Is Sabbatical Leave Paid or Unpaid?

A hammer lying beside a smashed pink piggy bank full of coins

Sabbatical leave is generally unpaid.

As an example, of the top ten employers in the UK, seven offer a sabbatical leave policy, none of which are paid.

There are however, companies that offer paid time off as an incentive for long service and parts of the world that have this written into local law. Your best bet is always to do your research and check your HR policies.

If you’re unsure how to do this, I cover the topic in detail at ‘Can I Take a Sabbatical? (How To Find Out!)‘.

In this post, I will cover off some examples of where sabbatical leave is paid and how to plan to take a sabbatical even if it is not.

A table showing top 10 UK employers and whether or not they have a sabbatical program.


Examples of Where Sabbatical Leave is Paid

Whilst most sabbaticals are unpaid, there are examples of paid sabbatical leave in different companies, with some included in employment law in parts of the world.

Long Service Leave

Whilst not technically sabbatical leave, long service leave can be stored up in some companies and parts of the world and used for extended periods away from the workplace.

For example, in Australia, most states have a long service leave policy that has to be followed by employers. In Victoria, you qualify for one week of long service leave for every 60 weeks worked, which is about 0.85 weeks a year. The leave can only be taken once you’ve worked for the same business for seven years. By the time you get to that mark, you’re going to qualify for six week’s worth of leave (longer if you don’t take it immediately) and this can be taken in one block, so it could be used in a similar way to unpaid sabbatical leave.

Read more about Victoria’s LSL policy here.

Reduced Pay Sabbatical

Some companies offer a sabbatical leave to allow employees to pursue ‘personal or professional growth’ and do so at a reduction in salary.

The benefit for the team member is a chance to take time off and try something different in their life, the benefit for the company is that they hold on to well-trained long-serving team members rather than them leaving the business altogether.

A famous example of this is Deloitte.

Deloitte offers eligible employees the chance to take a sabbatical for three to six months, on a reduced pay rate of 40%. They also offer a fully paid sabbatical program as a ‘milestone’ for people promoted to director level.

Find out more information about the Deloitte sabbatical program here.

Academic Sabbaticals

One of the original uses for the term sabbatical was in the academic field, where teachers and professors were given time off to study and complete research. This still continues in many fields and universities today.

Academic sabbaticals are generally paid for at least half the time off, but as you can see below, are taken for very different purposes.

Unlike a sabbatical from regular employment, an academic sabbatical is not a long vacation to do with as the individual wishes, but a leave of teaching to focus on research and publication. At many schools and universities, it is not automatic, must be applied for, and is granted at the discretion of a senior academic administrator (provost).

Some schools will only provide six months of funding but will release the individual from a full year of teaching. This means the faculty member is responsible for getting grants for the remainder otherwise they will effectively work at half salary for the sabbatical.

How Much Will an Unpaid Sabbatical Cost

A chart showing the costs of a 3 month sabbatical

If your business only offers an unpaid sabbatical policy, that doesn’t mean it’s off the cards. I’ve taken three sabbaticals and didn’t get paid for any of them (if you’re interested in that story, and how sabbaticals became so important to me, read my sabbatical story here).

In order to be able to afford a sabbatical though, you’re going to need to have a good plan and that begins by figuring out exactly how much it’s going to cost.

To start off, I would suggest you head off and read through all the detailed and practical advice I have on financing a sabbatical using the link below.

The Cost Variables

There are so many variables in taking a sabbatical, that it’s hard to offer a one size fits all solution…

  • Are you travelling or staying at home?
  • If you are travelling, where to?
  • How long are you planning to take for your sabbatical?
  • Are you travelling solo or as a couple?
  • Do you have recurring costs (such as a mortgage) that you will need funding whilst you are away?

…but I will do my best to help anyway!

How Long Are You Taking?

This is the biggest variable that will affect how much an unpaid sabbatical will cost you. Being away for four weeks vs 12 months is clearly going to increase the costs involved.

This is the first thing you need to work out, as this will then allow you to work out how many days/months you need to fund.

What Costs Will You Need to Continue Paying Back Home?

This is the baseline cost for your sabbatical.

If you have a mortgage that needs, a pet that requires accommodation and a car loan that cannot be stopped then you need to factor these into the monthly cost of your sabbatical.

Some of these can be bypassed with clever planning, for example, you could take a mortgage holiday or get a family member to look after your pet, but any costs you cannot cover will need to be built into the savings required for your sabbatical.

Examples of these are:

  • Mortgage
  • Bills (water, gas, electricity)
  • Insurance (life, pet, house, health)
  • Local taxes
  • Internet or cable bill (if you cannot end the contract)
  • Mobile phone bill (if you cannot switch to PAYG)
  • Bank fees

What Are You Doing?

What you decide to do with your sabbatical will change the costs involved.

Here are a few examples:

Staying home and writing a book will be a small cost. Whilst you will still need to cover your recurring mortgage or rent, no other costs should be involved.

You may decide to housesit in another country. This will give you a base, which is potentially free, but you will still need to pay for flights and visas amongst other things.

The more expensive option is to travel continuously, as this will stack up everything from the cost of transport and hotels through to

Where Are You Going?

Where you decide to take your sabbatical will have a big impact on the cost.

Backpacking through Southeast Asia will be significantly cheaper than a similar experience in Australia. There will always be ways to reduce the costs, but some countries and parts of the world are simply more expensive than others.

If you are looking for the costs of a specific country or city, I find this website very useful…

…it allows you to see the average cost of everything from an AirBNB to a Coca Cola and is constantly updated. I have found no better way of calculating daily costs when in a country.

Working Out a Final Cost

Where you’re trying to get to is the following:

  1. A list of expenses you will need to continue to pay whilst away (mortgage, life insurance etc)
  2. A list of one of costs associated with the sabbatical (flights, travel insurance etc)
  3. An estimated daily cost of living whilst you are away calculated using the Nomadlist link

This will then allow you to get an idea of the total cost of your sabbatical.

A Real-Life Example (£7,189.70 for 3 Months in Southeast Asia)

A table

The above graphic shows you all of our day-to-day costs for our three month sabbatical in Southeast Asia in 2018.

What isn’t included is one-off costs we paid well in advance such as travel insurance and flights or the ongoing costs that we had to pay back in the UK, the above is designed to show you how much it costs on an average day for two people travelling through one of the cheapest parts of the world.

If you want to work out a similar cost for yourself then visit…

Can You Afford To Take a Sabbatical?

…where you can download a free budgeting spreadsheet to work out the costs for youself.

Finishing Up

In this post I aimed to answer the question ‘is sabbatical leave paid or unpaid?’.

Whilst the overriding conclusion is ‘no’ I hope I’ve also provided you with some inspiration and practical examples of how much an unpaid sabbatical would cost you, so you can begin saving to make your sabbatical dreams a reality.

If you’ve got any questions then reach out to me on the contact page or leave your questions in the comments below.

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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?