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A vacation can boost your energy and help you recharge your batteries for work. However, sometimes we need more than a short break to revive us fully.

A sabbatical can provide plenty of time to assess your personal life, your career, and your educational goals in a thorough and relaxed way.

Read on to explore what a sabbatical can do for you and what you need to know before leaving on yours.

Key Takeaways

  • Some professionals take a sabbatical to focus on career and personal goals.
  • For academics, sabbaticals are a common occurrence and planning for them can be straightforward.
  • Others need to plan carefully to ensure that their finances and benefits are in order before leaving.
  • A vacation differs from a sabbatical in that it is much shorter and may involve some contact with work.
  • Usually, employees who take a sabbatical receive their full or partial salary while on leave.

What Is a Sabbatical?

A sabbatical is an extended break of a month to two years from your job. During that period of time, an employee doesn’t report for work or to the employer. Yet they remain employed and, typically, receive a salary (either full or partial).

A sabbatical can give you a healthy amount of time to enhance your academic qualifications, pursue new interests, do volunteer work, travel, address physical concerns, or re-prioritize your life and career. It’s an opportunity to manage the effects of professional burnout.

A sabbatical can help you rest, de-stress, and return to work rejuvenated.

Your Job Function May Change

Many employers who allow employees to take sabbatical leaves do so with a stipulation that while the employee is guaranteed a job at the end of the leave, the employee’s job functions may change.

If you are considering taking a sabbatical leave, be sure to assess how it may affect your job.

The Benefits of a Sabbatical

Rest, relaxation, the absence of work-related tension and drama. A sabbatical offers much more than the chance to catch up on TV shows and work on your golf handicap. It opens up opportunities to live your life differently. Sabbaticals can also deliver benefits to companies who allow them.

New Career Opportunities

People who are are considering a job change may find a sabbatical refreshing. You can explore new job or career ideas and return to your existing job ready to discuss changes with your employer.

Fresh ideas for a different job or career path at your company may result in an increase in salary and your retirement savings, ultimately allowing you to take an earlier retirement.

Educational Advancement

Adding to your academic qualifications during your sabbatical could lead to better job opportunities when you return. This could mean more income, additional benefits, and a shorter path to retirement.

A New Perspective

Time away from work can give you a new and better perspective on the importance of your career growth versus family and friends. A sabbatical may help you realize that a less demanding career is actually what you need, even if it means less income.

Better Motivated Workforce

Companies may find that employees returning from sabbaticals bring with them new-found energy and positive attitudes. This can result in more engaged employees as a whole.

Stronger Relationships

Employees who understand that sabbaticals are an option can be more content, happier with their employers, and more loyal.

Attract and Retain Employees

Companies may find that the option for sabbaticals can attract job applicants. They also may see fewer costs associated with the departure of unsatisfied employees and the training of new ones.

Talent Development

While employees are on sabbatical, employers can use the time to train others in their positions. They can develop a pipeline of employees well-prepared to take on new responsibilities quickly and successfully.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that 4.3 million U.S. workers resigned in August 2021. Shortly thereafter, consumer bank Synchrony Financial joined the growing ranks of companies offering sabbaticals to employees.

Sabbatical: Paid or Unpaid?

Often, a sabbatical is paid leave, with an employee receiving their full salary or a percentage of it. However, at some companies, it may be unpaid leave. It tends to depend on the tenure of the employee at the company, their position within the company, and, even, the nature of the leave.

Planning for a Sabbatical

When you consider the benefits it can provide, a sabbatical may seem like a wonderful idea. However, it’s important to consider what you may be giving up during your leave. For instance, depending on company policy, you may not have your full salary or benefits. Here are some points to consider when planning for a sabbatical.

Financial Readiness

If you receive your full salary while on sabbatical, then money is probably not an issue. However, if you receive only part of it, then be sure to consider how you’ll fully finance the year.

You might open a sabbatical savings account and add money to it regularly in advance of your leave. Save enough to ensure that you can cover your living expenses. Failure to do so may force you to use your regular savings and your retirement savings, and increase debts.

Health Benefits

Your health benefits may be reduced while you are on sabbatical leave. Check with your human resources department to determine their policy regarding medical, dental, and vision care coverage during sabbaticals. If it won’t be available, you’ll need to cover health care expenses with your own funds or arrange for some kind of gap insurance.

Your Retirement Savings

A sabbatical can affect your retirement savings in several ways.

  • To be eligible to participate in an employer-sponsored plan, such as a 401(k), profit-sharing plan or defined-benefit plan, you usually need to work a certain number of years for your employer. There’s also a vesting schedule for retirement contributions made by your employer. Your employer’s policy can help you determine whether a sabbatical is treated as counted service for eligibility and vesting purposes. Generally, if you continue to receive a full salary, then your sabbatical is considered counted service.
  • If you receive a partial salary, your time of employment may be proportionate to the percentage of salary you receive. For instance, if you receive six months’ worth of salary for a year of sabbatical leave, you may be considered to have accumulated only six months of service.
  • A reduced salary or no salary will affect the amount that you can add to your retirement nest egg during your sabbatical leave.

Insurance Coverage

Most employers provide insurance coverage for their employees. This includes life insurance and long- and short-term disability insurance. This is especially important if you are the primary breadwinner in your family and the one through whom the coverage is provided. You will need to determine if coverage still applies during sabbaticals, and if not, make alternative arrangements.

What’s the Difference Between a Sabbatical and a Vacation?

A sabbatical is extended leave of up to two years during which an employee doesn’t report to work or to the employer. A vacation is a much shorter period of time, typically from one to three weeks. Often, employees on vacation feel they must check in at work and respond to requests from a boss or colleagues.

Is Sabbatical Leave Paid or Unpaid?

It can be either but is often paid. Typically, an employee who takes a sabbatical will receive either their full salary for the time they’re away or a percentage of it.

Who Gets to Take a Sabbatical at a Company?

That depends on the specific policy a company has for sabbatical leave. You can expect that longer-tenured, highly valued employees will be able to take a lengthy sabbatical. The position an employee holds within the company can also affect whether or not they’re allowed to go on sabbatical.

The Bottom Line

If you need to take time off to pursue special goals and objectives, a sabbatical can provide such an opportunity without jeopardizing the security of your job. Regardless of the purpose for which a leave is taken, make the most of your time away to explore new areas of interest for your career, education, and personal life.

If planned correctly, a sabbatical is a perfect way to re-prioritize your goals and find that spark in work and life again.

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