Take A Sabbatical Without Ruining Your Career
Cosmopolitan - South Africa|March 2018

Taking time off may seem like a drastic move – but it’s not unreasonable. Here’s how to make it happen for you

Jaime Waddington

Whether it’s to recover from job burnout, develop new skills, pursue a passion or reflect on a new career direction, a break from your job can help to ensure you don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life. But how do you make certain the gap in your CV doesn’t derail your career?

Understand the impact

A sabbatical is extended leave from work – for study, for travel or to focus on growth and self-care. Traditionally found in academic careers, months-long leave (at full or partial pay) is now also being offered by companies such as Nike. According to Fortune’s 2017 list of the 100 best companies to work for, 24 top corporations offer paid sabbaticals as part of their employee-benefits package. ‘As the thinking around careers develops, more companies are becoming open to the idea,’ says career counsellor Michelle Duraan. But despite big businesses witnessing the benefits of paid sabbaticals – employees returning with innovative ideas and renewed energy – the benefit is still fairly rare. So, to take yours, you may need to quit your job – a risk you need to be willing to take.

Check your policy

‘In South Africa, sabbatical leave is regarded as a benefit, not a right,’ says advocate Veronique Barthus, member of the Cape Bar. ‘Our labour laws do not regulate sabbatical leave.’ As a result, sabbatical leave is by agreement with your company or according to its stated policy. ‘Your company may have a “sabbatical policy”, where you’re allowed to take an agreed amount of time off – but the usual job “perks”, such as being paid, may be suspended for the duration,’ Duraan says. ‘That said, you have the security of returning to your job. If you don’t qualify for a sabbatical, meet with the boss to discuss taking one.’

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