Taking a break of months to a year is something you’d normally only associate with teenagers on a gap year before university. More and more people are taking breaks later on in their career to travel, volunteer or even try out other kinds of work.
With the cost of hiring a new employee estimated to approach £30,000, it’s in employers’ interests to get flexible with their employees at a point when they’re approaching burnout. Offering them the chance to take a break to refresh and recharge themselves rather than look for a new job works to both employers’ and employee’s advantage.
There is no legislation covering a career break or a sabbatical: this is both good and bad news. While it means there is nothing obliging an employer to grant you a break – even in academia where it is a strong tradition. It’s actually from universities that we actually get the word sabbatical: lecturers traditionally get one year in every seven away from teaching. It also means, however, that nothing is off the table: there is no set definition of what a career break means so it can be defined entirely by what you can negotiate with your employer.
You shouldn’t expect to be secure much in the way of an extended break from your job without first putting the time in. Typically, it’s employees who have been with a company for twenty to twenty-five years who have the experience that gives them a value to the company which makes a sabbatical worth discussing. It’s wise to begin by mentioning the concept casually, out of context. You can see from how your manager reacts how best to make your case.
When you’ve been able to secure a career break, you need to decide how to fill it. While it’s far from the only option, an ‘adult gap year’ is an attractive prospect: travelling as a mature adult is a very different experience to travelling as a teenager. Less following the crowd to full moon parties and more deciding exactly what you want from the experience.