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The mutual benefits of a sabbatical for employees and employers

View profile for Giles Betts
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For many, the thought of giving up the day job on a temporary basis to pursue other interests – be they personal or professional – can be tempting but often not followed up because of concerns over job security.

However, the opportunity to take advantage of a sabbatical can be as beneficial for employers as their employees, making them an attractive career move.  

Firstly, it’s important to make the distinction between sabbaticals and career breaks. A key difference is that sabbaticals don’t involve a resignation whereas a career break often requires the employee to give their notice. There is mutual agreement between employer and employee of the period of absence involved and the guarantee that the employee’s position remains open when they return to the company.

The duration of a sabbatical can be any period from a few months to a few years, depending on the role and tenure of the employee concerned. It’s important that anyone considering a sabbatical checks the contractual situation and the employer’s attitude towards sabbaticals before they go ahead. If agreed, the terms of the sabbatical should then be confirmed in writing along with a planned return to work. It may also be helpful to provide details of your intended use of the sabbatical period and highlight the advantages to your employer in preserving your role. This approach will help maintain open communication and good terms with them.

From an employer’s perspective, although allowing a valued employee to take extended time off may initially seem to be a bad idea, there are practical benefits to be gleaned from doing so. Not least, are the myriad of new skills and experiences that your employee may acquire during their sabbatical which they can then bring to bear in your favour on their return. As the old saying goes ‘a change is as good as a rest’ and a sabbatical can re-focus and inspire those taking advantage. And there’s the financial perk of encouraging unpaid sabbaticals - temporarily reducing the wage bill and without the need to spend time and money on finding a replacement as your employee will (hopefully!) return.

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