Aren’t there some days where you just want a break. Not just a an extended weekend, but a solid 6 months to go on a kickass Euro Trip.

Or maybe, you want to a pursue a Masters but still want to come back to the organisation after a year. What can you do ensure you get a temporary relieving of duties but still remain a part of the company?

Simple, if your company is so inclined, you could opt for a Sabbatical Leave.

The Sabbatical Leave refers to a term of upwards of 6 months to 1 year where employees are given a sabbatical from work as a reward for their long relationship to the company.

This guide will take you through what exactly the meaning of sabbatical is, the importance of such leaves and setting up the right policies.


What is Sabbatical Leave?

Taking a sabbatical from work is necessary for an employee to reduce stress and rejuvenate from their extended absence from work period. Although it is not required by the law to mandate such leaves, HRs must work on putting together policies allowing a professional to take a sabbatical and come back with better ideas and higher productivity.

The meaning of sabbatical is to take a break from the workplace temporarily to achieve individual life goals. The life goals can vary depending on a personal interest like going for a travel adventure, volunteering, pursuing higher education, research or pursuing hobbies. This type of leave is an agreement with the employee returning to work after a fixed granted period of sabbatical.

Lately, many companies have started offering their employees such leaves. However, it is conditional based on the eligibility criteria and resource availability. Such leaves are given to encourage the employees and prevent them from a complete professional burn out.



Do you Need a Sabbatical Leave Policy?

There is so far no law that mandates sabbatical, but more companies are redefining their policies to offer their employees this break. As a company, it is crucial to recognize the loyalty and hard work of an employee and give them a break.

By giving the time off, either paid or unpaid, it will redirect their focus better and help them join work with a fresh mindset. The productivity of an employee reduces due to extreme work pressure and burn out. When an employee is an asset to the company, they deserve that break.

The sabbatical leave rules and policies should be defined by an HR of the company, easing the application process.

Frequently asked questions about the sabbatical leave

1) How do I provide a sabbatical to an employee?

A sabbatical from work is something an employee deserves, but there is no statutory law that mandates an organisation to have such leaves in place. For accepting an application for such leaves, an employee must apply for the same months in advance.

This gives a company the necessary time to make the arrangement and ensure all the required formalities are completed. It is a matter of discretion on the part of the company to be willing to give an individual an extended leave of absence from work. As an employer, this flexibility benefits both the business and the employee.

It is now becoming common for smaller companies to bigger giants to have such a provision in their HR policies. The sabbatical leave rules must be clearly defined. Leaves must be provided with terms and conditions, majorly with the return of the employee to desk after an extended leave.

2) Is this leave a paid or unpaid leave?

The big question is whether the sabbatical leaves should be paid or unpaid? In some companies, the sabbatical leave pay is the same as the regular income. In some companies, the payment is for a month beyond which an employee goes on leave without pay. Some companies continue to pay salary, either full or half or a certain percentage, and some allow sabbatical without any payment.

The meaning of sabbatical is allowing the employee to take an extended leave of absence from work. Still, since it is not legally necessary, the pay depends on the company policy. Some bigger IT giants and consultancy companies allow fully paid sabbatical leaves. In most cases, it is not regularized, and employees are happy to take the leave even without pay with the assurance that they have a job to come back to.

3) What are the convincing reasons for such leaves?

Every employee has a different reason for taking a sabbatical. An employee must fulfil specific criteria to be eligible for applying for an extended leave. Sabbatical leave reasons must be mentioned in their application for consideration by the manager and HR.

There are some grounds based on which the leaves are approved. The reason can be anything like taking up higher education, volunteering, travelling, research etc.

  • The length of the service given by the employee to the company
  • Incredible performance and track record with good attendance
  • An asset to the company with high productivity and no disciplinary action
  • A reliable application convincing the employer for a sabbatical from work

4) Is sabbatical leave required by law?

Most countries have no laws that make it compulsory for a company to provide sabbatical. It is up to the company and how they maintain the policies allowing an employer to take a break from work. In some companies, sabbatical leave pay is granted with minimum involvement of the employee remotely.

Taking a sabbatical is commonly seen in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and other developed countries to reboot their life. With their long-term association with a company, they take a break to step towards optimal work-life balance. Some companies approve sabbatical as a lifestyle break. The employees, however, have the right to refuse the sabbatical request, as it is not mandated by law.

5) Is sabbatical leave the utmost necessary and for how long?

As an employee, exhausted and burnt-out with the mundane professional life, it is necessary to take a break and redefine their goals. An individual chooses to take a sabbatical to replace their routine with something exciting and new. This is to walk towards a purposeful life and take a stand for fulfilling dreams and goals.

The length of sabbatical varies from organisation s to organisation s. Educational institutions often offer sabbatical leave pay for a year to 3 years, to pursue higher studies. Companies grant sabbatical for a month to 6 months with or without pay.

For example, Google offers its employee a paid sabbatical for six months to work in a non-profit organisation. Adobe allows a paid sabbatical of one month to employees who have served the company for ten years.

6) Should the employee provide details of what they did during the sabbatical?

This again depends on the policies of the company. When a company chooses to grant a sabbatical, they do have the right to know what interests the employee pursued. Some companies have policies where after the break is over, the individual needs to add the same to their profile strongly justifying the sabbatical leave.

7) Can an employee refuse a sabbatical request?

