Sabbaticals: considerations for employers and employees

Among the benefits desired by professionals, sabbaticals are often seen as nice-to-have but not a dealbreaker. This is because few jobseekers envisage themselves serving a business long enough to be able to claim this loyalty benefit – but here’s why it might just be the best benefit of all.

6 mins read
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11 Apr, 2024

The early years in a job are filled with learning: new skills, continued development and greater challenges along the way. For those lucky enough to love what they do in a workplace that meets their needs, years fly by – with some companies rewarding continuous long service or achievement with several weeks or months of paid sabbatical leave.

What is sabbatical leave?

Sabbatical leave used to be more commonly associated with academic professions, with educators traditionally granted a period of paid time off – usually one year – for further study or research. Similar opportunities have since filtered into other lines of work, with paid, part-paid and unpaid options, but are offered by relatively few employers across the world.

Unlike career breaks, sabbaticals mean the work contract continues, giving employees freedom to explore without penalty. There’s no set format but it is recommended employers offer the leave on equal terms for everyone in the business rather than using an ad hoc system. A dedicated sabbatical policy can outline terms for both full-time and part-time employees to prevent misunderstandings and protect against discrimination and other claims – fairness and transparency are key.

According to The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD): “Historically sabbaticals have been a benefit for employees. They are agreed for a variety of reasons including rewarding long service, travel, research or acquiring new skills, voluntary work, alleviating stress and burn out or to take care of health. In current times the motivation behind sabbaticals may be more for the employer’s benefit to provide alternatives to redundancy.”

With greater focus on employee mental health and wellbeing, meaningful benefits such as sabbaticals can also encourage a member of staff to spend longer with the business.

Having found their niche in a team and given the opportunity and resources to achieve and excel, many employees feel valued by the prospect of a morale-boosting sabbatical. What better than a reminder of approaching eligibility for a well-deserved break – usually starting after five years’ service.

How much sabbatical leave should be offered?

There is no law that says a business must offer sabbatical leave, paid or unpaid, but it is increasingly being introduced to attract jobseekers in competitive industries.

Although the traditional year out enjoyed by academics is unheard of for most private companies, a more affordable period of four weeks’ paid sabbatical leave is considered fair, rising to six weeks or more after 10 years’ continuous service.

Forward planning is essential to allow managers to reassign the leaver’s workload across the team or advertise for temporary help. This may require the employee to give at least six months’ notice but could well be longer depending on the seniority of the role.

During the leave, the employee may receive full or partial pay, or no pay at all, depending on the company’s sabbatical policy. Some employers may formally request that no other paid work is undertaken during the absence.

As an alternative or an addition to sabbatical leave, companies might choose to grant additional paid annual leave for loyal staff – perhaps five extra days after five years.

What are the benefits of sabbatical leave?

Time out can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and one with lasting benefits for both employer and employee. With the freedom that comes with the extra time off, sabbaticals are ideal for personal development, whether it’s a self-care plan, a period of study, travel or volunteering – the freedom from the 9-5 is ideally meant for discovery as well as relaxation.

Employee benefits

By using the time productively, employees could end up adding value to their role. Here’s a few ideas for how to spend the time:

  • Rest and recharge: A break from the daily grind gives an opportunity to step away from your work-life responsibilities and find out what inspires you.

  • Learning new skills: A sabbatical allows for plenty of free time that can be devoted towards learning new skills or honing existing ones. Whether it’s mastering a language or developing coding know-how, these experiences will enhance your career prospects and help you stand out from the crowd.

  • Greater appreciation: Time out provides an opportunity to reflect on things taken for granted over time, such as our job, relationships, or health.

  • Improved health: A sabbatical gives us the chance to focus on our physical and mental wellbeing by engaging in activities like yoga or meditation. This helps boost productivity levels upon returning to work along with improving overall quality of life.

  • Explore new interests: During a sabbatical, you could take up a hobby you may not have had time for while working. This can be a great way to develop new skills and can even lead to a new career path.

  • Personal development: Focusing on growth through travel, education, or other goals can bring new perspectives to your work when you return.

  • Enhanced creativity and productivity: Stepping away from work can provide a new perspective and channel your interests into projects that could be useful back in the workplace.

  • Eliminate burnout: Many people quit their jobs when they feel exhausted and demotivated through overwork and stress. Time away is a wellbeing solution that means you can retain your job while regaining your mojo.

Employer benefits

Sabbaticals can also provide significant benefits for employers in terms of employee retention and attraction:

  • Retain top talent: Offering sabbaticals can be a powerful tool for retaining workers. Employees who feel valued and supported by their employer are more likely to stay with the company long-term.

  • Improved productivity: Sabbaticals can lead to improved productivity in the long run, with employees returning to work with renewed energy and focus,

  • Cost savings: If an employee takes a sabbatical instead of leaving the company altogether, it can save the employer money in the long run through recruitment and training costs.

