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What is a sabbatical leave? Things to consider

Published: Thursday 20th August 2020

The origin of the word “sabbatical” stems from the Bible’s Old Testament practice. It prescribed that fields were to be left fallow for one in every seven years, just like the seventh day of the week, Sabbath, for rejuvenation. 

Back to the present corporate scenario, what is  sabbatical leave?

A sabbatical leave is taken by employees for occasions that need them to put their professional duties on hold. When the average 11-19 days paid leave offered by the employer do not suffice, a sabbatical leave comes into the picture. Even though a sabbatical from work  does not account for an entire year off, it has more time off than a standard vacation. A sabbatical leave may be paid or unpaid, depending on the organization’s policy. Employees may go on a sabbatical from work for reasons such as:

  • Pursuing a degree to advance their careers
  • Raising young or ill children
  • Medical procedures 
  • Travelling or volunteering work, especially overseas

A man going on holiday during sabbatical leave

It is imperative that an organization adopts a fair and efficient policy for employee sabbatical leave in India that benefits both your business and its workers. Mentioned below are factors for an organization to consider while structuring their sabbatical leaves rules for maximum effectiveness:

  • Years of experience required to qualify for a sabbatical leave: Sabbaticals are offered to senior employees of the organization, say after three to five years of employment. It is good to have an eligibility criterion in place with certain years of service to be able to avail the privilege of a sabbatical.
  • Purpose of Sabbatical: The discernment of offering sabbaticals lies on the organization. Several companies offer sabbatical leave to employees for any purpose because they may have personal reasons. Others accept sabbatical leave reasons like studies or volunteering. Being flexible with this factor will earn the organization goodwill and loyalty. 
  • Paid or Unpaid Sabbatical: You can choose to pay a full salary, reduced salary or no salary during your employee’s sabbatical leave. Several organizations offer salaried sabbatical to employees taking time off to pursue studies, medical procedures or parental leaves while leaving tourism unpaid.
  • Maximum duration: Factor in the longest your organization can spend without its employees. An organization can fix a maximum duration of sabbatical leave in general or have different limits according to the employee’s seniority.
  • Sabbatical Frequency: Make note of how often your employees can take sabbaticals to create an efficient flow of operations in your organization. For instance, you may enforce a policy where there needs to be a gap of three years or so between two sabbatical leaves.
  • Notice Period: Determine the number of days a sabbatical leave notice needs to be served in advance. This is necessary for an organization to make alternate adjustments to fill in for the employee taking time off, handing over responsibility to the replacement and transitioning smoothly.
  • Processing Applications for Sabbaticals: Elaborately describe your application assessment procedure for approval of sabbaticals to ensure complete transparency.
  • Post-Sabbatical Agreement: An organization can add post-sabbatical clauses such as the employee serving for two years post sabbatical leave. This will help you avoid losing employees with upgraded skills leaving for another establishment.
  • Sabbatical Obligations: Details on availability via phone or emails and other rules that ensure that the employee does not completely ghost his position during a sabbatical are necessary. This will help you reach out to them in case of emergencies during their time away.


Now that you have read our basic guidelines to form a sound sabbatical leave rules, what additions have you made? Let us know about your unique sabbatical policy in the comments below and check out our hirer blogs for more guidance.

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