Luke Watkeys, Business Manager
Commonly referred to as a career break, a sabbatical is an extended period of leave lasting anywhere between four weeks to one year. They’re generally requested by those who want time over and above their leave entitlement to either study for a qualification, travel, or carry out voluntary work. In my case, it was travel, as I’d never spent an extended time abroad.
Sabbaticals can be incredibly healthy for the employee who takes them. Whilst away, I found the two biggest benefits (beside the food, culture and turtles) were time to rest, and space to reflect. Whilst I can’t say honestly I returned having found enlightenment in far-away lands, I certainly came back with more energy and motivation, which hopefully my colleagues and clients will attest to. I’m not an anomaly either; most employees that go on sabbatical report feeling reinvigorated when they return, some being so enthusiastic it’s as if they’ve started a new job.
And it’s not all one-way traffic, as sabbaticals can also be healthy for the employer too. Depending on the level of salary and the length of the sabbatical, you could make a significant saving, safe in the knowledge that you’ve retained the employee’s skills and knowledge. The period of absence could present opportunities for existing staff to gain new skills and take on new responsibilities. And finally, when the sabbatical ends the employee could return with a qualification or an improved skill-set, things that could benefit your organisation in the long-term.
There’s no legal right to have this type of leave: they’re a private arrangement between you and your staff and as such can be offered on a paid or unpaid basis. However, if you do decide to offer them, it’s always worth having a clear policy (for example detailing the length and whether it will be paid or unpaid), as offering it to one person may spark requests for others and it’s important to be consistent in your responses. Being open to sabbaticals increases the likelihood of a motivated workforce, as well as creating time for both you and your staff to think and grow.