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A complete guide to taking a sabbatical leave in the UK + free template

A complete guide to taking a sabbatical leave in the UK + free template

Considering a sabbatical in the UK? I've created this guide to help employers and HR professionals understand how to implement and manage sabbatical leave.

It covers everything from setting up your HR policy to supporting employees during their time off, and ensuring a smooth return to work. 

Use this guide to create a successful sabbatical program that benefits both your employees and your organisation.

What is a sabbatical leave?

A sabbatical is a long term leave of absence for employees, which usually ranges from a month to a year, depending on the time the employee needs to take a break from work. 

In the UK, employers are not mandated to give out sabbatical leaves to employees, but they often do so to boost retention and attract top talent. 

Companies are increasingly adding sabbatical leaves as part of their perks, and for good reasons: employee burnout remains one of the major issues in the workplace. To combat this, providing sabbatical leave offers employees the opportunity to take extended breaks, helping them recharge and prevent stress. 

Why do people take sabbatical leave?

  • Personal growth: employees can use this period as an opportunity for growth by pursuing hobbies, travel and volunteering. 
  • New skills: during a sabbatical leave, employees can learn skills that can enhance their expertise and versatility.
  • Work-life balance: with an extended break period such as a sabbatical, employees can find a healthy balance between their work and personal life. Often, employees sacrifice family time due to long work hours, but sabbaticals provide the opportunity to reconnect and enjoy quality time with loved ones.
The sabbatical leave policy allowed me to travel through Southeast Asia, experiencing new horizons and leading me to appreciate my day-to-day work even more. I’m so thankful for this extended break. It was really needed.” Amy C., COO

What are benefits a sabbatical can offer? 

Promotes professional development

With the newly acquired skills and perspectives gained during a sabbatical, employees can return to work with fresh insights. This adds to their career development and at the same time, the company can benefit from increased innovation, creativity, and productivity. 

Fosters loyalty 

Providing employees with a long-term leave of absence such as sabbaticals shows how the company cares. This creates loyalty and appreciation among employees, making them more committed to the company's goals and values. It’s also a great way to reward people who have been at the company for a long time. 

Attracts and retains top-tier talent

A sabbatical leave as a part of your employee benefits positions your company as an employer of choice. It shows your company values work-life balance and personal growth, making it more appealing to high-quality candidates.

Improves employee well-being

Once a team member suffers from burnout, it leads to lack of energy and motivation. It can also cause other mental health problems such as stress, depression and anxiety. Offering sabbatical leave as part of your company's policy gives your employees enough time to rest and recover from the demands of their job. 

“I’ve always loved mentoring others in the product field. Taking a sabbatical allowed me to focus on doing just that. I never would have had the time to see this project come to light without Charlie.” Jenny T., Product Manager @ CharlieHR

Key elements to include in your sabbatical leave policy

If you're looking to develop your company's sabbatical leave policy, here are key elements that must be included: 

  • Purpose and scope: a sabbatical leave could be taken for various reasons such as professional development, pursuing higher education, research or pursuing hobbies. This purpose should be clearly stated in the document. Additionally, indicate if the policy applies to all employees or specific departments. 
  • Eligibility: this answers the question: who is allowed to take a sabbatical leave? The criteria could be based on various factors such as length of service, performance standards, etc. We do advise to make it as fair as possible. 
  • Duration and Flexibility: you should also include how long the sabbatical period will last and how often an employee can take a sabbatical. For example, at Charlie, we offer one-month paid leave for employees who have been with us for more than 3.5 years. Employees are also allowed to take sabbatical leave once every 3.5 years. 
  • Application process: to ensure smooth handling of sabbatical leave requests, you must clearly outline in the document what the application process would look like. What we did at Charlie is that employees have to give their line manager at least six months notice before requesting sabbatical leave. And three months prior to the leave, employees are required to inform the rest of the company. 
  • Compensation: employers should clearly define what the compensation terms would look like. Sabbatical leave could be paid and this can be in various forms. At Charlie, we give employees 50% of their salary during their leave. You should also include if any insurance coverage such as health coverage would be provided by the company during this period. 
  • Obligations during sabbatical: you should also specify any expectations or obligations of the employee during the sabbatical, such as periodic progress reports or maintaining contact with your organisation. 
  • Return to work: the document should explain what the expectations are when the person is returning to work. This can include any commitments to stay with the business for a certain period after the sabbatical. 
  • Review and update: it is important to regularly review and update your policy to meet the needs of the company and employees. Additionally, make sure your policy is aligned with UK employment laws. 

Free sabbatical leave policy 

Below, we’ve also included our sabbatical leave for free – you can copy it or download it as a PDF. 

Download our sabbatical leave policy template-01.webp

At Charlie, we want to thank those who have been with us for a longer period of time. We have a sabbatical policy to show our appreciation for these people, and give them the opportunity to have that once in a lifetime experience. 

  • How much time can I take off?  
    • We offer 1 month paid leave when you’ve been with us for more than 3.5 years.
    • You’ll be paid 50% of your salary.
    • You can also add 5 days holiday on manually on top of your booked off sabbatical.
    • You can only take a sabbatical once every 3.5 years.
  • Will my sabbatical include bank or public holidays? 
    • Yes, your sabbatical is always 1 month long.
    • If any bank or public holidays fall during your sabbatical, they will not be added on as extra days. 
  • What should I do if I'm planning to take a sabbatical? 
    • If you’d like to request sabbatical leave, we ask that you give your line manager at least 6 months notice.
    • You should also let the rest of the company know with 3 months to go.
  • How do I book it off?  
    • Once it’s been approved by your line manager, you can book sabbatical leave off on Charlie. 
    • Holiday is not accrued so we will manually deduct 2 days from your holiday allowance. 
  • When can’t I book my sabbatical? 
    • To make sure we keep momentum in the company, we will limit the number of people on sabbatical leave to one at a time.

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