I just received this letter from the the UK Borders agency, so it looks like this trip will have to be postponed or cancelled completely, unless I can do it in less than 3 months:
Dear Mr Els,
Thank you for your enquiry.
Time spent out of the United Kingdom may be discounted if it is for paid
annual leave or business trips that are necessary due to employment
commitments. If the absence from the UK is during a period of unpaid
leave, it is not discounted and will be used in calculating absences
when considering an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain.
Any absences other than paid annual leave or necessary business trips
should not exceed 3 months at a time or 6 months in total over the 5
However, if there were exceptional compassionate or compelling
circumstances relating to why you would need to leave the UK for a
prolonged period, this would be taken into consideration by the
settlement caseworker – although we would be unable to guarantee the
outcome of such an application.
UK Border Agency
Disappointing I have to say. I guess it is do-able in less than 3 months, but then I will constantly have this time limit chasing me on the trip, a little unsure now what to do ??