Sabbatical: things to know about taking a career break


Sabbatical: Things to know about taking a career break


Many dream of the so-called sabbatical, i.e. a longer-term break from everyday working life. One in ten Germans has already done so, and a good 20 percent of the remaining employees can imagine taking a sabbatical. This is what a survey by the social network Xing shows. As tempting as a break from work for several months may be, it also carries risks. We show how to prepare perfectly, what regulations there are and what to look out for.

Marina, a 37-year-old product designer, has long dreamed of a big trip. Originally, I wanted to do this when I retire and have time to spare. But who knows if I'm still fit for something like that at almost seventy," Marina laughs. "In my job, I have to be creative. Foreign countries and cultures mean creative input for me. Another reason for me to take a sabbatical now."Marina doesn't want to give up her secure job for this under any circumstances.

Marina works in a medium-sized company in Hesse, Germany. The company has been in business for over 40 years – no one here has ever taken a sabbatical before. Marina is unsure how her boss and colleagues will react to her request. "Is my wish too extraordinary? What if my colleagues think I'm trying to shirk my job? And how am I supposed to finance it? But then I took heart and asked my boss about it in a quiet minute."

Convincing employers with the right arguments

German civil servants and employees in the public sector have a legal right to a career break. Many large companies also offer their employees the opportunity for a sabbatical. Everyone else should ask the boss or. ask the human resources department. Good preparation for this conversation is essential, says Marina.

Marina emphasizes to her boss not only her personal reasons, but also the advantages that a sabbatical can bring to the company. She also suggests a possible substitution, because her job has to be done in her absence. "Only with a well thought-out concept can one be convincing. How long do you want to stay away, who will replace you, how do you want to manage your sabbatical – for example with unpaid special leave?. It requires quite a bit of preparation," Marina knows.

  • "I want to use the sabbatical to further my education."
  • "I want to take time off to care for a sick family member."
  • "In the sabbatical, I have the opportunity to recharge my batteries and come back with new strength and motivation."
  • "I would like to use the sabbatical to become socially involved."
  • "I need new impressions to be able to work creatively again."

The timing of the request should also be well chosen. Asking for months of time off when there is a lot going on and everyone is under stress is not exactly advisable. Marina convinces her employer with the following model: For a period of time, she works for 75 percent of her salary while keeping her working hours the same. After that, she takes four months off and then gets the balance paid out. The advantage: Marina remains covered by social security and finances her sabbatical from her own salary.

Sabbatical through unpaid special leave

A simple model: the employee has time off, but receives no salary. If the sabbatical lasts no longer than four weeks, the employee remains covered by social insurance through the company. In the case of a longer sabbatical leave, the employment relationship is considered to be interrupted and the employee must insure himself/herself. It is possible to combine annual leave with four weeks of special leave.

Sabbatical through working time credits

The employee accumulates overtime in the savings phase and reduces it during the sabbatical. Social insurance remains in place. However, this only works in companies that record the hours worked in a working time account.

Sabbatical through time value credit

Overtime, bonuses, Christmas bonuses and unused vacation days are credited to a long-term account. It is important to have a written agreement and to separate the time value credit from company funds – after all, the employee is entitled to this money even in the event of insolvency. The accumulated credit is paid out during the sabbatical. Social security remains in force.

Sabbatical through salary sacrifice

The employee is working full time, but is now only drawing a portion of their salary. The rest will be paid to him during the sabbatical period. Social security remains in place.

Sabbatical through easyCredit financing

It does not always make sense to exhaust your savings for a sabbatical. Those who finance their professional sabbatical themselves should also think about a loan. With an installment loan from easyCredit in the amount of 1.000 Euro up to 75.000 Euro you can finance your sabbatical in a relaxed way and remain flexible for the financial planning of your life. The selectable credit period of 12 to 84 months allows the installment amount to be adjusted to one's own needs. This way, even unplanned expenses can be managed.

Careful planning is the key

The most important step has been taken, now the concrete planning can begin. Marina works out a contract with her boss that specifies the exact conditions of her sabbatical. The guarantee that she can keep her position in the company is important to her. In return, she gladly agrees to her employer's demand that she not work for any competitor during her sabbatical. Marina also stipulates the following points in her sabbatical contract with her boss:

  • Start and duration of the sabbatical
  • Documentation of your tasks
  • Your salary (remaining payment in the event of salary sacrifice)
  • Insurance benefits
  • Crediting of sick days
  • The continuation of the company pension plan
  • Accessibility during her absence
  • Protection against dismissal
  • Task and position upon their return to work

If you are unsure about the contract, you should seek advice from a specialist lawyer for employment law.

Plan your career return properly

Marina is traveling for four months. She strolls along Sydney's famous harbor pier, gets to know the Australian outback, works on a horse ranch in New Zealand and has many inspiring experiences and encounters in the meantime. One week before the end of her sabbatical, she is back in her small Frankfurt apartment. "It's a strange feeling," Marina reports. "But it's important for me to take a few days to get used to everyday life again."

This week, she reports to her employer to clarify her re-entry into the company and ask for news in the company. And in fact, in the meantime, their department is working with a new program. Since Marina missed the training sessions, she is familiarizing herself with the new software at home. "This will allow me to quickly reintegrate into my team's daily work routine. If I didn't take the time to do this familiarization, I would definitely be a bit lost on my first day back at work after the sabbatical," she laughs.

Marina's trip was several months ago now. In addition to many great impressions and inspirations, she has also learned to approach many things in a more relaxed manner. The new trainee in particular is now benefiting from this, and Marina is patiently instructing him. Her colleagues also think the "new" Marina is great: Her ideas bring new momentum to the department and her motivation is contagious. Of course, the boss is also pleased.

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