A sabbatical is a great way to take a break from your current job and experience something different in life, from travel to learning a new skill. 75% of employees say flexible time off helps to retain their long-term loyalty, so they are becoming more common in company benefit schemes.

A typical sabbatical lasts between 3 months and 1 year with an average length around 21 weeks. The most common sabbatical is around the 12 week mark, with the overall average pushed up by those taking a more traditional sabbatical year. How long you decide to take is determined by what you want to do and the policies at your current workplace.

If you’re interested in a sabbatical and looking for more information then this is the perfect website for you. Below are some common questions about sabbaticals that link to more useful posts around the site.


How long should I take for a sabbatical?

How long you take for a sabbatical will largely come down to two things:

  1. How long your company allows you to have
  2. How much you can afford

Allowances for unpaid leave vary from company to company. Three months is a fairly common sabbatical amount, and one that generally allows you to keep your accrued benefits, though some companies allow you to build up long service leave that will make it easy to take a sabbatical that’s even longer than this. Beyond three months and normally it becomes a break in service and accrued benefits such as holdiay and sick pay reset (see the answer below).

How much you can afford is the second key factor to length of sabbatical. Sabbaticals are generally unpaid, so you need to have a clear idea how long you can afford to be away before needing to work again.


Why is a 12 week sabbatical the most popular?

A 12 week sabbatical is the most popular because in many companies there is a limit to the amount of time you can take off without breaking service.

For example, one of the biggest retailers in the UK offers two types of sabbatical – a ‘lifestyle break’ or a ‘career break’.

A lifestyle break is anything up to 12 weeks and, whilst unpaid, allows you to keep all of your long service benefits such as annual leave accrual. It’s a great option for 3 months off and then returning to work in the same capacity with the same benefits.

Anything above 12 weeks and the career break kicks in. This is treated as a break in service, so your benefits are reset. In many ways it is similar to handing in your notice but they do guarantee you a job on your return. You can be on a career break for anything up to 5 years, so a great option for someone who wants to take an extended break but have a guarantee of a job on their return,

From the above you can see why many people opt for a 3 month sabbatical, as in many companies there are additional benefits to the shorter break.


What is a sabbatical?

A sabbatical is an agreement between you and your employer to take a period of time off of work and then return to your role or an equivalent at the end of it. Generally, this period of time is unpaid and your benefits such as sick and annual leave accrual are frozen whilst you are away.

For a full answer read my detailed post ‘What is a Sabbatical?


Is a sabbatical paid?

In most instances no, but there is a wide variety of sabbatical types depending on the line of work you’re in and the company you work for.

For example, in some companies they allow you to build up long-service leave alongside your standard annual leave accrual which you can then take as a single block after a few years. I have known people who have built up 3 months of long service leave and used the time to spend with their family or travel.

In the academic field, sabbaticals are traditionally given once every 7 years to allow a researcher to focus on a specific topic by travelling or changing environment.


How do I take a sabbatical?

To take a sabbatical you need to start by researching your company policies, to determine if sabbatical leave is regularly granted and how you go about requesting it.

You then need to plan out your sabbatical, working out how much you need to save in advance, when would be the right time to travel and what you want to do.

Before you book anything you then need to request the sabbatical via your line manager or HR team.

If the sabbatical is not granted you can then make a decision if you want to risk leaving employment and finding a job on your return, or giving up on your dream.

For more advice read ‘How to Take a Sabbatical From Work: Everything you Need to Know


When can I take a sabbatical?

There is normally a minimum amount of service you have to have completed before a sabbatical is granted.

In many companies, this is at two years service but ensure you read your company intranet page or HR policies to understand the specifics for your business.

There are often other restrictions in place for sabbaticals that are used to determine eligibility for a sabbatical:

  • A minimum length of service
  • Your attendance record
  • Ensuring there is someone available to cover
  • A poor disciplinary record or a disciplinary process that is currently taking place

So take some time when considering your sabbatical as to when is best to take one. For example, an accountant requesting a sabbatical over the end of the financial year is more likely to get their request refused than at other times of year.


What do people do on a sabbatical?

The most popular reason for taking a sabbatical is to travel, but I have seen many other examples.

From writing a book, learning to sail, spending time with family or volunteering at a crisis zone the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.

If you’re interested but struggling for inspiration, then when not check out ‘30 Life-Changing Sabbatical Ideas


How do I know this information is accurate?

I interview lots of people about their sabbaticals for my Sabbatical FAQs series and record the answers they give me in to a spreadsheet so I can see an average amount of time taken for each sabbatical.