07 Aug 2023

What is garden leave in the UK?

gardening leave

What is garden leave?

At its core, garden leave is a strategy that prevents outgoing employees from joining a competitor immediately after leaving their current role. During this period, the employee remains on the payroll but is not required to come into the office or perform any work-related duties.

The main objective is to keep potentially sensitive company information out of competitors’ hands while any knowledge the departing employee possesses becomes less relevant.

Can anyone go on garden leave?

Garden leave primarily targets senior employees who hold sensitive company insights, notably those involved in strategic planning, mergers, or deeply embedded with major clients. Their shift to a competitor could significantly dent the company’s position in the market. Conversely, junior employees, often without access to vital strategic data, present minimal risks and are seldom put on garden leave.

As such, for companies, striking the right balance is key, making it vital for employers to meticulously evaluate the intricacies, potential risks, and the overall impact before finalising their stance on garden leave.

When should you use garden leave?

While employees are on garden leave, the question of holidays often arises. It’s crucial to understand that employees continue to accrue holiday entitlements during their garden leave period, as they remain formally employed. They can either take these holidays during their garden leave or get compensated for them at the end of their employment term.

It’s advisable for employers to detail the treatment of holidays during garden leave in employment contracts or company policies. This ensures clarity and avoids potential disputes. Furthermore, any pre-booked holidays that coincide with the garden leave period should be addressed proactively, with communication between both parties being key.

Points of caution for employers

Garden leave, while beneficial in protecting a company’s interests, presents certain challenges that employers should be acutely aware of. These concerns range from legal intricacies to managing employee behaviour:

Legal stipulations

Ensure that garden leave terms are explicitly mentioned in the employment contract. Ambiguous or absent terms can lead to legal disputes. Moreover

  • Duration is key. Excessively lengthy garden leave periods might be deemed unreasonably restrictive, possibly leading to enforceability issues.
  • Regularly review employment contracts in light of changing labor laws and precedents to ensure they remain compliant.

Belligerent employees

Discontent stemming from the imposition of garden leave can lead to uncooperative behaviour. Conversely, garden leave can be an ideal way to remove a belligerent employee from the premises, and stop them from damaging morale.

Watch out for

  • Attempts to breach non-compete clauses by aiding competitors or starting a rival venture.
  • Dissemination of confidential information, whether through informal communication or leaks.
  • Public disparagement of the company or its stakeholders, which can harm your organisation’s reputation.

Holiday entitlement

A lack of clarity on holiday accrual and consumption during garden leave can lead to contention.


  • Clear guidelines on whether holidays can be taken during garden leave.
  • Processes to handle pre-booked vacations that overlap with garden leave periods.
  • Compensation mechanisms for unused holiday days post-termination.

Access control

Despite being on garden leave, employees might retain access to company resources unless explicitly revoked

  • Ensure the immediate suspension of access to sensitive digital resources, databases, and email.
  • Regularly monitor and audit digital footprints to catch any unauthorised access attempts.

Relationship with current staff

The perception of garden leave among current employees can impact morale:

  • Proactively communicate the reasons for garden leave decisions without violating the privacy of the individual involved.
  • Offer reassurances to existing staff about job security and address any circulating rumours.

By addressing these specific concerns, employers can implement garden leave with confidence, protecting their interests without unforeseen repercussions.


What is garden leave?

A strategy where outgoing employees remain on payroll but don’t work, preventing them from immediately joining competitors.

Is garden leave only in the UK?

No, while common in the UK, garden leave practices exist in various countries.

Why is it called garden leave?

The term suggests employees can tend to their gardens during the leave, highlighting their non-working status.

How long is garden leave?

The duration of garden leave varies. Typically garden leave would last for the duration of the employee’s notice period – it should be a reasonable length to avoid the risk of legal challenges.

Who is eligible for garden leave?

Typically garden leave is reserved for high level employees, or those with access to sensitive material.