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What is sabbatical leave?

What is sabbatical leave?

A sabbatical leave program can do wonders for both the company’s employees and the organization. In this article, we will pay special attention to what a sabbatical is, what types there are, the advantages of this type of break from work duties, and how to leave and return correctly.

Sabbaticals vs. Traditional Leave

Sabbatical leave is an extended break when eligible employees can release themselves from regular job duties while obtaining the employer’s consent. Employee’s sabbatical leave can be granted for any agreed-upon period between the parties (employer and employee). Standard employee vacations differ from sabbatical vacations because the latter generally last longer. On a case-by-case basis, the period of absence is determined individually – it can be from several months to a year.
At the same time, the employee may be granted leave, paid or unpaid (the employer decides this). Take a sabbatical can be taken for activities for which there is not enough time in the normal working schedule.
Most employers take a break from work for the following reasons:

  • professional development, which requires a lot of free time for courses, training;
  • parental leave, when you need to take care of a child for some time;
  • care for a sick or elderly loved one;
  • volunteer work, particularly in large projects or in another country;
  • traveling, especially outside the country;
  • learning new skills;
  • studying at a foreign university.

The reasons may differ, but in any case, there must be a company’s sabbatical policy, where all the conditions must be clearly stated: to whom the leave is granted, terms, paid or unpaid, etc.

The Benefits of Sabbatical Leave

Employee leaves have a clear benefit. Studies have proven that engaged employees need at least 3-4 days to relax from work and can quickly go on extended leave. An extended career break gives the necessary time to rest and return to normal. Notably, paid or unpaid sabbatical leave benefits employees and the organization.

For employees, the benefits of sabbatical leave are as follows:

  •  employee morale is improved: stress, anxiety and depression are reduced;
  •  minimizes employee burnout;
  •  fFreedom to do other things – you can develop your volunteer opportunities, you can travel, you can pursue search, and so on;
  •  opportunities for skills development;
  • opportunity to use vacation time for reflection;
  • offer employees paid or unpaid sabbatical leave is worthwhile because of the following benefits to the company:
  •  improved employee retention;
  •  current employees get ample training opportunities to bring more value to the organization in the future;
  •   reduced turnover costs;
  •  employees understand that they are valued and their wishes are considered, so you get a more satisfied and versatile workforce.

If you want to take a sabbatical, you must prepare for it properly, thinking through every detail so that the break from work is not wasted.

Planning Your Sabbatical

Offering sabbaticals is based on the employer’s policy. There are many things to consider before leaving work for a while. How can an employee apply? How much notice is required? What is the minimum length of sabbatical leave? There are many other things to plan for.

Preparing for a Sabbatical

Before applying for an extended break from work, looking at the sabbatical leave rules is a good idea. The first thing to do is to determine how long the employee takes a break from work. It is also necessary to consider which other employees will handle clients or unfinished projects during the absence. Regardless, it is necessary to determine who will take over the employee’s duties during his absence. The immediate supervisor can do it. But it would also be an excellent option to divide the responsibilities among several employees or hire someone temporarily to fill in.

If the employee is a customer contact, you need to pay enough attention to choosing a replacement to keep customers.

Setting Your Goals

Sabbatical policies may allow you to take a career break for any reason. At the same time, company rules may specify that only certain activities are possible: studies, volunteering, and other options. Before notifying the company of your extended period of absence, it is always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the sabbatical policy.

Financial Planning

An employee may be granted paid or unpaid sabbatical leave. Even if the company provides paid sabbatical leave, it must be determined whether a full salary, a reduced amount, or just an employee benefit will be paid. Paid time depends mainly on how long the employee will be away and the company’s budget. Of course, paid sabbatical leave provides much more opportunities for employees to do exactly what they want without worrying about the financial component. In addition to the salary, sabbatical benefits can also be provided to the employee.

Unpaid sabbaticals make you think seriously about how you will be able to cover your living expenses. Most often, paid sabbaticals are provided in situations where the employee will continue to benefit the company or he leaves for a short time, and the time of his absence will positively impact the quality of the organization’s work. In some cases, the full salary may be retained for the first month, and the wage rate will gradually decrease with each month of absence.

