Sabbatical Leave: Benefits and Policies

Understand the benefits of sabbatical leave for both employees and employers, and the key elements of effective sabbatical policies. Explore successful sabbatical programs from companies like Autodesk and Patagonia, and their impact on workplace dynamics.

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

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What is a sabbatical leave of absence?

A sabbatical leave of absence from the workplace can benefit both companies and their employees. In this post, we will examine the sabbatical in more detail. We will define sabbatical leave and talk about the advantages of taking one. Additionally, we’ll go over the essential components of a sabbatical leave policy and provide examples of sabbatical leave and initiatives.

What does a sabbatical leave from work involve?

An extended amount of time off work for an employee is known as a sabbatical leave. There are many different reasons to take a sabbatical, such as going back to school, working on a personal project, volunteering, seeing the world, or enjoying more time with loved ones.

Different from other forms of leaves, a sabbatical from work typically lasts longer—between a month and a year—and is typically only granted by employers to staff members who have worked there for a predetermined period of time. Consequently, one may classify the sabbatical leave as a form of employee benefit.

Why does taking sabbatical leave matter? Seven Benefits

There are advantages for both the company and the employee when they take a sabbatical. First, let’s discuss the advantages of sabbatical leave for workers:

  • Reduced anxiety: A study of university professors revealed that those who took sabbatical leave returned to their jobs with lower levels of stress.
  • Increased mental capacity: According to the same study, those who returned from sabbatical leave gained psychological resources like improved health, a greater sense of autonomy and control, increased vitality, and even more professional knowledge!
  • Improved well-being: It should come as no surprise that the factors above improved the general well-being of those who took a long vacation from work, particularly if they did so abroad.

Encouraging employees to take sabbatical leave offers benefits for firms as well:

  • Enhanced well-being: The firm as a whole benefits when its personnel are well, and the aforementioned study indicates that they stay well long after returning from their sabbatical leave. People who are happy are more likely to influence their coworkers favorably, are less likely to miss work, and may even be more productive.
  • Test of succession planning: According to a different study, executive leaders’ sabbatical leave (in non-profit organizations) can serve as a useful litmus test for the organization’s entire leadership team. Prospective leaders have the opportunity to develop, take on new tasks, and show off their leadership abilities when the “number ones” are on sabbatical. Therefore, you should use a person’s sabbatical leave to test and, if needed, modify your succession planning.
  • Be prepared for last-minute absences: It is never a good idea for a team to rely on only one or two people. Having employees take sabbaticals forces managers and teams to plan for (long-term) absences so that operations can carry on normally when an employee does.
  • Employer image: The “sabbatical option” is a great benefit for prospective employees as well as present workers. It demonstrates to others your concern for your staff and your willingness to honor loyalty. While it shouldn’t be the primary factor in a candidate’s decision to work for you, a sabbatical program may influence their decision when they are comparing your organization to others.

Sabbatical leave policy: Essential components and model

What constitutes a policy for sabbatical leave? What guidelines apply to sabbatical leaves? A sabbatical policy’s precise meaning varies depending on the company, but we’ll next go over several topics you might wish to address in your policy.

Let’s begin with the components that your policy should ideally cover:

  • For whom is a sabbatical leave appropriate? A sabbatical is one method that some businesses use to thank their staff for their dedication. In that case, employees typically qualify for a sabbatical leave following a predetermined amount of time spent working for the organization.
  • What is the duration of a sabbatical? Can someone take a three-month vacation? Or a full year? Does the length of time the company has employed them affect that? How long can employees take a sabbatical leave of absence?
  • Is there payment for the sabbatical leave or not? The length of the sabbatical leave and budgetary constraints will likely determine this. While on sabbatical leave, some employers choose to pay a particular percentage of employees’ salaries, some choose to pay the full amount due, while yet others choose not to pay. Moreover, you can charge (or not) based on the justification for the leave of absence. For example, you may pay for an employee’s expenditures if they decide to take a year to complete a (master’s, PhD, or other) degree, seeing it as an investment in their professional growth. However, it may also be argued that taking sabbatical leave is a bet on an individual’s (personal) growth, regardless of how they choose to spend that time.
  • Why is there a sabbatical leave of absence? The majority of the time, an employee’s reason for taking a sabbatical leave will be related to “personal interests” or “self-development.”
  • What’s the process? How do workers submit an application? Should they use the company’s time off request form instead of writing a cover letter, as they would when replying to a job offer? How far ahead of time do they have to apply? Who must grant permission for the sabbatical leave?

Concepts and initiatives for sabbatical leave

Five businesses that have already started sabbatical programs are mentioned below. If you’re considering adding a sabbatical leave to the staff benefits package or, if you think it’s necessary, modifying your current sabbatical policy, you can draw inspiration from them.

  1. Planning and Design by Alta

The goal of North American multimodal transportation company Alta Planning + Design is to develop active communities where walking and bicycling are regular, enjoyable, and safe pastimes.

After five years of work at Alta, workers are qualified for a (brief) sabbatical leave. They may be offered a stipend for a trip to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, or another city/region where bicycling is a way of life.

  1. Autodesk

Autodesk is a multinational software company headquartered in the United States. Every four years of continuous full-time employment with Autodesk in the US, employees are entitled to a six-week paid sabbatical. The sabbatical period might not be extremely long, but it is a fully paid perk that happens every four years, which makes it appealing.

  1. Deloitte

The big, international consulting firm Deloitte offers a variety of sabbatical options. Employees in the US are entitled to a one-month unpaid leave of absence or a three- to six-month leave of absence.

The first can be used for any purpose. The latter has a few additional requirements and can be used to pursue volunteer work or chances for professional or personal advancement.

Employees are still entitled to 40% of their base pay prior to the several-month vacation if they want to take one.

  1. Epic

Every five years, workers at the US healthcare software business Epic are eligible for a sabbatical leave of absence. They are still compensated for the whole four weeks if they choose to take the leave. Not only that, but Epic also pays for the trip and allows its employees to bring a guest if they choose to take a sabbatical in a nation they have never visited!

  1. Patagonia

One American outdoor apparel firm, Patagonia, provides its staff with an alternative form of sabbatical leave. A two-month paid sabbatical is available for people to volunteer for any environmental enterprise of their choice.

Because people aren’t free to decide how to spend their time off, this does not really qualify as a “full” sabbatical. Still, the company gives its workers the chance to take a long vacation from work while contributing to a worthy cause.

Conclusion

Sabbatical leave can take various forms. It can have a very positive effect on both people and businesses, regardless of how long it lasts and its purpose—whether six weeks or a year, whether for travel or rest.

Have a quick question? We answered nearly 2000 FAQs.

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