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A complete guide to sabbatical leave in the UK

A complete guide to sabbatical leave in the UK

Sabbatical leave. You’ll have heard of annual leave (everyone’s favourite). You’ll know about maternity and sick leave. But what is sabbatical leave? This term doesn’t get thrown around too often. But if you ask us, it’s certainly worth knowing about! 

Today we’re answering your FAQs about sabbatical leave in the UK:

  • What is sabbatical leave?
  • Why take a sabbatical?
  • Who is entitled to sabbatical leave?
  • Is sabbatical leave paid in the UK?
  • Sabbatical leave Vs career break
  • Can you work for someone else while on a sabbatical?
  • How to request sabbatical leave

What is the meaning of sabbatical leave?

Sabbatical leave is an agreed period of time you’re allowed to ‘take off’ from work while remaining employed. Sabbatical leave is longer than your annual leave allowance. It can range anywhere from 1 month to 5 years. At the end of this period, you can continue working in your same job as you stay employed by your company.

Why take a sabbatical?

Employees take sabbaticals for different reasons. It could be for personal respite, academic learning or pursuing passions. Maybe they want to go volunteering. Or perhaps they want time to study for a new qualification. Or maybe they just want to spend more time doing the things they enjoy.

Who is entitled to sabbatical leave?

Not every company offers sabbatical leave. It depends entirely on your company and its policies. If your company does offer sabbatical leave, your length of service can influence how much time you’re allowed to take off. Generally speaking, the longer you’ve been with a company, the longer you can stay on sabbatical leave for.

Is sabbatical leave paid in the UK?

In the UK, sabbatical leave is generally unpaid. But you may get lucky and find a company that offers paid sabbatical leave. If that’s the case, they’ll usually pay you a percentage of your normal salary. But chances are your company will only offer unpaid sabbaticals, if any at all.

Sabbatical leave vs career break

So what’s the difference between sabbatical leave and career breaks? A career break is generally when you’ve quit your job to pursue other projects. Many companies don’t offer sabbatical leave. So that’s when some employees may choose to go on a career break before finding a new job. At the end of their career break, they’ll need to find a new job. But on a sabbatical, your old job will still be waiting for you at the end of your break.

Can you work for someone else while on a sabbatical?

Most companies will forbid you from working for anyone else while on a sabbatical. That’s because you’re still technically employed by your company. So you’ll need to make sure you have your finances in check to support you during this time. If you decide to work during your sabbatical, you may lose your old job if the company finds out.

How to request sabbatical leave

Sabbatical leave isn’t the sort of thing you can request a couple of weeks in advance. You need to make it formal, like writing a notice letter. You’ll usually need to request leave several months in advance. The more time you can give your employer, the better. This is because they’ll need time to consider your request and arrange a replacement. You may need to negotiate and compromise with your employer if they can’t meet your request.

When you’re ready to submit your request, it’s best to do this in writing to your manager.

All work and no play?

Sabbaticals can be a great option for many people. Got a bit of money in the bank? If your employer is willing to play ball, why not take a little time out?! This gives you time to explore other passions and learn new skills. Once you return to work, you’ll be feeling totally renewed and can (hopefully) enjoy your job so much more!

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