Everything you need to know about employee sabbatical leave

We look at the benefits of offering sabbatical leave to your employees

Everything you need to know about employee sabbatical leave

Sabbatical leave is a type of leave that many companies may not know about – especially when compared to the more common vacation leave or sick leave. But more organizations are starting to take notice of this perk and its potential benefits to their workers.

Below, we look at what you need to know about sabbatical leaves.

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What is a sabbatical leave?

Sabbatical leave is a period where employees take an extended break from work. Employees who go on sabbatical leave can use the time for physical and mental health concerns, or to just pursue any interests they may have – such as studying for a graduate degree, developing a new skill, or engage in volunteer work.

Where sabbaticals differ from other types of leaves is in its length – between a month to even a couple of years. Because of this, companies usually grant sabbaticals to long-tenured employees as a reward for their loyalty.

While a relatively rare perk in the private sector, sabbaticals are fairly common in the academe where they’re granted to professors who want to pursue tangential research or further their education.

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Is sabbatical a paid leave?

Sabbatical leave is normally a type of paid leave, with companies paying out the full salary or a percentage of it to the employee for the period they are off. However, sabbaticals can also be unpaid depending on the nature of an employee’s work and the circumstances of the leave.

Regardless of whether their sabbatical is paid or not, employees remain employed for the duration of their leave and should have their normal role waiting for them upon its completion.

Can companies refuse a sabbatical?

Despite its growing popularity, sabbaticals remain a rare privilege companies only offer to their most outstanding employees – meaning companies are completely within their rights to approve or reject sabbatical leave requests.

In the interest of transparency, however, it might be best for companies that offer sabbaticals to create a sabbatical leave policy. The policy can outline key elements, such as eligibility, payment terms, the application process, the policy’s purpose, and the allowed duration of leave.

And it goes without saying that companies should remain fair and unbiased when reviewing sabbatical leave requests and implementing leave conditions.

How long is a sabbatical?

A sabbatical can last from one month to two years. However, six months is the standard length of time for a paid sabbatical leave as it gives employees enough time and flexibility to do the things they want to do, such as travel or study. Moreover, the length of a sabbatical is determined by employers according to the terms in their respective sabbatical policies.

Many companies use sabbatical leave as a benefit for employees to keep them from leaving. For example, employees at Adobe Systems are eligible for a four-week sabbatical leave after five years of employment, while employees who have been with the firm for 15 years can have six weeks’ worth of sabbatical.

Other companies use paid sabbaticals to encourage employees to pursue personal or professional development endeavors. For example, Deloitte offers both paid and unpaid sabbatical options – employees can take the unpaid one-month leave at any time, while the three to six-month paid leave can be taken to pursue personal or professional growth in the areas of career development or volunteerism.

Benefits of sabbatical leave

Aside from the benefits sabbatical leave provides for employees, sabbaticals can also enhance an organization’s wider organizational culture and support other programs of the company.

Below are some of the main benefits of sabbatical leave:

  1. Greater employee engagement

Sabbaticals allow employees to de-stress, re-energize, enjoy external interests, and explore new recreational activities.

They have increased knowledge, skills, energy, and more stable well-being when they return to work. This helps them stay motivated and engaged in the workplace, creating high quality output for the company and its clients.

  1. Less employee turnover

One of the most significant benefits of companies offering sabbatical leave is reduced employee turnover. Turnover can be costly for companies as they must spend to recruit, hire, and train new employees.

Sabbaticals that are rewarded to employees for staying can motivate them to remain loyal to the company.

  1. Attracting and retaining talent

Aside from keeping turnover rates and burnout low in the workplace, companies that offer sabbaticals are often more attractive to job seekers, especially since many workers are starting to demand better benefits and more opportunities for work-life balance.

  1. Creating independent and productive teams

When an employee or manager goes on sabbatical leave, their tasks are usually taken on by co-workers for the duration they’re off.  A study by TSNE MissionWorks on sabbaticals found that those who filled in for a co-worker who was away gained a variety of skills and knowledge – often exceeding expectations when they returned to their regular jobs..

  1. Expands talent resources for succession planning

Offering sabbatical leave can help companies prepare for the future. Companies allowing employees to take sabbaticals will enable others to grow in their careers and help companies plan and adjust their succession plans.

While not all companies are open to the idea of offering sabbatical leave to their employees, the perk brings significant benefits. Employees stay in organizations where they feel valued and appreciated – and having a sound sabbatical leave policy is a great way a company can do that.

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