Sabbaticals and Unpaid Leave image

Sabbaticals and Unpaid Leave

Staff Squared date icon26th July 2019

Tag iconManaging staff

Just because holiday entitlement is something that employers are legally required to provide to their staff each year and so technically isn’t considered as a benefit, that doesn’t make the holiday package offered to employees any less of an important factor when looking for a new job. 

In fact, 59% of employees say that having more than 28 days of annual leave included in their contract is important to them. 

The ability to take time off work to achieve a good balance between work and home life is crucial for many reasons, including: 

  • Being able to attend important meetings or appointments that can’t be scheduled outside of normal working hours.
  • Being able to attend school events or other important milestones involving children or other family members. 
  • Taking holidays or long weekends away. 
  • Catching up on odd jobs.
  • Taking time to rest and relax between busy periods at work or in general day-to-day life. 

 

There are plenty of reasons why taking time off of work is important. Employees taking advantage of the annual leave given to them also benefits their employer in ways such as: 

How Much Holiday are Employers Required to Give?

Staff are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per holiday year. For most full-time workers who work 5 days a week, this makes the minimum amount of holiday you are entitled to 28 days. 

As a part-time worker, you are still entitled to 5.6 weeks, but this will be less than 28 days. Your holiday will be worked out based on the number of days you work. For example, if you work 3 days per week, the calculation to find your allowance will look like this:

3 days x 5.6 weeks = 16.8 days’ leave

However, as you may have already gathered, this calculation is only a suggestion of what an employer should award their staff. As long as holiday is given according to these rules as a minimum allowance, employers can allow staff to take as much paid leave as they deem reasonable. 

What About When the Allowance Runs Out?

28 days seems like a large amount of holiday at the start of the year, but that number soon diminishes when you begin using those days up. Even the odd day here and there adds up fairly quickly and you’re soon left feeling disheartened that you have little to no leave left to take. 

Paid annual leave may be the preferred method of taking time off of work, since it ensures that you don’t lose out on any money while you’re away; however, it isn’t the only option available. 

Most employers offer staff the option to take unpaid leave if they desperately need to take time off but have used up all of their paid holiday entitlement. Additionally, many companies are happy for staff to use unpaid leave to cover doctors’ appointments etc. if they would rather not eat away at their holiday allowance unnecessarily. 

Unpaid Leave

If a company decides to allow its staff to take unpaid leave, there are some points that will need to be considered first. 

There are many instances where employees are entitled to take unpaid leave. Some are a legal requirement of employers while others can be left to the company’s discretion. 

The Employment Act 1996 states that eligible employees are entitled to a ‘reasonable amount of time off for emergency situations such as: 

  • The care of a dependant (typically a child, a family member or another individual who the employee provides care to). 
  • Parental leave (available to anyone with a child under the age of 18 who has been at the company as a paid member of staff for at least one year). 

What is considered to be a ‘reasonable’ amount of time is unspecified; however, this is usually considered to be a period of no more than two days and is generally used in emergency circumstances. 

Other situations which aren’t required by law, but for which employers might choose to offer unpaid leave include: 

  • Compassionate leave. 
  • Appointments. 
  • Meetings. 
  • Time off to look for a new job if being made redundant.

Sabbaticals 

Some companies choose to let their staff take extended periods of unpaid leave for career breaks or sabbaticals. This would usually comprise of one long period of leave, although, in some cases, it may be possible to take shorter, frequent periods of absence or regular time off. 

Often, these periods of leave are used for study or travel and are recognised as a good way to retain well-skilled staff who have other interests outside of work which they would like to explore without having to leave the company for good. 

Sabbaticals aren’t a legal requirement, so it’s up to the employer as to whether they offer this perk and, if they do, set their own conditions around things such as the maximum amount of time allowed to be taken or eligibility requirements. 

Employers can, of course, set other rules and conditions surrounding unpaid leave as a while, but it’s important that these are made clear to staff to avoid any confusion. It would be advisable to implement an unpaid leave policy which should be made readily available to staff to remove the room for uncertainty around these entitlements completely. 

As work-life balance continues to grow in importance for employees, employers would be wise to consider how their own approach to this can be beneficial to the success of the organisation in the long term.

Written by Clarisse Levitan

Lead First Line Customer Support Agent - Staff Squared

Clarisse works as the Lead of our Customer Support Team to provide all of our customers with the very best care and guidance when using their HR software.

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