  • Enhanced creativity: Employees can explore new interests and ideas, introducing them in their work.

  • Improved employer branding: Companies that prioritise work-life balance and employee wellbeing are more likely to be viewed as desirable places to work.

Returning to work

The hope is that employees return to the workplace refreshed. The break may have brought clarity to their working routine, new skills that could benefit their role, and fresh ideas. The early weeks settling back in are a great time for sharing these ideas and considering how the job may be shaped by the sabbatical experience.

For the employee, a little preparation before the end of their leave can ease any anxiety about the return: catch up on company and industry news, check-in with colleagues, and ask for team updates so it’s not a complete surprise on the first day back.

Work may also seem a little overwhelming at first, with things unlikely to be the same as when the returner left. There might be different tech to get to grips with, new team members and schedules in place. Managers should keep checking in to ensure the returner is coping and not overloaded through this transitional period. Some workplaces provide a structured ‘return to work’ plan to help employees and managers meet their goals.

To encourage and inspire new and existing staff, sabbaticals should be shouted about in job adverts, social media and company websites. The prospect of a break or memory of one may lead to workplace happiness and contentment.

Looking for talented professionals to join your team or seeking a new opportunity? Contact one of our specialist recruitment consultants today.

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Employee monitoring: a guide to best practices
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Employee monitoring: a guide to best practices

Employee monitoring can help ensure productivity and accountability among employees, as managers can track their work progress and identify areas where improvement is needed. Monitoring enhances data security by detecting and preventing unauthorised access or data breaches and additionally, it enables you to adhere to regulatory and compliance requirements, reducing legal risks. 

The key thing to remember is that workplace surveillance is perfectly acceptable, as long as you can legally justify your reasons, and it is always better to be ‘overt’, not ‘covert’.  

A report shows that despite normality returning to working life post-pandemic, demand for employee surveillance software is 49% above 2019 levels. 

Our eBook, ‘Employee monitoring: a guide to best practices’, provides insight from top experts in the field including:    

Keith Rosser, Director of Group Risk and Reed Screening, Reed 

Hayfa Mohdzaini, Senior Research Adviser, CIPD

 By downloading this eBook, you will discover:   

  • What employee monitoring is 

  • Whether it's needed for your business

  • Considerations for introducing workplace monitoring  

  • The benefits and drawbacks  

  • Potential impact of surveillance on the workforce 

  • Your duties as a responsible employer 

“Monitoring software that employees see as intrusive and unnecessary is more likely to erode mutual trust in the employment relationship. Employers need to show how using monitoring software can benefit employees, while respecting their privacy.” -Hayfa Mohdzaini, Senior Research Adviser, CIPD.

Workplace monitoring: guidance for your organisation
2 mins read
  1. Article

Workplace monitoring: guidance for your organisation

​In the past, workplace monitoring was relatively simplistic: employers relied on visual supervision and basic timekeeping systems, and the concept of privacy was limited.

Fast forward to the digital age. Employee monitoring has reached new levels of sophistication and become common practice for employers seeking to boost productivity, enhance security, and ensure compliance with regulations.

Improved productivity and deeper insights

With the advancement of technology, including GPS tracking, computer monitoring software, and biometric identification systems, surveillance can provide employers with detailed insights into employee activities and performance.

One of the key benefits of employee monitoring is the ability to track and improve productivity levels. By monitoring employees' activities, employers can identify inefficiencies, analyse workflow processes, and provide targeted feedback to enhance performance. This data-driven approach allows companies to optimise their operations, allocate resources effectively, and ultimately improve their bottom line.

Monitoring can also help employers identify and address issues such as time theft, excessive breaks, and unauthorised activities in the workplace. With real-time monitoring tools, employers can detect irregularities and take corrective actions promptly, therefore improving accountability and integrity among employees.

Employee monitoring can also aid in compliance with regulations and industry standards. By keeping a close eye on electronic communications, websites visited, and files accessed, employers can ensure that employees adhere to data protection laws, maintain confidentiality, and comply with company policies. This proactive approach minimises the risk of data breaches and security incidents and also protects the company from potential legal liabilities.

Balancing surveillance and ethics

Despite the clear advantages of employee monitoring, it is crucial for organisations to approach this practice with sensitivity and respect for staff privacy. As a matter of course, employers should establish clear policies regarding monitoring practices, communicate openly with employees about the purpose and scope of monitoring, and ensure transparency in the use of monitoring tools.

Prioritise the protection of sensitive employee data by implementing robust security measures, restricting access to monitoring data, and complying with data protection regulations such as GDPR. These considerations can ease employees’ minds about any surveillance and even instil appreciation for such measures. After all, workplace security is in everyone’s best interests.

