Personal Development
What Is Sabbatical Leave? It's the Best Kept Secret in HR

What Is Sabbatical Leave? It's the Best Kept Secret in HR

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What Is Sabbatical Leave?

As many workers struggle to survive in the current climate, employers have had to come up with new ways to keep their staff. One of the best-kept secrets in the HR sector is sabbatical leave - an allowance which was initially created to give professors a year off from teaching so they could undertake research or take an extended break. According to SHRM's 2018 report, only 15% of employers were providing this option to their employees, but the number is growing.

What Is a Sabbatical?

A sabbatical is an extended period of time - usually four weeks or up to one year - when an employee is given time off from normal duties but is still employed and may receive some form of payment. The conditions for qualification are often set at a specific number of years with the company (commonly at least five). During a sabbatical, employees are not obliged to take on their typical responsibilities.

Are Employees Paid During Sabbatical Leave?

Historically, sabbaticals have been paid periods away from work. Employers may require that employees only receive a fraction of their regular pay and/or forbid them from taking part in other paid activities. Providing payment during sabbatical leave is crucial for reducing financial stress and boosting overall wellbeing.

What Is the Difference Between Sabbatical and Vacation?

The two concepts share some similarities, but there are also distinct differences. Most notably, sabbaticals are much longer than most companies allow for leisure purposes, and the intention behind each leave type is distinct - vacations are commonly taken for recreation, whereas sabbaticals provide the opportunity to do something that can't be done while working full-time. During these extra weeks or months, employees often use the time to further their studies or develop their skills.

10 Benefits of Employee Sabbaticals

When it comes to taking time off from work, there are many activities for employees to take part in such as writing a book, taking a course, or travelling. However, research has shown that it can take just 3-4 days to successfully unwind from the demands of the job and truly ease into a vacation.

For that reason, almost the entire first week of sabbatical leave is taken up by decompression, leaving ample remaining time for additional benefits of the leave.

Below, we explore just some of the ways in which sabbaticals can benefit employees and organizations alike.

Benefits of Sabbatical Leave for Employees

  • Reduced stress, depression, and anxiety
  • Decreased cases of (and ability to recover from) burnout
  • Freedom to pursue other passions, such as travel or volunteering
  • Opportunities for skills enhancement
  • Time for self-reflection and personal growth

Benefits of Sabbatical Programs for Organizations

  • Improved staff retention rates
  • Potential to train new leaders (succession planning under non-stressful conditions)
  • Increased creativity and innovation
  • A happier, more fulfilled workforce
  • Reduced costs associated with employee turnover

Developing a Sabbatical Leave Policy

Providing a sabbatical leave policy can bring many rewards for both employees and employers. As such, it's an attractive option for those looking for prospective talent. When creating such a policy, executives and HR departments must answer a range of eligibility criteria, such as:

  • How long must an employee be employed with the company for them to qualify?
  • What is the length of a sabbatical?
  • Will the sabbatical be paid or unpaid? If paid, will the employee receive their full salary?
  • Are there any restrictions on the activities that can be taken part in?
  • What are the predetermined uses for the sabbatical or is it to build up skills?
  • Must they stay employed with the company for a certain period of time after the sabbatical?
  • Are additional leave days allowed and, if so, what are the rules around them?

What Are Sabbatical Leaves and How Much Notice Do Employees Need?

A sabbatical leave is an extended period of time that employees take off work for personal or professional development. How much notice an employee needs to provide before taking a sabbatical depend on the type of leave they are taking and the terms of their contract with their employer.

Examples Of Companies That Offer Sabbatical Leaves

Some companies offer their employees sabbatical leaves as part of their benefits package. For example, Adobe gives four to six weeks off for every five years of employment and PayPal awards its employees four weeks leave for five years of service. Deloitte gives employees two types of sabbaticals and Patagonia offers two months of paid leave for its Environmental Internship Program. Other companies, like Shiken, provide their workers with one month of sabbatical leave after five years of employment.

Preparing For An Employee's Sabbatical Leave

Handling your employee's sabbatical leave requires some preparation. First, consider the length of the leave and how the employee's duties will be distributed. If someone else will be taking on their role temporarily, address that with their direct manager. Additionally, if the employee serves as a point of contact for clients, ensure there is sufficient time to introduce their replacement.

Final Thoughts

Sabbaticals are becoming increasingly popular and organizations offering them can benefit in terms of employee morale, retention, productivity, and engagement. Not to mention, it provides employees with the opportunity to take a break and remember why they love their job.

Getting Permission To Take A Sabbatical From Work

Before you decide to take a sabbatical from work or take advantage of a company's sabbatical program, it's important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of unlimited PTO.

The Benefits Of Sabbaticals

Sabbatical leaves have been shown to improve employee wellbeing and productivity. This is because having a break from the daily grind can lead to increased creativity and better leadership skills. Additionally, implementing sabbatical programs shows that employers are invested in their staff, leading to higher employee retention rates. Furthermore, sabbaticals can be used to foster a culture of inclusion, executive coaching, and skills & behaviour change, so employees come back to work feeling refreshed and more engaged in their job.

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