In the workplace: time off to boost your career

A sabbatical can enhance your career prospects, but the first step is convincing your employer

If you want to take a career break – maybe to travel or do some voluntary work overseas – your biggest hurdle could be getting permission from your boss. But with ‘jobs for life’ on the decrease, more employers are recognising that letting staff take sabbaticals is good for morale, development and retention.

What does the law say?

Employers don’t have to offer career breaks and there are no laws that deal specifically with this, so it is simply an agreement between you and your employer.

If they agree, you can make arrangements to return to work after your career break. However, these are not legally binding and it could mean ending your existing employment contract. Similarly, you are unable to take legal action if your boss decides you can’t return to your current job or a similar position.

How to convince your boss

If your employer already offers time off for career breaks, find out what you have to do to qualify and how to apply.

If your company does not offer sabbaticals then you may have some convincing to do. You will need to show that your colleagues can cover your work or suggest that someone could temporarily fill your role in an ‘acting’ capacity. You also need to explain why you have worked hard to deserve this time off, as well as emphasising the skills that your career break will enable you to bring back to the job on your return.

Things to remember...

  • l Don’t forget to find out about things such as the tax, pension and mortgage implications for your time off
  • Email and the internet mean that you don’t have to lose touch with what your contacts and the industry are up to
  • If you do resign, do so on good terms as there may be an opening for you when you come back
  • If your employer agrees to your sabbatical, make sure you get the terms and conditions in writing.

This will clear up any possible confusion when you return. For more information on career breaks, visit: www.gov.uk/career-breaks.

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