May 02, 2019

Written By Levi Sunner and Becky Kells

Taking a career break: when is the time to do so?

May 02, 2019

Written By Levi Sunner and Becky Kells

Considering a career break? Don’t panic: there are lots of reasons why legal professionals do so. Here’s our guide to figuring out your reasons and breaking the news to your employer.

Life as a lawyer is rewarding but hectic: the need to balance and juggle tasks will often cut into your personal time. A seat at the table can mean time away from family, hobbies, interests and goals, at times affecting your physical or mental health.

With this in mind, taking a break can be hugely beneficial. You could use a career break to reflect personally and to reconnect with family and friends. Or you could achieve the goals that your employment doesn’t allow, such as travelling or charity work. A career break can also be used to experiment with other streams of income.

If you’re serious about taking a career break, here are some tips on how to negotiate it with your firm.

Prioritise what matters

If your job is affecting your physical or mental health to the point where you’re considering a career break, make this known to your employer. It might be that taking a break is the best option, but your employer may also offer support in different ways, such as flexible working or reduced hours.

Research your firm’s policies

Familiarise yourself with your contract and any policy documents you received when you started work. Whether they cover career breaks or not, it’s good to enter any negotiations with a good idea of how your firm operates.

Try to give a clear timeframe

Your firm will find it easier to accommodate your career break if they know the length of time for which you will be absent. It’s not always easy to predict this, but you should try to give a fairly accurate time range.

Expect a little negotiation

Your firm doesn’t want to lose you, so don’t be put off if they seem hesitant or unaccommodating at first. While some push-back from an employer should be expected, it’s important to note that firms are looking not only to hire, but also to retain talent. Many businesses are even offering sabbaticals as retention tools.

Outline the benefits

Yes, taking a career break will be a benefit to you—but it can also benefit your employer too. Your firm could save on costs if they don’t have to pay your salary for a period of time, and they wouldn’t have to sacrifice the investment they put into you as an employee.

Discuss your return

This important for you and the firm, so that neither party is grappling with uncertainty. You should draft a plan for when you return, including practical pointers: will you return to work part-time at first, for example? If you’re taking a break due to your health, what support system will your firm offer upon your return? It’s good to outline all of these things before you go



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