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Sabbatical is not often a term used in everyday language for small businesses and it can often be viewed as a luxury in the corporate world. However, it be a valuable tool for both employers and employees. In this blog we will look at what it is and how it can be implemented. 
 
Sabbaticals are usually a period of time, that has been agreed between the employee and employer, for the employee to take time away from work. 
 
Currently, there is no legislation that covers sabbaticals, therefore employers do not have to have a policy in place. However, there are benefits to your business if you wanted to consider sabbaticals and it could help to stay ahead of the game in terms of employee retention and satisfaction. 
 
Why would an employee want to take a sabbatical? There are a number of reasons why and of course it largely depends on the person. These may include: 
 
to improve their well-being, recover from burnout and allow them time to concentrate on non-work related priorities. 
to learn new skills in a different industry. 
to work on personal projects that ordinarily they do not have the time to complete. 
to take time to explore the world and develop an appreciation for new cultures 

Why Offer Sabbaticals 

1. Renewed health 

If someone is feeling burnout or has switched off from work, a sabbatical might just be the refresh button they have been looking for. By taking time out to explore or remove themselves from a difficult situation they may come back to your business renewed and more productive than ever. 

2. New skills in the business 

Sabbaticals are good opportunities for personal growth and professional enrichment. Employees can use the time to cultivate new skills or pursue projects that fall outside of their usual remit and duties. Employees may choose to explore a completely different industry, exposing themselves to fresh perspectives and skillsets; these can be integrated back into your business upon their return. 

3. Appreciation 

Sabbaticals are often good times for reflection and growth of appreciation. Granting employees the chance to embark on a sabbatical can foster a sense of gratitude towards the business, leading them to return with renewed dedication and enthusiasm. It can show employees that you value their dedication and hard work, whilst also reaping the benefits of a more engaged and motivated workforce. This increased appreciation often translates into a commitment to elevate their performance and going above and beyond to contribute positively to the team and the businesses mission. 

4. Method of retaining valuable employees 

Sabbaticals could assist to retain valuable employees. Employees could take the sabbatical break and return to work, which would prevent them from resigning and the business losing a valuable employee that you have invested in. This could also assist to boost morale, improve productivity and wellbeing. Paid sabbaticals can provide an element of reassurance the employee will return and the business retains their skills.  

5. Powerful recruiting tool 

In today's competitive job market, employees are looking for companies that value work-life balance and offer unique benefits and perks. By including Sabbaticals as part of your employee benefits package, you can attract top talent and differentiate yourself from other employers. 

Things for a business to consider are: 

 
Will the time off be paid or unpaid 
Are employees required to complete a certain length of service before they are entitled to take a sabbatical. If employees are receiving any pay, employers should be careful to ensure that the service requirement is fair and reasonable. 
Are employees required to give a minimum length of notice, before they want to take the leave. 
Consider if they will return to the same job or similar job 
What will happen to their contract and benefits whilst the employee is taking the leave. There will be differences depending on whether the sabbatical is paid or unpaid. 
Have a clear written policy regarding sabbatical leave, which can help to ensure all the elements are clear to everyone. 
What would happen if the role no longer exists. 
Can the sabbatical be shortened or prolonged. 
Are there any Restrictive Covenants to consider whilst they are on sabbatical leave. 
Is the employee required to return to work for a length of time at the end of the sabbatical and what would happen if they didn’t. 
Finally, what happens to other benefits. 
 

How to Manage Sabbaticals 

➡️ Have a clear policy, covering all the relevant areas  
 
The policy should clearly outline the eligibility criteria, application process, duration, and expectations for employees during their sabbatical. 
 
➡️ Communicate with the employee 
 
Meet with the employee to gain a good understanding of the employees needs and how best to support them. To help manage the sabbatical process, you should want to understand why the employee wants to take a sabbatical. 
 
➡️ Ensure that the agreement is confirmed in writing 
 
Based on conversations, the document will set out the terms and conditions that will apply for each employee during the sabbatical. 
 
As mentioned before, no legislation covers periods of sabbaticals, therefore it is left for the employee and employers to decide on important aspects. 
 
During the sabbatical, it is important to note that the employee will retain their continuous service date and thus their length of service. Many employee rights hinge on length of service, so this can be a reassurance to the employee. Holiday pay will also continue to accrue while the employee is away; ensure that this is properly managed so as to avoid any issues. 
 
➡️ Plan for the absence  
 
It can be accepted, that an employee on sabbatical may cause some disruption to your business; however, when you properly plan for the absence, it will mitigate against the worst of it. What can you do to minimise the disruption? Initially, gain an understanding of the employee’s workload. Once understood, decide if the work can be distributed amongst the remaining team or if a temporary colleague is needed. Either way, ensure that a robust handover takes place. Make certain that key dates are handed over as well as important contact information is passed on. 
 
➡️ Maintain communication 
 
Maintain open and regular communication with employees taking sabbatical leave. Establish a structured method for staying connected, such as brief catch ups. This not only helps employees stay engaged with the business but also facilitates a seamless reintegration process upon their return. 
 
 
In small businesses, nurturing employee mental health and well-being is not only a compassionate approach but also a smart business move. Your tight-knit team is a valuable asset, and by prioritising their well-being, you're investing in their long-term success and the success of your business. Remember that small businesses have the advantage of flexibility and personal touch. Tailor your approach to what suits your team best. By making well-being a priority, your small business can create a supportive, productive, and harmonious work environment. 
 
In addition, prioritising the well-being of the business owner is essential for sustainable growth and success. By balancing responsibilities, setting boundaries, seeking support, investing in personal development, and leading by example, business owners can create a healthier and more resilient work environment. Remember that taking care of oneself is not a luxury but a necessity for long-term success and fulfillment in both business and life. 
 
By investing in your employees' well-being and happiness, you can create a positive and productive work environment that sets you apart from the competition. 
 
Please do not hesitate to contact daxa@hrresultsltd.co.uk if you need help to design and implement a Sabbatical programme that meets the needs of your business and employees. We can provide guidance on creating policies and procedures, communicating the benefits of Sabbaticals to your team, and managing the logistics of planning and approving leave. Taking HR from 'TO DO' to 'DONE'. 
 
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