Types of Sabbaticals

Before going on a paid or unpaid sabbatical, it is first worth understanding the types of breaks from work. Reasons for taking extended periods of absence from work can vary:

  • Sick leave
  • Personal reasons
  • Working on a personal project for career growth
  • Traveling the world
  • Spending more time with family

Most often, employees can get the maximum sabbatical year. It should be noted that the offer of sabbatical leave depends largely on the employee – most often, such applications are accepted from employees who have worked for the company for at least five years.

Career Sabbaticals

Most often, organizations offer sabbatical leave in the situation when an employee undergoes training. It can be a trip to a foreign university or advanced training at a local college. In this situation, it is not necessary to master academic professions; it can be done in various directions. If the training will benefit the company in the future, such employees are often given paid leave.

Personal Sabbaticals

The sabbatical policy can also cover personal reasons. For example, an employee needs to take care of an elderly relative who needs a break from work because of the birth of a child, illness, and other reasons. But it is worth noting that companies will likely offer unpaid sabbatical leave in this situation.

Volunteer Sabbaticals

Employees who need all their time for a particular charitable project can take the appropriate leave. If the employee is leaving for a short time (a few months), they can get sabbatical leave paid.

Unpaid Sabbatical Leave

The unpaid sabbatical leave policy is trendy among many companies. In this situation, staff are often offered extended periods of absence from work. It is worth noting that unpaid leave imposes certain obligations on the employee, as he will have to think hard about how he will cover his financial expenses. At the same time, this decision on the company’s part is quite justified, as the organization will have to advertise that it requires employees to perform the work duties of absent employees. The latter will also have to pay a salary. It is worth noting that if the employee is not offered a salary during the vacation, they may be provided with other attractive benefits.

Navigating Your Workplace

There is no single sabbatical program for all companies. The company should develop its sabbatical leave policy with clearly defined rules to benefit the staff and the organization. The sabbatical program must contain the employees’ expectations upon their return to work. It should also spell out what happens if employees do not want to return after their absence. In addition, the policy should state the employee’s obligations to the company for the duration of the absence. A Sabbatical leave policy may include a clause stating that even if an employee is on vacation, they are still obligated to abide by company rules regarding non-disclosure data protection and non-harassment of other team members.

Communicating with Your Employer

Suppose you want to get a paid sabbatical. In that case, it is most often granted on the condition that the employee will participate in the company’s life and can be contacted if necessary. In addition, for the employer to be sure that you will eventually return to work, you need to keep in constant contact with him. They need to know that you can be counted on in the future and that you do not need to find a permanent replacement.

Legal Aspects of Sabbaticals

There is no separate sabbatical leave clause in modern labor law. There is no legal requirement to provide this type of leave. Employers have every right to develop their sabbatical leave policy, deciding who can qualify for this type of leave, how much notice the management must give, and how many years the employee’s years must be to take a break from work.

Returning from Sabbatical

If employees’ well-being is good and they have resolved all their issues, they can safely return to work at the old place. When the paid sabbatical has ended, the question arises about how to get back into the workflow properly. There are several essential points to consider in this situation.

Transitioning Back to Work

If you are ready to return, you need to get the appropriate notification from your employer to allow employees to return. Just as you notified your employer of your departure, you must notify them before your return. You must ensure that your job is assigned to you and that you can return to the same position.

Applying Sabbatical Insights

A paid sabbatical is a valuable and enriching experience that must be shared with others. Talk about exactly what you accomplished and learned during your time away from work and how you were able to improve your skills. How have you grown as a leader, a scholar, or a specialist in a particular field? What exactly did you contribute to your company’s sector? Tell your manager or other employees at work about your achievements. Be sure to thank those who have supported you during your absence.

Is Sabbatical Leave Right for You?

If you want to take your mind off the stress of work and focus on something other than your professional duties, then you should take a vacation. Besides, you can also engage in personal or professional skill development while on vacation.


Floating holidays or long periods of absence from work are necessary for employees to take care of many important matters and avoid burnout. You don’t want to be torn between multiple tasks, thus exhausting yourself and making you depressed.

Planning Your Sabbatical Journey

Are you ready to take a break from work for quite a long time? In this situation, you need to take a smart approach to planning. It would help if you started by reviewing your organization’s sabbatical leave policy. It should specify who can go on vacation and for how long what benefits are given to employees. Suppose your company does not have a sabbatical leave policy. In that case, it is worth discussing this issue with your employer so that your statement on the table does not surprise him.

Date: 2 November 2023
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