Garden leave or gardening leave describes the practice where an employee leaving a job – having resigned or otherwise had their employment terminated – is instructed to stay away from work during the notice period, while still remaining on the payroll.
This practice is often used to prevent employees from taking with them up-to-date (and perhaps sensitive) information when they leave their current employer, especially when they are leaving to join a competitor.
The term is in common use in banking and other financial employment in Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
The term originated in the British Civil Service where employees had the right to request special leave for exceptional purposes. “Gardening leave” became a euphemism for “suspended” as an employee who was formally suspended pending an investigation into their conduct would often request to be out of the office on special leave instead. The term came to widespread public attention in 1986 when it was used in the BBC sitcom Yes, Prime Minister episode “One Of Us“.
Employees continue to receive their normal pay during garden leave and must adhere to their conditions of employment, such as confidentiality, at least until their notice period expires.
The term can also refer to the case of an employee sent home pending disciplinary proceedings, when they are between projects, or when, as a result of publicity, their presence at work is considered counter-productive.