Bad break for employers keen on careers

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 that 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’s
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 many not be possible,” he
added.

By Ross Wigham

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