A career break is a period of time out from employment. Traditionally, this is for mothers to raise children, but it is sometimes used for people taking time out of their career for personal development and/or professional development.
A career break is usually between one month and two years long. Six months to 2 years is the most common period of time for a career break. It's also possible to take a mini career break  of less than one month, which enables people to try out career break activities without committing to longer periods of time. Shorter career breaks are most popular with the over-45s.
It can take the form of a sabbatical, which can be paid or unpaid - unpaid sabbaticals are much more common. Sabbaticals were originally only offered to academics and clerics but are now being increasingly offered by companies.
A career break is not simply a period of unemployment. Career breakers usually do one or more of the following:
- Voluntary work
- Paid work abroad
- Studying or training
- Offering palliative care
- Raising children
- Staying up-to-date with (profession related) news
- Recovering from accidents or illnesses
The career break has grown in popularity over the last five years, with 75% of the British workforce currently considering a career break. Every year, around 90,000 professionals are estimated to take a career break. It is most common in the UK, where it grew out of the gap year concept. The career break is sometimes referred to as an 'adult gap year', which reflects the commitment towards developing skills and gaining experience while out of the workforce. This was talked about by Stefan Sagmeister in his TED talk "The power of time off".
There is currently no law in the UK requiring an employer to offer or grant career breaks.
See also 
- The Career Break Site survey, 2005
- Term coined by The Career Break Site, 2007
- Management Today article
- Confederation of British Industry survey, 2005
- Mintel report
- Career breaks and the law