Updated on April 11, 2024
Article byRutan Bhattacharyya
Edited byRutan Bhattacharyya
Reviewed byDheeraj Vaidya, CFA, FRM

Sabbatical Meaning

A sabbatical refers to the duration of extended breaks taken by employees from their jobs for professional or personal reasons. Workers may utilize such leaves for different purposes, for example, pursuing higher education, volunteering, and traveling. Also, it is an opportunity for employees to manage the impact of professional burnout.

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During this period, individuals are employed at the company. However, they need not report to work or perform regular duties related to their jobs. A few corporations offer this extended break to their employees as a benefit. It is separate from any other type of leave. The duration of the extended break may vary from some weeks to many months.

Key Takeaways

  • The sabbatical refers to an extended period of leave taken by employees due to professional or personal reasons.
  • There are various reasons for sabbatical leave. For example, one may take such a leave to decrease stress or focus on acquiring specific knowledge or a new skill. Whether such leaves are unpaid or paid depends on the employer’s policies.
  • Unlike hiatuses, sabbaticals and vacations have specific start and end dates.
  • There are various sabbatical benefits for both employees and organizations. For example, it reduces employees’ stress and reduces the employee turnover cost incurred by a company.
  • Such leaves can decrease productivity.

Sabbatical Leave Explained

The sabbatical refers to an extended period of leave an employee takes from an organization they work in after getting the employer’s approval. One may request such leaves to reduce stress or fulfill personal objectives, for example, acquiring new skills required to switch to another career. In many cases, such leaves are paid. That said, some organizations may not give salary during this period.

Employees eligible for such leaves often have to apply for the same many weeks or months in advance. Companies consider the request and give approval only if it fulfills the criteria. Also, organizations must make necessary arrangements to replace the worker for the leave period.

A lot of organizations have a fixed set of rules concerning such leaves. For instance, organizations might require employees to take an extended break within a particular duration after they fulfill the criteria for this kind of leave. Also, if employees take such a leave, they must commit their future to the company for a specific duration once they return.

While on such a break, employees remain an employee of the organization. This means they are bound by the organization’s policies, including data protection, confidentiality, harassment, etc.

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Some common sabbatical leave reasons are as follows:

  • One can travel more.
  • Individuals can contribute to a good cause by offering services for free.
  • Taking this kind of leave enables one to relax in a productive manner.
  • One may take this leave to acquire knowledge and new skills. This enables them to select a different career.
  • One can start a business by taking this form of an extended break from work.
  • During this time, one can network with other individuals in their field.

Various companies offer this type of leave to reduce their attrition rate and prevent employee burnout.


Let us look at a few sabbatical examples to understand the concept better.

Example #1

Suppose Jack was an employee at Company ABC for 6 years. Since he was not getting a promotion for over 2 years owing to qualification-related requirements, he decided to pursue further education. Since he did not want to lose his job, he applied for a sabbatical, explaining the reason for his leave application. The company understood his reason and gave him approval. However, per the company’s policies, upon joining the organization after the extended break, Jack could only resign from the company after completing 2 more years.

Example #2

In August 2023, the Sikkim Government announced a sabbatical leave scheme in India. It will enable regular government employees to go on an extended break for close to 3 years. The workers interested in pursuing their desired ventures will get 50% of their basic pay. Moreover, they will have no reason to have fears regarding job loss.

How To Apply?

One can follow these steps to apply for this extended break:

  • Step 1: An applicant must write a precise and informative subject line for the leave.
  • Step 2: Applicants need to determine the recipient of the leave application and address them using their first name at the start of the mail.
  • Step 3: The leave applicant must mention their name and make their intention of applying for an extended break clear from the very beginning. Also, they must ensure to provide genuine reasons to avoid rejection.
  • Step 4: The applicants must explain how this leave can benefit both the organization and them.
  • Step 5:  Lastly, one needs to discuss the sabbatical leaves’ duration, providing the start and end dates per their plans.

Advantages And Disadvantages

Let us look at the benefits and limitations of this extended form of leave:


  • Minimizes employee turnover cost
  • Can help ensure a satisfied and well-rounded workforce
  • Increases employee retention
  • Reduces stress
  • Provides freedom to pursue different interests, for example, volunteering and travel
  • Gives time for reflection
  • Prevents burnout

Another key sabbatical benefit is that it provides scope for developing other skills.


  • Affects the other team members as they need to cover for the absent employee
  • Presents administrative challenges
  • Decreased productivity

Lastly, employees may feel disconnected from the work culture upon returning to work.

Sabbatical vs Leave Of Absence

The concepts of leave of absence and sabbatical can be confusing, especially for individuals who just joined a job. To avoid any type of confusion, they must know the differences between such leaves. So, let us understand their distinct characteristics.

SabbaticalLeave Of Absence
It can be paid or unpaid.This form of leave is generally unpaid. 
In this case, the leave duration is higher. The duration is typically lower.

Sabbatical vs Vacation vs Hiatus

Many people are under the impression that sabbaticals, vacations, and hiatuses are the same thing. However, that is not true. There are some crucial differences between these three concepts. Knowing about these differences is vital to avoid any misunderstanding when working in a company.

With regard to the duration, it is longer than a vacation or a hiatus. A vacation is shorter in terms of duration. It is typically longer than a vacation.
The employee generally returns to the same employer. An employee taking a vacation goes back to the same employer. In the case of a hiatus, employees may not go back to the same employer. 
An employee specifies the start and end dates.Employees mention the start and end dates when applying.An employee does not mention the start and end dates. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How to plan a sabbatical?

One can follow these steps to plan a sabbatical:
– Set realistic expectations
– Identify your goals
– Set your priorities
– Make plans to grow professionally and personally
– Identify the end goal in mind
Set the end and start dates, taking the above factors into consideration.

2. When to take a sabbatical?

These are some signs indicating one needs an extended break from work:
– Low morale
– Disinterest in the job
– Feeling stagnant
– Poor performance or frequent negative feedback
– Insufficient personal satisfaction

3. Which companies offer sabbaticals?

Some popular companies offering these leaves include Adobe, Charles Schwab, and Epic.

4. Is it good or bad to take a sabbatical?

Whether it is a good or bad decision depends on when one is taking this break. For example, taking this kind of leave after a few years of working in an organization can be beneficial for an employee as it can help them reduce stress and avoid burnout. Moreover, it can help them pursue higher education. On the other hand, taking such a leave after a few months of starting a job does not have a positive impact on employees’ careers.

This article has been a guide to Sabbatical and its meaning. We explain its reasons, comparison it with leave of absence and hiatus, and how to apply for it. You may also find some useful articles here –

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