Can You Take a Sabbatical From Work? (How To Find Out)
Before you get too excited and start to plan a sabbatical the first question that needs answering is ‘Can You Take a Sabbatical From Work?’.
Whether you can take a sabbatical from work will depend on your employer having a sabbatical policy in place and, if not, how open they are to you negotiating sabbatical leave. This post will help you get the information you need to make a decision.
You see, the truth is, there are no laws around sabbaticals. Unlike maternity leave, sick leave or annual leave sabbaticals or career breaks are a BENEFIT that some employers offer, not a guarantee.
Learn everything you need to know about sabbaticals by reading ‘What Is a Sabbatical? The Ultimate Guide‘
This post is designed to help you understand if your employer allows sabbatical leave, and where to find the information. What we’re looking to do is just establish the facts about any policies that are available in your company.
How To Find Out If You Can Take A Sabbatical
To find out if you can take a sabbatical, you need to read up on your company policies..
If you work for a large organisation this should be fairly easy.
Most have employee benefits websites or intranet pages that detail what policies are in place for taking leave. Some still provide a physical ‘employee handbook’, but these tend to be electronic now.
Alternatively, speak to your HR team.
If internal policies aren’t easy to access, then your next option is to speak to someone within your HR team. Bigger companies might do this via a call centre, or there might be someone within your workplace to chat to or email.
Remember, as you’re having these conversations, that there is no RIGHT to be given a sabbatical. It is generally a benefits policy and can be refused. Ensure the conversations you are having are kept confidential at this time until you are 100% clear you want to take the time off.
What Sabbatical Policy Should I Expect To Find?
Different companies have different sabbatical policies, so this is hard to answer conclusively.
I worked for a company who would let an employee have up to a year off and return to their job without after a year of service.
In another, up to three months in the policy. Anything over three months could was still possible, but was treated as a break in service (like leaving the company and re-joining) and meant losing any length-of-service benefits such as additional accrued leave or sick pay. The benefit was that you were guaranteed a role at the end of it.
In some businesses, there may be some alternatives to taking a sabbatical too.
A company I worked for in Australia had long service leave which accrued alongside annual leave and could be only taken after seven year’s service or more. Whilst not taking a sabbatical, if you aim if to take a longer break this would fulfil the criteria.
You may find that taking a sabbatical is dependant on length of service and performance history. This could mean sabbaticals or career breaks are only available to someone who has been with the business for over a year. It may also mean that if you have received poor appraisal grades or have a high absence history then the policy may not be open to you until these improve.
Your HR department should be able to help you answer these questions.
What If There Is No policy?
This is where things start to get a bit tricky, and you might have to make some big calls.
The way I see it you have three options:
- You could quit your job (but only you can weigh up the personal risk attached)
- You could try to negotiate a sabbatical regardless, but without clear policy backing you up, be sure to get everything in writing
- Give up on your sabbatical dream
I’m not a fan of number 3, not sure about you…
…but equally, number 1 seems pretty gutsy.
If you decide to try and negotiate a sabbatical the read ‘How To Negotiate a Sabbatical When Your Employer Has No Policy‘ for some negotiating tips, things to consider and a real-life example from someone who negotiated a sabbatical and got it signed off.
But just remember one thing
If you’re an average person in the UK you’ve got around 80 years on this planet.
We really are tiny, insignificant specks of atoms, in a huge universe that has been here millions of years before us, and will be here millions of years after we go.
Nothing in life that’s worth having ever comes easy.
If you have an urge to do something different, to get out and see the world, you’re going to have to be brave. What seems like a big decision now, will be magnified 100 fold in twenty years time when you look back on what you wish you’d done.
I’m not going to push you to do anything, only you can decide where the risk/reward balance is for you, but the fact that you’re on this website suggests you’re leaning in a certain direction.
My perspective is this.
I’d rather regret something I’ve tried, than regret something I haven’t.
So good luck, and feel free to reach out and ask me questions from my contact page in the top menu.
Here are a few suggestions of posts you may want to read next:
- How Long is a Sabbatical?
- How to Ask For a Sabbatical (And Get One!)
- Sabbatical 101: All the Sabbatical Basics
- Everything You Need To Know About a Sabbatical & Your Career
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