Successfully managing sabbaticals and extended leave in summary:

  • Implementing a clear sabbatical and extended leave policy is crucial to avoid misunderstandings and protect against discrimination claims.
  • Communicate and document all sabbatical arrangements to ensure clarity and prevent disputes; use an HRIS to manage and record these processes effectively.
  • Maintain regular communication with employees on sabbatical to keep them engaged and facilitate a smooth return to work.

Offering the option of extended leave – whether that’s a career break, sabbatical or simply additional time off – is increasingly popular for businesses of every size.

In fact, the numbers of employees deciding to take a sabbatical or extended break from work are on the rise – with Gen Z’ers in particular. These extended breaks from the rigours of work provide the opportunity to hang on to talented staff who might otherwise leave, and can mean that staff return to work better skilled and better motivated. Also, they offer a great method of engagement for businesses who may not be able to afford large pay rises or annual bonuses.

Successfully managing sabbaticals and extended leave Cezanne Blog

However, if offering sabbaticals to employees is to work for both the business and the employee, it’s vital to manage them properly.  So, here are five tips for success, and how you can use the Cezanne HRIS to help improve the way sabbaticals and career breaks are managed:

1. Have a Policy on sabbaticals or career breaks

While there’s no obligation for employers to provide sabbaticals or career breaks, having a written policy prevents misunderstandings and can protect against discrimination claims should one employee be granted their request, and another refused. Consider adding to your policy:


Is the benefit only available to employees with a certain length of service or seniority? Are there other criteria that need to be met? For example, to ensure adequate cover for their role or department.


How long will you allow an employee to take off? Do they have to take it all in one hit, or as shorter periods? Does a return to work date need to be specified up front?

Contract implications

Generally a career break is taken to mean an extended period of time off, and often involves the employment contract being terminated, but with an offer to re-employ, sometimes with continuity of employment in relation to certain employment rights. Sabbaticals and unpaid leave generally apply to shorter periods of time, perhaps several months or just a few weeks, and may mean the contract stays in place.


Will you pay the employee all or part of their salary? Are they still entitled to the same benefits and bonuses while away?

Holiday Entitlement

How will you manage holiday accruals? Will employees still be entitled to your standard contractual allowance if it’s more than the legislative minimum? Can holiday be carried over, or must it count towards the leave period?

Position on Return

Will you guarantee the employee their old job back, or one that is similar? Do you need to allow for the possibility that your needs may change, and you no longer have a role for them?

For updates on the latest best practice and legal implications, check out this guide on the CIPD website.

2. Publish your rules

If offering this kind of benefit to employees is an important part of your talent retention strategy, it makes sense to ensure everyone knows about it. Talk about it during recruitment or inductions; remind long-serving staff that it could be available to them (especially if you think they may be getting itchy feet); and publish the latest policies in your HR portal.

A popular feature of Cezanne is the integrated HR portal. It makes it easy to share policy documents with employees, and to let everyone know each time changes are made. If required, you can even set up different portals, for example, to reflect local differences based on geographic location or seniority of employees.

3. Record what’s agreed

Even if you have a policy, it is good practice to document your discussions. Put the final arrangements in writing and ensure the employee confirms they’ve agreed to it.

Remember to clearly spell out both the obligations of the employee (for example, to stay in touch and return on the date specified) and the employer (do you guarantee a job on their return, and if so, will it be the same or similar?). That way, you’ll avoid any disappointment or disputes about who promised what.

With Cezanne’s intuitive document management, you can send documents to employees for them to confirm they’ve read. The document is securely stored against the employee’s record, so stays as a permanent record of what was agreed.

4. Let an HRIS take the strain

For HR, managing all of the implications of granting extend periods of leave, whether that’s a sabbatical, career break or simply additional unpaid time off, can be challenging. What are the implications for salary, bonuses, paid leave or continuity of employment? Where do you go to check when an employee is due back at work, and whether they are aware of the latest changes in the business? How do you ensure that all leave requests are dealt with fairly?

Modern HR systems should have the flexibility to let you easily record and manage any kind of absence. An absence management software can also take away much of the administrative overhead for managing all types of annual leave. For example, with Cezanne, you can:

  • Automatically calculate holiday entitlements based on the rules you set. For example, whether they are entitled to standard company allowance, or minimum entitlement, if holiday can be carried over etc.
  • Record adjusted salary payments for the relevant timeframe (with a full history), so you can generate accurate data for payroll.
  • Manage extended career breaks by ending deployment, but keeping the employee record active in the system. This means you can simply pick up their employment record again when they restart work (and protect continuity of employment if this is required).
  • Show that the employee is on sabbatical in the calendar to help managers or colleagues with planning.
  • Run reports to show who’s away and when they are due back.

5. Stay in touch

If employees are out of the loop for more than a couple of months, it’s easy to become disengaged. By staying in touch on a regular basis, you can help employees to feel more involved and much better equipped to slot back into the business when they start work again.

Sabbatical Cezanne HR

The HR portal in Cezanne provides an easy way to share information and stay in touch. General news, such as company updates can be shared via the HR portal. And, you can set up a dedicated portal just for staff that are away – and perhaps their line managers too.

Members of the group can access documents, add their own news, and post questions or share ideas. And, each time documents are updated or news added, they’ll receive an email notification. It’s a straight forward way to keep the conversation flowing.

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Sue Lingard author image

Sue Lingard

Sue studied Personnel Management at the London School of Economics before taking on management roles in the travel, recruitment and finally HR software industry. She's particularly interested in how technologies enable HR teams - and the people they support - to work better together.

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