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What is sabbatical leave?

Rayaan Shire 04 Jul 12:32 3 min read
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An ideal work-life balance is essential for the individual growth of any employee. However, that idealism often requires more than just the regular daily work routine. Many workers have interests and passions that they dream to follow but don’t get the time to do them because of their busy schedules. That’s where sabbaticals come in. 

Sabbaticals provide employees with an opportunity to move forward in their lives - work on a personal project, study, travel, write - or do anything else that excites them. 

But what, exactly, is a sabbatical? How does it work? How can it affect your workspace? Here’s everything you need to know. 

What is Sabbatical leave? 

A sabbatical, also known as sabbatical leave, is a long-term leave granted to an employee. It originated from universities when professors got long-term leaves to work on personal researches, write books or papers, study further, or travel to an overseas university. However, the concept of sabbaticals soon spread towards workspaces and organisations. 

Sabbatical leaves aren’t as common as sick leaves or vacations; however, they are viable for employees who have been in service for a long time and need a break now. Usually, a Sabbatical leave is granted to employees who have been working with the organisation for more than five years. 

Depending on the organisation’s policies, sabbaticals could be paid or unpaid. Many organisations also offer sabbaticals as a benefit to loyal employees. In 2018, a report concluded that around 15% of employers were offering sabbaticals to benefit their employees. However, only 5% of them were paid. 

How long can a sabbatical leave be?

The duration of a sabbatical isn’t universal; it depends on the university’s policies or organisation in question. However, here’s a general outlook. 

Universities can offer sabbaticals to their professors for six months or 12 months. A 12- month sabbatical is known as a sabbatical year. 

Organisations offer up to a few months of Sabbatical to their employees. However, the precise duration depends on the number of years an employee has been on services. Moreover, some organisations may offer more prolonged Sabbatical to their employees while others won’t. Adobe, for example, offers up to 4 weeks of Sabbatical to employees who have been employed for more than 5 years and 5 weeks of Sabbatical to employees who have been working for 10+ years. 

Are sabbaticals Paid?

It entirely depends on the organisation’s policies; some may offer paid sabbaticals while others won’t. However, some organisations and institutes may offer a percentage of their payroll during the sabbatical period. 

What are the benefits of sabbaticals? 

There are numerous benefits of sabbaticals for employees, as well as their employer organisations. 

Sabbatical leaves offer workers a brief of work, letting them refresh their minds and return to work with a fresh mindset. If they’re utilising the Sabbatical to gain new skills or experience, it will benefit the organisation in the long term. 

In teams of employers, a sabbatical is preferable over an employee quitting their job. Because if an employee quits, the employer has to hire a new one and train them from scratch. If the person taking the Sabbatical is a manager or leader, the employee who takes their position in the meantime gains valuable work experience. 

What are the downsides of sabbatical leave? 

Depending on the position and importance of the employee taking the Sabbatical, the organisation might have to face administrative difficulties. It might also have to bear substantial costs to cover the work value of the employee in question.

As incredible as it is to take a sabbatical leave, it also comes with its fair share of cons. Here are some of the cons of taking a sabbatical: 

  • One of the things to note is that returning to work can be challenging. If the employee has taken a year out of their work to travel the world, returning to their old routine might feel depressing.
  • Things might have changed when the employee has been out of work; therefore, they will most likely need to catch up on everything they have missed. It means the employee will need to learn new processes, new tools, and maybe even get to know new team members that your employer have brought on during their Sabbatical.

Why should employers consider allowing sabbatical leaves?

As mentioned earlier, sabbaticals provide employees with an opportunity to shift their focus and refresh their minds. It ultimately benefits the employers as they feast on a restored, improved set of skillset by their employees. Sabbaticals prevent employees from quitting their jobs, letting employers not having to worry about hiring new workers.

What should HR consider before allowing a sabbatical?

There are numerous questions an HR department must ask itself before allowing sabbaticals. However, here are few, most important ones:

  • How long can I allow an employee to be gone? 
  • How often can sabbaticals be in my organisation?
  • How will we handle the workflow in the meantime?
  • What would be the process of applying for a sabbatical?
  • Will there be a penalty if the employee fails to return on time?

All in all, you need to address any piece of concern you might have regarding granting sabbaticals. 

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