requires information about Paternity Leave and Pay during the course of a Career Break should seek advice from HR at the earliest opportunity to ensure that the appropriate benefits are received.


Any risks to NHS Fife will be managed by line managers in respect of the authorisation and monitoring of career breaks.


  • Agenda for Change Terms and Conditions of Service Handbook, Part 5 – Section 36, Employment Break Scheme.
  • NHS Scotland Supporting the Work-life Balance PIN Policy
  • SPPA Regulations

CIPD – Managing Careers for Organisational Capability – November 2011

CIPD – Flexible Working Provisions – May 2012

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