HR Glossary  >   Career Break

Career Break

Career Break Meaning

A career break is a time off from employment that the employer and employee mutually agree upon for either personal or professional reasons. Higher education, health concerns, family emergencies, or to enhance the skill gap, etc., are a few reasons for a career break. However, the duration for career breaks is a minimum of 1 month to a maximum of 2 years. Usually, the career breaks are unpaid, yet a few employers pay the employees a reduced amount compared to the regular payments in order to secure the employee’s return.

Uses of career break

They are also known as "adult gap years" in some countries as they are similar to students opting for gap years to explore. Taking a career break can provide a fresh perspective on life and work. It can provide an opportunity to:

  • Do volunteering work helping underprivileged
  • Gain expertise in a new field of interest
  • Learn a new language
  • Travelling the world to become culturally aware

Career Break Process in HRM

Many organisations will have policies around who can be granted career breaks and on what grounds. The process usually involves the steps below to ensure the policy's effectiveness.

  • Application for the leave - as a first step, the employee is expected to discuss with their direct manager and possibly the team too. This is to assess the impact of the absence and possible delegation of various tasks. Once satisfied that there will not be an adverse impact due to personal absence, the employee makes a formal request.
  • Approval by the direct manager - in most of the cases where the discussion has already taken place, the direct manager approves the leave application after verifying if the period of leave is in accordance with the verbal agreement.
  • Approval by HR - The HR team not only approves the leave but also ensures all the company assets are handed over by the employee before going on leave.
  • Rejoining formalities - The policy also outlines the formalities that employees must complete to ensure they rejoin and gain access to all assets, including hardware and software. Customised training could also be imparted if the gap is longer to keep the employee up-to-date with all the changes and latest policies.

Here are some steps for taking a career break

As an employee who is looking to go on a career break, it is important to follow the below steps to ensure you validate the need and that you can afford the intended break:

  • Be clear on the objective of your career break.
  • Research, discuss with family & friends, and consult your colleagues to validate the need for taking the break.
  • Notify your employer after discussing with your manager and team.
  • Ensure your finances can support the break.
  • Make arrangements for your return to work.
  • During the break, you dedicate yourself to the objective and remove distractions.
  • Your plan for the break should have a clear time frame.
  • As you get closer to achieving your objective, plan for what should logically follow next.


Why do employees take career breaks?

There are many reasons why an employee will want to take a gap year. Some of them are listed below:

  • To gain a new perspective on their job functionalities and preferences
  • To learn new skills
  • For personal or family-related reasons
  • To get away from negative work environments
  • To reassess their career options

How long does a career break for?

A professional career gap lasts between one or two years. On the other hand, the most usual break is between six months to two years. Many companies offer a gap of around two months to let the employees try out career possibilities.

Does an employee on a gap year get paid?

Gap years are often unpaid. Although, if you are on a break from a company’s learning perspective, some companies might pay a minimum wage.

Is an employee still an employee while on a break?

A career sabbatical is something that keeps you employed while being on a break which means you can come back and take back your job.

What is the difference between a career break and a sabbatical?

A career sabbatical is an absence of leave from work. It might be for those who want to take a break from their professional time for personal time or to improve their skills. On the contrary, a career break requires you to resign from your current position to take a break from it.

What happens when you take a career break?

Taking a career break can have both positive and negative consequences. On the positive side, a career break can provide the much-needed time to enrich yourself with new experiences and learning, which can open more career doors than if you did not. On the other hand, if the break is not utilised as planned, it could be a setback in career progression. But, like they say, it is better to fail after trying rather than not try at all.

Is it OK to take a career break in India?

Career breaks provide valuable exposure and experience both personally and professionally. However, the stigma surrounding career breaks is still in India. The good thing is it is not as strong as it was a decade ago. Many companies now treat career breaks as usual.

Should I mention career break in my resume?

It is best to mention your career break. Unless it is from a distant past and your resume demonstrates enough recent and relevant experience for the job you are applying for.

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