How to take a sabbatical without ruining your care

Posted on Wednesday, June 11th, 2008 by

Whether you call it a ‘career break’ or ‘grown-up gap year’, taking a sabbatical needn’t spell career suicide. In fact, in the current climate of economic uncertainty, when employers need to retain staff for the long-term, it’s not surprising that savvy organisations are becoming increasingly receptive to the benefits that sabbaticals can bring to their business – and their employees. Regardless of how a sabbatical is proposed to be spent, how can you make sure that yours enhances rather than hinders your career? Here’s our sabbatical summary: What is a sabbatical? A sabbatical is a voluntary arrangement whereby your employer may give you time off work, paid or unpaid, over and above the usual holiday allowance / entitlement. The arrangement depends on company policy and your employers’ discretion. There are no particular laws to arrange how sabbaticals are organised. Reasons for taking a sabbatical Although travelling is one of the most common reasons cited for taking a career break, undertaking educational or developmental courses or simply taking time off to re-focus, relax and refresh are equally valid. How to get your employer on side Not every employer is initially receptive to the idea of ‘losing’ staff for what they may see as a long holiday and not every organisation boasts a sabbatical scheme as a reward for a period of service. Present your case as you would any business opportunity, demonstrating clearly the benefits to the employer, from the financial implications (saving wages if the sabbatical is to be unpaid, not losing you to a competitor if your request is declined) to personal development (increased commitment on your return, learning new skills, such as communication etc.). What if my employer doesn’t have a sabbatical scheme? Although many employers now offer paid or unpaid sabbatical schemes, usually as a reward for a certain period of service, you can still request one from your employer if they don’t. Find out how other comparable organisations are offering sabbaticals and how they run them may aid your case. What are my employment rights? Every organisation is different, so it’s important to check with HR as to how time taken off may affect your continuous service and, if it does affect it, other benefits may be affected to. Other considerations may include how you can afford to take the time off, what will be the effect on the company in your absence, how will your role be covered during your absence and will you commit to returning to your employer? Other tips for success Keeping in regular touch with your employer will make your return smoother. If you don’t plan to return to your employer, then updating your skill set following a sabbatical will increase your appeal to potential employers. Bon voyage.