Although with a strong case and application, more prominent companies approve sabbaticals, an employee does have the right to reject the request. Depending on the policies and contract, a company or organisation has full discretion to make their decision. Although, as a company sabbatical policy must be in place for flexibility to the employee.

Sabbatical Leave Policies in Different Countries

The sabbatical leave practice for each country is different. With no laws for such leaves, each country and organisation have their own choice. Here is how each country has different ways to offer sabbatical.

  • United States: In the US, major giants allow a sabbatical for four weeks to 6 months, depending on the purpose. If the goal is related to a cause contribution, the sabbaticals will be paid by the company.
  • Japan: As per research, most of the Japanese companies do not have a specific policy for a sabbatical but grant leave for a month.
  • United Kingdom: The UK labour laws have established flexible working for employees, allowing an individual to go mostly on unpaid sabbatical.
  • Canada: The policies of the company in Canada mostly allow an individual to go on a self-funded sabbatical for a month to a year.
  • India: In India, sabbatical leave is mostly approved for government university employees for a year to 3 years, for pursuing higher studies.
  • Switzerland: The country aims at maintaining optimum work-life balance. A lot of companies provide paid sabbaticals for a month or more.
  • Australia: In Australia, different provinces have different rules. Some companies allow employees to take a sabbatical for 2 to 6 months with full pay after a long tenure.

Also read: 10 types of leave policies to include your employee handbook

How to Create the Formal Policy Document

holiday pay policy template

It is easy for employees to apply for sabbatical leave when a company has proper policies in place. Such policies must be meticulously designed, allowing employees the reward for their years of dedication. Here are the things to consider, while creating the policy document:

  • Employee Eligibility for leave: The eligibility must include looking into parameters like tenure of job, performance, attendance, discipline and how big an employee is an asset to the company.
  • The number of days allowed: The number of days or time-period for the leave depends on internal policies. It might range from a month to 6 months, depending on the company.
  • The purpose of a sabbatical: The purpose of sabbatical must be clear from the employee end. Sabbaticals are easily given when it resonates with a purpose the company is inclined towards.
  • Paid or unpaid leave: Clear information if the leaves will be paid or unpaid and if paid for how many days and what percentage.
    Application procedure for the employee: This includes information on how an application must be framed, communication mode based on hierarchy and the relevant details to be included.

Sabbatical Leave Policy Template

This is a sample template that can be used to cover all aspects of leave policy, making it convenient for the employees. The sabbatical leave meaning must be precisely outlined in the policy form.

Policy Statement
A Sabbatical Leave may only be granted to an employee with a tenure of more than 5 years

This Sabbatical Leave allows an individual to take a break from work and take time off to fulfil any personal interest. This can be anything from travelling, research, volunteering, learning a new skill or even higher studies.

All employees with a consistently good performance record with a tenure of 5+ years are eligible.

The compensation provided depends on the purpose.

Terms & Conditions
Here are some terms and conditions the employee need to keep in mind for applying for the leave:

1. All eligibility criteria need to be met for the sabbatical leave approval
2. A sabbatical leave can be granted only for a period of anything upwards of 1 month to a year; with compensation limited only to a month after which the leave granted is unpaid
3. Leave reason to be conveyed
4. Apply for the sabbatical leave at least 4 months in advance
5. Completing pending projects and work before going on an extended leave
6. Join back work after the sabbatical is over, i.e, on the date mentioned in the Sabbatical Leave Application

Employees must send the leave application to their manager and HR on official email stating:

  • The number of days or months they will be on leave
  • Purpose of the leave
  • Documents proving their tenure and performance record
  • Compliance 

Employees who do not comply with the outlined procedure will not be granted leave, with or without compensation. 

Smart Hacks for HRs to Make Sabbatical Leaves Clear and Easy

HR needs to have policies for sabbatical leave meaning to create an approachable environment. These smart hacks will develop clear policies for better understanding.

sabbatical leave policy

1. The leave policy should be transparent to the employees

HR policies can be confusing and hard to find. When there are policies in place for a sabbatical, make sure to present it to the employees during onboarding. All such Sabbatical leave rules and policies must be easily accessible to the employee at a later date too.

2. Design a template for the application of leave request

Applying for a sabbatical can be confusing without a proper template and form. A customised leave request should be in place to make it easier for the employees to apply for sabbatical leaves. This sabbatical leave letter is convenient as it outlines the all the information the employee must provide for a sabbatical leave to be approved.

3. Ensure there is enough competent workforce for productivity goals

No matter how convincing the sabbatical leave reasons may be, the alignment of a productive workforce must be put in place. As an HR, you must ensure that the team has useful resources and employees to cover up and work on projects for maintaining productivity.

4. Declaration of completion of pending projects and work

Going on a sabbatical means leaving active duty for a long time. As an HR, you must ensure that the applicant has completed all unfinished work and closed all projects before leaving. A declaration with supporting documents and manager approval is essential for the same.

5. Define an approach for approaching employer for sabbatical

The HR policies must define the approach by which an employee can apply for the leave. This means the mode of communication for leave application and whom to communicate with. The policies must include all relevant information about how to approach a manager for applying the leave and time frame required for approval of leave.

No matter what the sabbatical leave reasons are, every employee has the right to take a break from work and pursue their personal goals. As a reward to the dedication, tenure served and performance, the employer should have a robust HR policy for granting such leaves.

Do you have a sabbatical leave policy in place at your organization? We’d love to know more about how you have documented it and what your experience in implementing it has been so far. Reach us on @HarmonizeHQ to share your story!