Ruling could see end to career breaks

Employers could be discouraged from giving their employees career breaks
after an employment appeal tribunal ruled such breaks do not interrupt
continuity of service.

The tribunal ruled that a Marks & Spencer employee made redundant in 1999
should have her redundancy payment based on when she started her service with
the firm in 1973, rather than on when she returned to work in 1994 following
her career break.

The decision means staff being made redundant should receive rights and
benefits based on their whole length of service – not just the time after a
career break.

Jonathan Chamberlain, of law firm Wragge & Co, believes the ruling could
discourage some employers from including career breaks as part of their
family-friendly working polices.

"It is a setback to promoting flexible and family-friendly policies
just at a time when the Government is encouraging it. Companies are going to be
expected to take an employee back after a break of several years, but if things
don’t work out, staff will have the statutory rights based on the total time of
service," he said.

Chamberlain advised companies to review polices carefully if they want to
ensure there is a total interruption in their employment relationship with
staff during career breaks.

"This will require very careful drafting and even then it may not be
possible," he added.

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