Sabbatical leave

Responding to requests for sabbatical leave

One of your staff has requested a six-month sabbatical. You’re inclined to agree, but want to know where you stand legally before you respond.

The legal position

The short answer is that you have no legal obligation to agree to a request for a sabbatical. Therefore before giving your consent, you should consider how your decision will impact on future similar requests. Perhaps you could use this opportunity to prepare a short sabbatical policy which you can use again.

Things to consider:

  • Will the sabbatical leave be paid and what will happen to the role in the employee's absence?
  • What will be the impact on other staff? Will you need to hire a fixed-term replacement or can you ask existing employees to cover the role?
  • Will the contract of employment continue during the sabbatical? If you do decide to allow it to continue (most employers do this), you will need to make it clear what will happen at the end of the leave
  • Is there a guarantee that the employee will return to their current job or will they only be entitled to a position which happens to be vacant when they wish to return
  • Clarify whether or not your employee will be allowed to undertake charity work, research or any paid work during the sabbatical and whether or not they can return early without notice