What Is a Sabbatical Leave From Work?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 15 June 2022 | Published 26 August 2020

Updated 15 June 2022

Published 26 August 2020

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A regular job with 40 hours a week can be a lucrative prospect for a lifetime career. Short vacations and festive holidays provide enough time to wind down and relax. In this article, we describe what a sabbatical leave is and how you and your organisation can benefit from you taking one.

What Is Sabbatical Leave?

It is an extended absence from work without risking the termination of employment. Some organisations offer this extended leave as a benefit during the hiring process. A sabbatical leave helps employees to refresh and recommit to work by allowing them time to pursue their interests.

Generally, educational institutions offer sabbaticals to professors and researchers to advance their projects or publish papers. Corporations have also recognised the benefits of extended leave, and many of them provide it to their employees, especially those working in positions with high levels of stress.

Related: How To Handle Pressure From Work (With Practical Tips)

Benefits Of Sabbatical Leave

It can give you the much needed time to pursue your interests without entailing the risk of losing your job.

A sabbatical period can also help you to:

  • Get higher qualifications

  • Pursue another goal in life

  • Spend time with family and friends

  • Treat or cure health issues

  • Do social work

  • Travel and connect with nature

  • Relax, reduce stress and rejuvenate yourself

Related: How To Reduce Work Hours: A Guide With Practical Tips

Why Do Companies Offer Sabbatical Leave?

Issuing it can reduce the cost of employment for a company. If you receive sabbatical for upgrading your skills, the company can later offer a promotion with a higher wage. Instead of hiring a specialised person, the company may prefer having you as a well-qualified employee in house.

Many companies risk losing employees in the turnover process. It helps to reduce employee turnover and ensures a sustained association between yourself and the firm. This arrangement is mutually beneficial for both.

Usually, a corporation includes sabbatical leave as a perk along with other benefits. However, the policies of granting such leaves are different in every company. Sometimes the organisation may offer this leave without pay to reduce its expenses. You can use this leave to pursue your interests and increase motivation for work, but make sure that you have enough savings to support yourself and your family before applying.

How To Get A Sabbatical Leave?

Large corporations provide sabbaticals to their valuable staff to help them deal with any stress and overwork. To be eligible, you must have completed five to seven years in continuous service in the organisation. So before applying, you should assess your record in the company. Follow these steps to be considered for the extended leave period:

  1. Ask your HR department if the company offers a sabbatical. This step will ensure that you are informed of the HR policies within your company before approaching your boss.

  2. Read the terms and conditions in your employment contract carefully. Some companies have particular clauses in such contracts which specify the details.

  3. Check if the company offers a regular salary and any bonuses during the sabbatical. This period can be financially challenging, so any monetary help from the company will prove beneficial.

  4. Create a formal, written declaration if the company asks for one. This can be a cover letter explaining why you need a sabbatical and how you will use it.

  5. Make sure that you are not including your sick days and annual leave in your sabbatical request. You can use paid sick leave if you have a medical emergency. Some companies also allow a part of annual paid leave to be carried over to the next year. So it makes sense to leave these two options out.

If your company does not offer this leave, discuss this option with your line manager, HR manager or other supervisor and convince them about the benefits. You can use the following points to make a strong case:

  • If you are comfortable with unpaid leave, explain that the company will not have to pay for that period, saving the company some overhead.

  • If you are taking the sabbatical to get a higher qualification, let them know that the company will benefit from the upgraded skills. If you can afford the fees, clarify that they will not have to pay for this education.

  • Explain that you will be fresh when you return, which can increase your productivity.

  • Convince them that hiring another employee for the additional skills will not be necessary because you will gain those skills during your leave.

  • Persuade them that the work will not suffer in your absence if you are opting for paid leave.

To qualify, you might need to prove yourself to be an asset to the company. You should also delegate your work to a reliable person and hand over the responsibility if possible. Prepare your plan well in advance before applying to allow for any unforeseen circumstances. Save enough money to cover your day-to-day needs and travel expenses if applicable.

Related: How to Write an Office Leave Application

Ways To Utilise A Sabbatical Effectively

When you successfully get the authorisation for sabbatical leave, your preliminary work is over. Now you must decide how you are going to utilise it properly. Following up on your hobbies, pursuing your dreams or just relaxing and improving your mood are all positive ways to spend a sabbatical. Here are some tips to use this leave in a meaningful way:

  • If you have wanted to go travelling your entire life, this is the time to make it happen. Visit places in different nations and experience the scenery when you connect with nature. It is also helpful to use this opportunity and make new friends or connections to expand your professional network.

  • If art is your passion, this is the right time to learn and gain proficiency.

  • To utilise your inner creativity, use this time to start writing a book, novel, articles or blogs. You can also publish and sell books online if you do not prefer traditional publishers.

  • If you have a passion for social work, you could approach a non-governmental organisation or do something on your own. For example, you can participate in educating native tribes and villagers about employability skills. This activity can also be paid if your company does not object. Such paid charity work in the field can enrich your mind while conserving your savings.

  • Hardworking people continuously aim to upgrade their skill set. You can use this time off to train yourself and potentially earn a new certification, which may enable you to get a promotion or better paying job.

  • Perhaps you are an animal lover and have not yet been able to adopt a pet. In this case, you can volunteer at an animal shelter to surround yourself with companion animals. Pets can help you relieve stress and increase happiness.

  • If you are taking a break due to ill health, consider joining a yoga class. Yoga is a great way to relax and recharge your mind and body.

While taking a break is a way to unwind and enjoy, you must remember to keep your goal in mind. If your job is lucrative and you do not want to leave it after your sabbatical, stay connected with your office. Keep in touch with your colleagues and ask them about developments in the workplace. You can easily accomplish this by staying active on social media.

Returning From A Sabbatical

When you resume work, you will likely get a warm welcome from the members of your organisation. Try to greet everyone and inquire about them and their families. Connecting with everybody at a personal level can strengthen your professional relationships in the workplace. Additionally, you can engage in activities that can help you to merge in after you return, such as:

  • Catching up on missed work: It can be useful to know what work you have missed. Offering to help your colleagues clear the remaining work can strengthen your work relationships and build rapport with your seniors. You may also try to get acquainted with any new technology, software or process employed by your company in your absence.

  • Reflecting on your achievements: It can be a good practise to list your achievements and reflect on how they have benefited you. This practise can help boost your morale and prepare you for any questions or interviews for a higher position.

  • Updating your CV: If you have acquired any skills or completed a complex project, be sure to mention it on your CV. Updating your CV addresses the sabbatical gap and assists you in explaining how you utilised it to improve yourself. This step is especially useful if you are looking for a change in career.

  • Networking: Try to get in touch with other people who have taken a sabbatical. This gives you a chance to share your experiences and increase your circle of influence. You might also be able to find new opportunities and promotions which may not be accessible through conventional means.

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