Public sector workers doing volunteer work abroad are to have their pension contributions paid for them, following a decision by the government.
Public servants volunteering abroad will have their pensions paid for
Contributions for workers such as doctors and teachers will be paid from a £13m fund aimed at boosting public sector volunteering abroad.
The head of Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) welcomed the move.
Some 350 UK public servants take up volunteer assignments in developing countries each year.
VSO chief Mark Goldring said: "This move is a strong and welcome endorsement by the government of international volunteering."
The scheme is open to any member of a UK public sector pension scheme.
Mr Goldring added: "It recognises the critical contribution that public sector professionals can make to the fight against poverty through sharing their professional skills.
"It also acknowledges the huge benefits they then bring back to public service in the UK when they return with refined skills and a strong sense of personal and professional growth."
Schools Secretary Ed Balls said: "Ensuring that pension contributions are paid, at no cost to the school, local authority or individual teacher, will encourage more sabbaticals and career development breaks.
"This is in line with our recent support for international placements in Africa for UK school leaders, in partnership with the National Association of Head Teachers and VSO."
International Development secretary Douglas Alexander said: "Volunteering brings vital skills and energy to our efforts to tackle poverty in the developing world.
"And now the government is providing more support and encouragement for those who have skills to share.
"Volunteering plays a valuable role in our society, not just in helping to reduce global poverty, but in the wealth of experience volunteers will bring back to the UK and into public service."
The fund - a joint initiative of the departments of Health, International Development and Children, Schools and Family - is part of the government's effort to implement Lord Crisp's report into improving links between health services in the UK and developing countries.
The fund will be available to workers between 2008 and 2011 for periods of between seven and 24 months. Pensions contributions will be based on people's salaries.
VSO recently celebrated its 50th birthday. It has almost 1,500 skilled professionals currently working in 34 countries.