What is a sabbatical?

A sabbatical is a period of leave of absence from work, usually several weeks or months in duration. The term "career break" can also be used to describe a leave of absence from work, although a career break is usually a longer period of absence, possibly even spanning several years.

Neither of these terms are defined by statute, nor do employees have any statutory right to a sabbatical or career break. It is, therefore, up to the parties to agree the terms of any sabbatical or career break arrangement.

When devising a policy on sabbaticals or career breaks, employers should give some thought to factors such as eligibility requirements and the criteria against which requests will be considered.

Employers should also decide the terms on which a sabbatical will be granted, for example:

  • the length of any leave of absence;
  • whether continuity of employment will be preserved during the break or the employee will need to resign beforehand;
  • whether or not it is expected that the employee will return to the same job afterwards, and if so, what will happen if it is no longer available; and
  • whether or not the employee will receive any payment during their leave of absence.