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Sabbatical: Things To Know About Professional Time Off

Many people dream of the so-called sabbatical, i.e. a longer-term break from everyday working life. One in ten Britains has already done so, and a good 20 percent of the remaining employees can imagine taking a sabbatical. This is shown by a survey of the social network Xing. As tempting as the several months’ break from work may be – it also carries risks. We show how to prepare perfectly, what regulations there are and what to look out for.

The 37-year-old product designer Marina has long been dreaming of a big trip. Originally I wanted to do it when I retire and have time. But who knows if I’ll still be fit for something like that when I’m almost seventy,” Marina laughs. “In my job I have to be creative. Foreign countries and cultures mean creative input for me. Another reason for me to take a sabbatical now.” But Marina is not willing to give up her secure job for this.

Marina works in a medium-sized company in Hessen. The company has been in existence for over 40 years – nobody here has ever taken a sabbatical. Marina is unsure how her boss and colleagues will react to her request. “Is my wish too unusual? What if the colleagues think that I want to avoid my work? And how am I supposed to finance that? But I took heart and told my boss in a quiet minute.”

Using the right arguments to convince the employer

UK civil servants and public sector employees are legally entitled to a career break. Many large companies also offer their employees the opportunity for a sabbatical. All others should check with the boss or the personnel department. Good preparation for this interview is essential, says Marina.

Marina emphasizes to her boss not only her personal reasons but also the advantages that a sabbatical can bring to the company. She also suggests a possible replacement, because her job must be done in her absence. “You can only convince with a well thought-out concept. How long do you want to stay away, who represents you, how do you want to manage your sabbatical – for example with unpaid special leave. That requires quite a bit of preparation,” Marina knows.

Possible arguments for a Sabbatical

  • “I’d like to use the time off to continue my education.”
  • “I would like time off to take care of a sick family member.”
  • “On sabbatical I have the opportunity to recharge my batteries and come back with renewed strength and motivation.”
  • “I would like to use my sabbatical to do some social work.”
  • “I need new impressions to get creative again.”

The timing of the request should also be well chosen. It is not recommended to ask for a month off when there is a lot to do and everyone is under stress. Marina convinces her employer with the following model: For a while she works for 75 percent of her salary with the same working hours. After that she takes four months off and gets the remaining payment paid out. The advantage: Marina remains socially insured and finances her career break from her own salary.

Common financing models for the sabbatical

Sabbatical due to unpaid special leave

A simple model: the employee has time off, but does not receive a salary. If the time off does not last longer than four weeks, he remains socially insured through the company. If the special leave is longer, the employment relationship is considered interrupted and the employee must insure himself. It is possible to combine annual leave with four weeks of special leave.

 Sabbatical through working time credits

The employee accumulates overtime during the savings phase and reduces it during the sabbatical. The social insurance remains in place. However, this only works in companies that record the working hours in a working time account.

Sabbatical through time value credits

Overtime, bonuses, Christmas bonuses or unused vacation days are credited to a long-term account. It is important to have a written agreement and to separate the current value credit from company funds – after all, the employee is entitled to this money even in the event of insolvency. The saved credit is paid out during the sabbatical. The social insurance remains in place.

 Sabbatical through wage sacrifice

The employee works full-time, but only receives a part of his salary. The rest is paid to him during the time off. The social insurance remains in place.

 Sabbatical through Credit company financing

It does not always make sense to use the savings for a sabbatical. Those who finance their professional time off themselves should also think about a loan. With an installment credit from Credit company in the amount of 1,000 to 75,000 GBP, you can finance your sabbatical in a relaxed manner and remain flexible for the financial planning of your life. The selectable credit period from 12 to 84 months allows you to adapt the installment amount to your own needs. This means that even unplanned expenses can be mastered.

Careful planning is the be-all and end-all

The most important step has been taken, now the concrete planning can begin. Marina draws up a contract with her boss that defines the exact conditions of her sabbatical. What is important to her is the guarantee that she can keep her position in the company. In return, she gladly agrees to her employer’s demand that she should not work for any competitor during her sabbatical. In addition, Marina and her boss stipulate the following points in her sabbatical contract:

  • Start and duration of the sabbatical
  • Documentation of their tasks
  • Your salary (final payment in case of wage waiver)
  • Insurance benefits
  • Crediting of sick days
  • The continuation of the company pension scheme
  • Availability during your absence
  • Protection against dismissal
  • Task and position on their return to the company

If you are unsure about the contract, you should seek advice from a specialist lawyer for labour law.

Correctly planning your professional re-entry

For four months Marina is on the road. She strolls over Sydney’s famous harbour pier, gets to know the Australian outback, works on a horse ranch in New Zealand and during this time has many inspiring experiences and encounters. One week before the end of her sabbatical she is back in her small Frankfurt apartment. “A strange feeling,” Marina reports. “But it’s important for me to take a few days to get used to everyday life again.”

This week, she will contact her employer to clarify her re-entry into the company and ask for news in the company. And indeed, in the meantime, her department is working with a new program. Since Marina missed the training sessions, she is working on the new software at home. “That way I can quickly reintegrate myself into the daily work of my team. If I didn’t take the time for this familiarization, I would certainly be a little stuck on my first day at work after my sabbatical,” she laughs.

Marina’s trip was several months ago again. In addition to many great impressions and inspirations, she has also learned to approach many things more calmly. Especially the new trainee, whom Marina patiently instructs, now benefits from this. Her colleagues also find the “new” Marina great: Her ideas bring new momentum to the department and her motivation is contagious. Of course, the boss is also pleased.

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