In preparation to further break the ice with my employer regarding our impending sabbatical I’ve realized that there are a few considerations to keep in mind if you are adamant about keeping your same job when you return from your sabbatical.
I’ve already had one conversation with my boss regarding my desire to take an extended leave of absence and the conversation was very positive. My boss is a world traveler and strongly believes in exposing kids to world travel and different cultures so she was very receptive to the idea. The problem with the initial conversation was that the length of the sabbatical was not discussed in depth and so the perceived expectation was that this would be a 1-3 month leave of absence. It’s not exactly what our goal is but it’s a start and the ice has been broken.
You may be wondering why I didn’t elaborate on my real intentions and expose my 1 year sabbatical plan. The truth is I wanted to get a feel for how receptive the idea of extended leave would be and then put together a proposal based on that feeling. Had the reception not been positive I would have had to take a different approach. I also went into this without really being prepared to discuss the benefits to the company, which may or may not have been a mistake. And maybe some of it was a little fear over being turned down. There are a few things going on with my job that actually make taking a sabbatical now a benefit to the company and I’ll elaborate more on that later.
I’m actually in the process of putting together a proposal that outlines not only my own personal benefits of taking a 1 year sabbatical but also how this translates into a big win for the company. More details on that and the resources that I am using will be coming at a later date.
But I did want to touch on a few considerations to keep in mind while you are planning your own sabbatical. These are things that were brought to my attention during my initial conversation with my employer. Granted your situation may be different. If you are fortunate your company may even have a sabbatical policy where these issues may already be addressed.
First, employer sponsored health insurance benefits are expensive and the bulk is paid for by my employer. In my case the amount my employer will pay is based on the number of hours per week that I work. If I am on sabbatical they won’t pay anything and so the premium will be left to me to pay ($1500/month), or I can opt out and go it on my own. Health and safety should be a big concern to travelers, especially those with kids. For us we are unable to afford the premiums alone for an entire year so we are researching options for travel insurance that will cover us in the case of a medical emergency. This is definitely something to keep in mind if you plan on taking a leave of absence.
Along the same lines of health insurance are other forms of employer sponsored insurance programs like life insurance or different forms of disability insurance. Again in my case my employer would not pay for those during my extended leave of absence. For us this isn’t a big concern as we have our own life insurance plan external to my employer and we don’t participate in disability insurance programs.
Another consideration is your retirement plan. I’m participating in a company 401K in which they match a certain percentage based on time of service. I’ve met the obligation and therefore my employer is matching the percentage I put in but that will cease while I am on a sabbatical because I won’t be able to take vacation pay for the whole year (I’ll be taking leave without pay). If continuing to contribute to your retirement is a concern for you this would be an area you would want to research and find out what the implication are for your particular situation.
You’ll also want to find out how taking a sabbatical will affect your standing with the company in terms of vacation days. At our company the number of PTO (Paid Time Off) days is based on how long you have been employed with the company. It may very well be that the time you are away will not count toward meeting the next level or tier of service where you start to earn more days off per year unless of course you are taking vacation pay the whole time. But you may not care too much since you’ll be taking an awesome adventure anyway. But again, this is something to keep in the back of your mind when you are negotiating your sabbatical with your employer.
Our Next Steps
So what are the next steps for us? First, I’m in the process of drafting a formal presentation to my boss on our intention to take a 1 year sabbatical complete with the benefits this will bring to the company. I won’t go into detail on that now but rest assured that I will be writing about how to go about this in great detail shortly. In short the proposal will outline what I want (1 year unpaid leave of absence), my list of accomplishments and how I have benefited the company, what I would gain from the experience and how that would benefit the company and solutions for how my position and duties would be covered during my absence. After the presentation is complete I will present it to my boss and we’ll see what happens. If all goes well I’ll have a job to come back to in a years’ time.
Do you have experience negotiating a sabbatical with your employer? I’d love to hear how you went about it and what resources you utilized.
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