Is it worth taking a sabbatical?
4 min | 7 August 2023
Some of us are feeling wiped out these days and might be thinking about taking some time away from the daily grind with a sabbatical. Before you decide, it’s a good idea to weigh the potential benefits against the financial implications.
A sabbatical is a break from your job agreed by your employer. It’s usually unpaid, but this depends on your employer’s terms. Sabbaticals are usually different to career breaks, which are long – unpaid – periods out of work without a job to go back to, although the definition is dependent on where you work.
How do you ask for a sabbatical?
First, speak to your manager to find out if your company offers sabbaticals and whether they are paid or unpaid. You’ll also need to know if your contract remains in force or whether there will be any changes to it because of the sabbatical.
Let your employer know:
- How much time you’d like to take off
- The reasons behind your decision
- How a break might benefit you and the company when you return
- If you intend to work elsewhere during your sabbatical. Your employer will probably need to agree to this beforehand
This approach will show your employer that you’ve thought about the idea thoroughly and that you’re keen to return once your sabbatical is over. Be prepared to negotiate and make compromises, if necessary, for example by taking a shorter sabbatical.
What could you do during a sabbatical?
People take sabbaticals for a variety of reasons – from taking care of their health and well-being, to learning a new skill or language or spending time travelling.
Other reasons include further education and professional development, volunteer work or just spending more time with friends and family.
Ultimately, a sabbatical can give you the time to take stock of your career and goals and work out what’s most important to you.
What are the pros and cons of a sabbatical?
A sabbatical is a blank sheet and gives you a chance to recharge and refocus your life, perhaps gaining a new perspective as you achieve a better balance.
If you spend the time developing your professional skills, you might find yourself considering a change in career simply because you’ve had some breathing space and a fresh perspective.
Your mental health could improve too, which could be a priority if you’re looking to reduce stress levels and the feeling of burnout. Overall, these benefits could help you return to work more energised, creative and productive.
However, a sabbatical could impact your career in other ways. You might feel at a disadvantage re-entering the workforce in terms of promotion and advancement opportunities. Or it could be a challenge to adjust back into working life.
Think about the financial impact
The financial impact of taking a sabbatical is probably your biggest concern – especially if yours is unpaid and you have dependents.
So before you decide to embark on a sabbatical, consider the potential costs and overheads to make sure that you’re financially prepared. These could include:
- travel costs if you’re planning to take a trip
- professional development expenses, such as course fees
- everyday living costs, such as the rent, mortgage and utility bills
Unless you already have savings to cover your time away, you'll likely need to take time to put money aside and save up before your sabbatical begins. Work out roughly how much you'll need to pay for your regular outgoings and overheads as well as the activities you hope to do during your sabbatical. And it’s always important – no matter what your employment status – to have a healthy emergency fund.
How could a sabbatical affect your pension?
Personal and employee contributions might stop during your sabbatical but there could be an opportunity to make up the shortfall when you return to work. It’s worth finding out by speaking to your employer or pension provider.
National Insurance contributions build up your State Pension entitlement (Opens in new window) but if you’re taking a sabbatical you may fall behind. Check if you are eligible to make voluntary contributions to fill any gaps.
If you have a personal pension, you’ll have to decide whether you can afford to continue making contributions while you’re on sabbatical.
With some planning, a sabbatical could benefit both you and your employer, giving you a period of quality time to reflect and return to work refreshed.
Whatever you decide to do, look after your money. Chase's easy-access saver account lets you start saving with as little as you like.
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