If you're an employee who wants a sabbatical, you might want to know what the law is surrounding career breaks or sabbaticals.

What is the law on career breaks?

Currently, there isn't one. Your company doesn't have to offer staff a career break or sabbatical if they don't want to.

What about a career break or sabbatical policy?

Many companies have an official career break policy, and this will be in the HR handbook. Even without a career break policy, your company can still give you a sabbatical.

Can anyone have a career break if there's a policy?

Many organisations offer career breaks to employees who've worked there for a minimum period of time - this is standard practice.

Career breaks should always be given equally and fairly - if they're left to a manager's discretion, and you don't get one, you might be able to bring a case for discrimination against your employer.

Do I need a career break agreement even if there's a policy?

Yes. When you go on a sabbatical, whether or not there's an existing career break policy, you must get the terms in writing.

What should be in my career break agreement?

Employment contracts and any similar contracts (like the career break agreement) are still governed by law, which means your employer can't impose any 'unreasonable' conditions. It also means that you are bound by the contract, so, for example, you may not have any right to return to work early.

You will also need to protect yourself from unexpected developments. For example, what if you are made redundant while on sabbatical? What if you want to extend or curtail your career break? What if you don't want to come back? What if your job no longer exists and you're offered a different one? All these things must be considered before you take your sabbatical.

What does the law say about my employment while I'm on a career break?

Be aware that while you are on sabbatical, you are still legally employed by the company, even if you're not being paid. That means they can state when you can go and return, what you can and can't do on a career break (eg other paid work), and can make you redundant.

If you're ready for your sabbatical, have a look at career breaks here. If you're an employer, visit our employers' section for more ways we can help you.