How Long is a Sabbatical? [Real Data From 235 Readers]

How Long is a Sabbatical?

I’m lucky enough to have thousands of people visit this site a month who are planning to take or have taken a sabbatical.

I was interested in how long an average sabbatical is so I ran a poll to get some data.

Here’s what I found out:

An average sabbatical lasts around eight months with the most common length of sabbatical 9-12 months, and a 3-6 month sabbatical the second most popular length. 28% of people surveyed said they went on a 9-12 month sabbatical, 23% for 3-6 months and 17% for 8-12 weeks. 51% of people took less than six months.

This is based on using the upper threshold of each category and making an assumption the the people who voted for ‘greater than a year’ averaged 18 months away.

how long is a sabbatical voted on

This is the biggest data source on sabbatical length I’ve seen anywhere on the internet and it will continue to grow as the poll continues to run, so I hope you find the data useful.

If you wish to reproduce any of this information, there is a section at the bottom of the post that tells you how

Below are some common questions about sabbaticals that link to more useful posts around the site.

How Long is a Sabbatical? The Data Broken Down

From the graphic above you can see the following:

  • The most popular sabbatical length is 9-12 months (28% of people)
  • The least popular is less than a month (3%), I assume because this is little more than annual leave
  • Taking the upper limit of each range and assuming those who voted for ‘greater than a year’ the average sabbatical length is 8 months and 13 days.
  • 51% of people surveyed took less than six months for their sabbatical

This Surprised Me About the Results

There was something big that surprised me about the data.

I was expecting the most popular sabbatical length to be 8-12 weeks.

My rationale was that many companies limit the amount of time an employee 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,

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).

Want To Know How Much a Sabbatical Costs? >>> CLICK HERE <<<

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.

FULL ANSWER HERE >>> What Is a Sabbatical? (Complete Guide)

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.

READ NEXT: 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.

GET INSPIRED >>> 30 Life-Changing Sabbatical Ideas

Using This Data

If you are a news sources or website who wishes to use the data from this article, I am happy for you to so so as long as you link back to this post as the reference.

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How Long Did You Take For A Sabbatical or Career Break?

If you have taken a sabbatical or career break (unpaid time off from work) how long did you take?