An employee wants to go on sabbatical to travel, how do I deal with this?

A sabbatical is essentially an extended period of time off work, sometimes alternatively referred to as a career break. There is no statutory right for an employee to take time off to go on sabbatical so whether you want to allow your employee to do this or not is entirely in your hands.

Time off on sabbatical is generally associated with opportunities for learning that will enhance the employee’s performance in his role, but they can also be taken for the purposes of non-work related reasons, for example, to travel the world.

You might have a contractual sabbatical policy in operation in your organisation so you should check this first. In the absence of a policy, it would be advisable to draw up some guidelines to cover the period of time off work, should you choose to agree to it, so that both parties know exactly where they stand.

Remember that if you agree to this employee going on sabbatical then you might pave the way for similar requests from other employees whose absence you will have to manage.

Any arrangements you make with this employee should iron out what happens with the contract of employment during the time off. Obviously, because the employee is not working, you are under no obligation to pay him. With regard to contractual entitlements, you should consider what will happen with any contractual annual leave that the employee is entitled to over and above the statutory minimum amount. You could agree that this does not accrue during the sabbatical, although the statutory minimum 5.6 weeks would continue to accrue. You could agree that any remaining statutory annual leave is taken during the sabbatical in order to limit the amount of time away from the business.

Discuss with the employee what will happen on his return – will he be entitled to return to the same job that he was employed in before?

Putting in place a company policy for future requests including criteria that the employee must meet in order to take a sabbatical will help narrow down requests and ensure no discrimination occurs.

For any further information regarding the issues above, please call our Advice Service on 0844 892 4402.

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