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Garden leave

[ 2010-08-11 17:15]     字号 [] [] []  
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Garden leaveReader question:

Please further explain “garden leave” in this: Any employee who is not required to work but is sent home and is still receiving normal salary is on garden leave.

My comments:

Actually, I’ve just come across a perfect explanation on “garden leave”, albeit implicitly (without mentioning those exact two words).

I was browsing guardian.co.uk the other day when I ran into a story on Mark Papermaster, the chief engineering executive of iPhone 4, leaving Apple due to what is now known as “Antennagate”, or iPhone 4’s signal problems.

Alright, no mincing words here. Papermaster was probably fired.

And this is less than two years after he joined Apple from IBM, a company he’d previously served for a quarter of century against the wishes of the rival firm. In fact IBM brought the case to court in order to stop Papermaster from joining a major competitor.

Anyway, recalling that unhappy episode, the Guardian article (Apple iPhone executive in shock exit, August 8, 2010) says this, from which I inadvertently got the perfect “further explanation” of “garden leave”:

Papermaster had only worked for Apple for just under 16 months. He had previously been employed for 25 years at IBM, where he was a leading expert on its Power chips. IBM launched a legal challenge when Apple appointed Papermaster in October 2008, claiming that he would divulge trade secrets. The two sides eventually agreed that Papermaster would wait six months before joining Apple, and promise not to reveal confidential IBM information to his new employer.

The “six months” that Papermaster was forced to wait before joining Apple is essentially what a garden leave is all about.

You see, when someone as important as Papermaster wants to jump ship and join a rival firm, the original employer is naturally alarmed. Either out of fear, which is very real of course, that the leaving employee will act like a spy and offer company secrets to his new employer or out of vengeance (just to spite him, you know), the old employer often ask the quitter to hold on, wait for a few months, even a year, before letting him go.

This ostensibly gives the original employer time to make contingency plans and necessary deterring arrangements in order to limit the potential damage the said quitting traitor could cause the company when he does jump ship.

And, during this few months or up to a year when the said traitor is not allowed to work or leave, what does he do?

Here we come to the real point of the story.

Presumably he stays at home and tends to his garden.

Mowing the lawn, trimming roses and such like.

The British (who invented this term), you see, are very big on gardening. Every husband or wife picks up a bit of gardening work when they can find the time or if they can’t afford the service of a professional gardener, which is also very big in Britain. It is from this gardening culture that the term “garden leave” sprang into existence.

In the old days, before there were iPhone 4s or mobile phones in general, the person on garden leave was sometimes not allowed to travel far abroad (leaving his premises, or, simply, house) while he’s under house arrest, putting “garden leave” bluntly, that is. The old employer would, in fact, ask someone to call his home telephone from time to time during the day and during the night just to check if he is there.

To see if he’s actually at home, tending to his lovely bed of roses.

On garden leave.



About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者 张欣 中国日报网英语点津编辑)