What Is Garden Leave and When Should You Use It?

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Though its name may suggest otherwise, garden leave is not so much about greens and flowers. It’s a robust measure to protect your company from data breaches and client poaching that may follow the departure of an employee.

This leave type lowers the risks to organizational reputation and competitiveness by making sure an exiting staff member respects your business interests. And here we’re going to explore what garden leave means, which pros and cons it has, and when it’s appropriate to make use of it.

Garden leave

What Is Garden Leave?

Garden leave is when an employee gets suspended during the notice period yet still receives their full pay in the meantime. It disallows that employee to do work-related activities or seek employment in other companies. These conditions remain in force from any moment after they receive a dismissal letter until their last official working day.

Why Is It Called Garden Leave?

When there’s a lot of time off at your disposal and enough money on your hands, how would you spend it?

Sooner or later, you will get utterly bored just slacking off and having no meaningful activity whatsoever. Hence, a much better option, in this case, is to pick up a hobby you couldn’t properly engage in before due to work.

Garden leave gives you a chance to start that large-scale origami project you’ve always dreamed about, read all the books you’ve ever bought, or learn how to become a master chef. And sure enough, you can always take the term “garden leave” literally and try to turn your backyard into a true paradise on earth. After all, there’s a reason why gardening remains one of the top hobbies around the world. Thus, why not show you plants some love when there’s not much else to do?

Gardening while off work

When Should Employers Use Garden Leave?

Compensating employees for their leisure time may seem strange, but doing so is an excellent idea in a few instances:

1.    When employee dismissal may cause the loss of clients

If a staff member has full access to your customer data, there’s a risk they may resort to client poaching after leaving the company. By keeping that staff member away from work and the marketplace for a while, you have a better chance to secure your customer base and make certain the departing employee doesn’t take any of your clients with them.

2.    When confidential data may leak to a competitor

Some team members know all the ins and outs of your business. They’re aware of what you’re up to do in the future and which unique methods you use to achieve the set goals. Letting those employees go too soon means they may disclose all this valuable info to your rivals and undermine the success and competitiveness of your company. If such a risk is high, it’s better to prevent them from working for other employers (or themselves) until your sensitive data becomes obsolete enough.

3.    When a departing employee may affect team morale and productivity in a negative way

Not every person would be happy to receive a dismissal letter, especially if you’re firing them because of poor performance or for any other reason of this kind. And the problem is: an upset or angry employee can do a lot of harm to the business by spilling out their ill feelings on the heads of other team members, showing poor-quality performance, and taking zero care of your clients. In this case, granting a departing employee with garden leave will help you maintain a positive work environment and keep your reputation unscathed.

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Pros of Garden Leave

A well-drafted employment contract may require a worker to not disclose or misuse any sensitive organizational information after dismissal. Yet, in reality, it’s challenging to make sure that a former staff member respects all the post-contractual obligations you want them to commit to once they’re away.

Garden leave allows for taking the situation under better control.

If you believe that an employee may go against your business interests (either intentionally or unintentionally), you have the right to suspend them for some reasonable amount of time. By doing that, you will be able to reach out to that employee freely, whenever you need it. Plus, they will stay bound by all the contractual liabilities listed in the employment agreement, including duty of fidelity and confidentiality. This way, you will avoid the risk of data breaches and secure your business’s competitive position.

Cons of Garden Leave

Regardless of the tremendous benefits that garden leave provides, one thing is certain – it’s costly. Thus, while deciding whether to give someone a full wage for zero work accomplishments, you need to be 100% confident these expenses outweigh the potential costs and risks of employee dismissal. Otherwise, garden leave will cost your business a fortune, especially if you have to replace the suspended professional with a new one and then compensate them both.

How to Make the Best of Garden Leave: Tips for Employers

  • Include the provision for garden leave in employment contracts – Focus on key and senior staff members that have access to sensitive business data and transferable client relationships. Create the garden leave clauses in line with their roles and responsibilities.
  • Follow the rules – Provide suspended employees with full pay and other benefits they’re entitled to by the law and their employment contracts.
  • Communicate the rules to your employees – Make sure they understand what garden leave is intended for, what they can and cannot do during the notice period, and how long it all will last.
  • Determine the length of garden leave carefully – The leave period should be just enough to guarantee your business interests are protected. Let an employee move on whenever the risks decline.
  • Weigh all the costs – Don’t make rush decisions. Analyze each case individually to see if garden leave is a worthwhile endeavor.
  • Track employee time off consistently – Accurate staff absence data is handy in business decision-making. It gives a better insight into HR costs, which garden leave is always bound to entail.

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