Garden leave / gardening leave is a thing and it’s cool.
There is a practice in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand where, for a specified period of time after an employee leaves a job (either due to resignation or being made redundant), the ex-employee is not allowed to work for any employer and remains on their prior employer’s payroll. This is called “garden leave” or “gardening leave” and is most common in the banking industry but is also becoming common in the technology industry.
The purpose of garden leave is to prevent the employee from taking with them current and possibly sensitive information when they leave their current employer, especially when they are leaving to join a competitor. It’s basically a paid and mandated time-out handed to them from their prior employer.
The term “garden leave” is thought to have come from the notion that the employee can’t come into work and they can’t work for another employer, so they have nothing better to do but potter around the garden.
Our flat neighbor in north London was put on garden leave for three months when he resigned from his employer in the banking industry. The way he described it sounded like a dream. During his employment, he interviewed and was hired by another employer, resigned from his current employer, and then had the entire summer off between his resignation and his first day of employment with his new employer and he got paid for it!
While the aforementioned non-US employers embrace the fact that employees leave because they are happy and understand that employees may be specialized and therefore can only obtain employment with competitors, US employers take a much different approach. US employers oftentimes require employees to sign “non-compete agreements” at the start of employment which restricts the type of employment an employee can obtain after leaving an employer, regardless of leaving voluntarily or involuntarily. And let’s not even get into the depressing paid maternity leave (if you’re lucky enough to get paid maternity leave!) and paid time off offerings by US employers.