What you need to know about a sabbatical

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See something different than the office and reorient yourself – a sabbatical year makes it possible. © Florian Sanktjohanser/dpa-tmn

Would you like a longer break from work? A sabbatical is not only an option for stressed managers. But is there a right to it? And how does it work? What employees need to know about this.

Munich – Everyday life in the working world sometimes causes stress – even the strenuous Corona period doesn’t make many things easier.

Some employees just want to break their professional routine and take a longer break from work. This is possible, for example, with a sabbatical.

When is the right time for a sabbatical?

“It varies from person to person,” says Ute Bölke, career coach in Wiesbaden. The trigger for the desire for a longer break from work can be exhaustion, burnout or the Corona period.

Many also want to rethink their professional life with a sabbatical and reorient themselves – for example if they have worked in a job for many years, explains Silvia Hänig, head of the communications consultancy Ikom in Munich.

Another motive can be that your own industry is changing structurally. Or you would like to acquire new knowledge during further training.

“The right time for a sabbatical also depends on the economic situation of the employer,” says Hänig. If a company is currently in the restructuring process, it is not advisable to ask the boss for a break. Even if the company develops new business areas, according to Hänig it is better not to confront superiors with the wish.

How long does a sabbatical usually last?

That too is different. It can take a whole year, but sometimes it’s only nine, six or three months.

How far in advance should employees plan this?

According to Hänig, employees should raise their concerns with company management at least six months, preferably a year in advance.

In this way, the company can look for a replacement for the duration of the sabbatical. “The larger the company, the better able it is to compensate for the loss of personnel with a career break,” says Bölke.

How can employees protect themselves legally?

Employers and employees must contractually agree to interrupt work for several months. A right to return to the old position should also be noted in the document – if the employee so wishes. It also makes sense to agree a ban on redundancies with the employer.

How does a sabbatical work out financially?

“Employees can, for example, take unpaid special leave,” says Bölke. However, employees who are released from work are obliged to pay for their health and long-term care insurance themselves. It is possible to be released from the pension and unemployment insurance.

There is also the option to work the time before or after the sabbatical. “The advantage here is that the salary continues to end up in the account and the employer continues to pay the social security contributions,” explains Bölke. Overtime already worked is credited to a working time account.

In addition, employees can also have their salary paid out at a reduced rate for a while – or have their employer transfer their Christmas and vacation pay later.

A part-time model is also often possible. Employees work full-time for a correspondingly lower salary. The employer then pays out the saved salary later during the release phase. Employees should arrange this before the start of the sabbatical.

Who can take such a break?

“In the past, taking a break from work was something for constantly stressed managers on their way up,” says Hänig. This has now changed. A sabbatical is no longer a privilege for managers and other executives.

“In my consulting practice, however, sabbaticals are more common among academics than among craftspeople, for example,” admits Bölke.

Is there a right to a sabbatical?

In the public sector yes, in the private sector mostly not. However, it is possible that an entitlement to a sabbatical is anchored in an employment contract or a collective agreement.

What can employees use their sabbatical for?

Building a house, a trip around the world, further training – anything you feel like is possible. Employees are not required to tell the employer what they do during the sabbatical. “But it’s good for working together if you communicate this,” says Hänig.

In addition, it can be advantageous to make the benefits of the sabbatical for the company clear – especially if an employer is not obliged to approve a sabbatical.

Does a sabbatical look good on your CV?

Yes, Haenig thinks. Anyone who has taken a sabbatical shows self-confidence and signals: I take my career planning into my own hands. “Especially if the reasons for the sabbatical are plausible, it looks good on your CV,” emphasizes Bölke. dpa


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