Download our best practice guide to employee monitoring

Our eBook, ‘Employee monitoring: a guide to best practices’ provides insight into how employers might best integrate employee monitoring into their organisation, and considerations for what the impact may be on employees. With opinion from thought leaders, it addresses everything from pre-employment checks to the tracking tech that might be right your organisation.

Looking to hire top talent for your organisation or to find your next dream role? Get in touch with one of our specialist consultants today.

Temporary vs permanent teaching roles: which is best for you?
4 mins read
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Temporary vs permanent teaching roles: which is best for you?

​Whether you’re just starting out on your teaching career or considering your options midway through, both temporary and permanent teaching roles have much to offer in terms of personal and professional development. The deciding factor for many is often concerned with the impact an individual hopes to make in their career – whether they see a long future at a particular school or are drawn to the rich experiences that may lie in a series of temporary or supply teaching roles at different schools.  

Temporary teaching roles: flexibility and exploration 

Temporary teaching roles offer educators flexibility and variety in their careers. Whether it be covering maternity leave, sabbaticals, or filling short-term vacancies, these roles provide opportunities to gain diverse experiences across different schools, age groups, and subjects. For those craving new challenges and exposure to various teaching methodologies, temporary teaching, cover teaching or supply teaching positions – just some of terms by which short-term teaching goes by – can be immensely rewarding. 

Temporary (or temp) roles enable teachers to test the waters before committing to a long-term position. They offer a glimpse into different school cultures, leadership styles, and student demographics, allowing educators to discern their preferences and strengths. This exploratory phase can be invaluable for early-career teachers seeking to refine their teaching approach and identify their niche within the education sector. 

It may even be said that everyone should try supply teaching at some point in their teaching career. Such roles can strengthen resilience and help teachers adapt to diverse environments, navigate unexpected challenges, and quickly establish a rapport with students and colleagues. These experiences enrich professional skill sets and cultivate a broader perspective on education. 

However, temp roles come with some uncertainties, such as job insecurity and lack of long-term stability. While it is highly unlikely in the current climate – unless you are inflexible when it comes to your working location – teachers may face periods of unemployment between assignments, necessitating financial planning and resilience to withstand potential gaps in income. The transient nature of temporary roles can impede the establishment of deep-rooted connections within school communities, potentially affecting professional networking and career advancement opportunities, unless working with a reputable teaching recruiter 

Permanent teaching roles: stability and long-term impact 

In contrast, permanent teaching roles offer greater stability and security, providing educators with the assurance of ongoing employment and consistent income. For individuals seeking to establish roots within a school community, build lasting relationships with students and colleagues, and contribute to long-term educational initiatives, permanent positions are conducive to professional growth. 

Permanent (or perm) roles afford teachers the opportunity to make a sustained impact on students’ lives, offering continuity and consistency in their educational journey. By immersing themselves in a specific school culture and curriculum, educators can develop deep connections with students and take on mentorship opportunities and leadership roles that contribute to the school community. 

Permanent roles often provide access to comprehensive benefits packages, including healthcare, pension schemes, and professional development opportunities. These perks enhance job satisfaction and overall wellbeing, helping teachers feel valued and supported. A permanent contract often makes it easier for teachers to access opportunities for career progression and development. 

However, commitment to a permanent teaching role entails a long-term investment in a specific school or institution, therefore factors such as school ethos, leadership vision, and career prospects should be considered before committing to a permanent position. Conversely, such roles may limit opportunities for professional exploration and diversification, potentially stifling creativity and innovation in teaching practices. 

Deciding what's best for you: priorities and nice-to-haves 

Ultimately, the decision between temporary and permanent teaching roles hinges on individual priorities, aspirations, and circumstances. Here’s how to guide your decision-making process: 

Reflect on your career goals:

Take time to assess your long-term career aspirations, values, and priorities. Consider whether you prioritise stability and continuity or crave variety and exploration in your professional journey. 

Evaluate your personal circumstances:

Consider factors such as financial obligations, family commitments, and lifestyle preferences when weighing the pros and cons of supply and permanent roles. Could you cope with long commutes for example, or be ready to move time and again? Determine how each option aligns with your personal circumstances and desired work-life balance.  

Seek mentorship and advice:

Reach out to experienced educators, mentors, and career advisors for guidance and insights. Their perspectives can offer valuable guidance when it comes to the nuances of temporary and permanent teaching roles and help you make an informed decision. 

Flexibility and adaptability:

Remain open to new opportunities and embrace the flexibility inherent in both temporary and permanent roles. Your career journey may evolve over time, and being adaptable to change is essential for growth and fulfilment. 

Choosing between temporary and permanent teaching roles is a deeply personal decision that is best decided by evaluating professional aspirations and personal circumstances. While teachers all have the same goal in educating and inspiring the next generation, the way they achieve this may be through various routes – making a difference to the lives of many in one or more schools. 

Looking for your next teaching role? Get in touch with our specialist education recruiters today for temporary and permanent teaching opportunities.