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Will a Sabbatical Hurt My Career?

Since Professional Sourcing is a recruitment agency, we often get asked about our thoughts on employees taking sabbaticals.

A “sabbatical” is defined as “a year or a shorter period of absence from work which allows for study, rest or travel.” Some career experts consider this to be a productive way to have a “career break,” while others strongly believe that it is a career destroyer.

The first thing to do when considering taking a sabbatical as an employee is to confirm whether your work contract or workplace allows you to take one. It can be done by checking the company policy.

For many employees, there is no automatic right to time off, other than their holiday entitlement. Companies are often very reluctant to give sabbaticals.

Some professionals believe that sabbaticals are advantageous for the following reasons:

  • Improvement of educational qualifications/completion of further studies
  • Ability to travel and experience new things
  • Increase in research
  • Improvement of health due to the additional rest

Research has shown that academics who take sabbaticals report higher satisfaction levels and lower levels of stress.

However, sabbaticals do not always achieve what they are set out to do. “I never believe that taking a sabbatical period adds value to your career, unless if it is for completing studies or taking an extended maternity period,” says Patricia Koekemoer, MD of Professional Sourcing.

Her concern lies in the difficulties with regards to returning to full-time employment. Firstly, the employer or other employees may have a negative impression of the person who is coming back from a sabbatical.

Secondly, with the current economic state of South Africa, Patricia suggests that “it is an additional risk to leave your employment, as positions are not frequently available.” We know this to be true with our very high unemployment rate.

Depending on the company, employees are not always guaranteed to get their position back. The reality is that employees often struggle to get re-employed or get offered a position which offers them much less.

Another factor to consider is the length of time the employee has been at the job. Employers are generally more willing to allow a sabbatical only if the employee has worked at the organisation for a long period.

Sabbaticals offer both advantages and disadvantages, and it is important for an employee to look at his/her situation before making a decision. Professional Sourcing can answer your questions regarding sabbaticals.

We are a top-tier South African-based recruitment agency operating internationally. Our agency specialises in professional placements (senior and specialist talent) and exclusive skills recruitment to a wide range of industries, including JSE’s top 100 companies, SMEs and the Public Sector.

Professional Sourcing has a strong reputation for highly developed recruitment expertise within our specialisation areas. We develop strong long-term relationships with our loyal clients and bluechip employers. Allow us to help you deal with your frustrations of a lengthy hiring process.

Professional Sourcing is a top-tier South African-based recruitment agency operating internationally, IPM accredited, LEVEL 2 BEE RATED and 51% Black Owned.

Our agency specialises in professional placements (senior and specialist talent) and exclusive skills recruitment to a wide range of industries, including JSE’s top 100 companies, SMEs and the Public Sector. -- Patricia Koekemoer

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