Here at the Co-op we know there may be times when you want to take an extended period of time off work for personal reasons.

We’ll do our best to accept requests for a career break wherever we can, so talk to your manager if you’re considering a career break.

Crucial bits

All colleagues who’ve worked here for more than 12 months can apply for a career break. You can request a career break for any reason, as long as it doesn’t conflict with the interests of the Co-op.

A career break is unpaid and can be for any length of time between three and 12 months. If you want to take a break of less than three months, talk to your manager about taking holiday or agreeing some unpaid leave.

Usually, you can make a request for a career break every 12 months. So, if your application’s turned down you’ll need to wait a year before you request again. But if things change and you need to make another request, talk to your manager about your situation to see what can be arranged. If you’ve already taken a career break we expect you’ll have been back in work for at least 12 months before asking for another one.

While you’re on a career break, your service with the Co-op will continue to accrue.

Taking another job

If you want to take another job during your career break, you must get the okay from your manager first. They’ll say yes unless they think that there could be a conflict of interest, for example if you’d be working for a competitor.

Returning to work

After a career break you’ll usually be able to return to your original role, unless it’s affected by a reorganisation and this isn’t possible. Don’t worry though - if any changes are proposed to your role during your career break, your manager will be in touch to talk about what this means for you.

You’ll have agreed the date you’ll return to work with your manager before starting your career break. If you want to come back earlier you’ll need to give at least a month’s notice in writing. We’ll do our best to accommodate this, but it might not always be possible, especially if someone has been taken on to cover your role.

If you want to return later than you’ve agreed, again you’ll need to write to your manager at least a month before your original return date. We’ll do our best to accommodate this, but remember that a career break can only last for 12 months.

If you can’t come back to work on the date agreed, you need to let your manager know as early as possible. If you don’t return to work as expected, we’ll treat this as unauthorised absence. If you’ve decided that you don’t want to come back, just give us your resignation in writing. You’ll need to give your contractual notice ending on the date your career break is due to finish, and remember that your notice period won’t be paid.

Things to think about

If you’re thinking about taking a career break, it might be useful to consider:

  • Is this the right time to take a career break - for yourself and the business?
  • How might your role be covered if you take a long period of time off work?
  • How could it affect your benefits, both from the Co-op and State benefits such as tax credits?

Applying for a career break

To apply for a career break, complete the Career Break Request Form and give it to your manager.

The process we’ll then follow can be found in the Career Break Process. It’s good if you can be flexible about the timing of your career break – it might make it easier for your manager to agree.


Your holiday entitlement will continue to accrue while you’re on a career break. If your bank holidays aren’t already included in your holiday entitlement, you’ll also get days in lieu of any bank holidays which fall during your career break. Talk to your manager before you start your career break about taking your holidays within your period of leave, at either the start or the end. Remember that once you’re back at work, the normal arrangements for carrying holiday forward will apply.

Performance-related benefits and sick pay

You won’t be eligible for performance-related benefits, such as bonus, during your career break, but any payments will be pro-rated for any complete months you work during the performance year. Also, just so you’re clear, you won’t get sick pay if you’re ill during your career break.


If you’re a member of a Co-op pension scheme, all pension contributions will stop during your career break but you’ll still be covered for death in service benefits. Visit the Co-op pensions website or speak to the Pensions Department for more information.

Other benefits

If you get any other benefits that you contribute to through a salary sacrifice arrangement, for example childcare vouchers or a season ticket loan, contact HR Services to find out how taking unpaid leave may affect these.

If you have an Essential User car or Grade-Related car or cash allowance you won’t get to keep this during a career break, so you’ll need to contact the Transport Department to arrange returning your car before you begin the break. Cash will be stopped automatically. You’ll also need to return any Co-op property like uniforms, mobile phones, laptops, access passes and fobs to your manager.

Keeping in touch

Before you start your career break it’s important to agree with your manager how you’ll keep in touch while you’re away from work, so you can keep up to date with any changes in your team or department. It’s also important that you keep us informed of any changes of personal details, such as change of address.

Remember you’ll still be an employee of the Co-op while you’re on a career break, so it’s important that you still follow our Code of Business Conduct/Code of Conduct.

If you need further support

If you have any questions about career breaks, please speak to your manager. If managers need advice they can contact ER Services.