Are you debating whether to offer sabbatical leave to your team, have you got round to considering if they'd be paid or unpaid?

Don’t feel pressured into choosing one or the other, though. The line between “paid” and “unpaid” can be blurry.

Let’s say that someone on your team wanted to take a six-month sabbatical. The first three months they’re planning to volunteer; the other three they’re traveling around South America to pick-up a new language.

You could offer a partly paid sabbatical, perhaps to cover the first three months volunteering, and the second 3 months travelling would be unpaid.

In this guide, we’ll share the benefits you’ll get from offering paid sabbaticals, and look at the policies of 10 high profile companies who already offer the perk.

The benefits of offering paid sabbaticals

Offering your team sabbaticals opens a range of benefits. They can have extra time to work on a passion project, travel the world, learn a new skill, or recover from burnout.

Why, even Elon Musk took a sabbatical, well, off twitter.

But seriously, offering paid sabbaticals ups the stakes massively. It makes them more inclusive and more likely to be taken up.

By offering paid sabbaticals to your team, you can:

Attract and retain great people

Not many companies offer fully paid sabbaticals. Having one can help you stand out from the crowd—just make sure to list the perk when advertising for new people.

More than ever people are struggling to live their life outside of the standard 9-to-5. That's probably why 35% of people want their employers to offer policies that support a healthy work-life balance. So get it in your job adverts and on your website to attract top talent.

As for your existing team: taking a few months away from their day-to-day routine, and doing something new will help them build new skills and come back refreshed and motivated.

It’s no surprise 25% of the companies on Fortune’s “Best Companies to Work For” list offer paid sabbaticals!

Support your team’s wellbeing

Did you know two thirds of employees experience burnout? Let that sink in, two thirds!

It's a issue finally getting the attention it deserves, and one we're helping tackle with the introduction of The Burnout Board in Timetastic Pro.

Using Timetastic to identify people at risk of burnout

Extended periods off work, like sabbaticals, are a proven way to combat and prevent burnout.

Avoiding burnout is about finding that balance, but sometimes the demands of work build over a long period of time and eventually take their toll. And that's where time off helps - rather than seeing your best employees struggle, let them recover on a paid sabbatical, free from the dramas and stress of work.

I guess the question to ask is, "how much are you willing to pay to keep your best employees in tip top form?"

Have a positive impact through volunteering

The list of things to do on sabbatical is endless. You could take a six-month break to travel the world, learn a language, or take-up skiing.

But what about those who want to take a sabbatical and spend their time volunteering?

Take Patagonia, for example. They offer a two-month paid sabbatical to work with an environmental group of the employees choice. They get their usual pay and employee benefits for doing the paid sabbatical.

It’s a great way to reward or encourage your team to give back, whilst also having a positive impact. Especially if, like Patagonia it aligns with your company values.

Make sabbaticals more inclusive

Let's be honest about sabbaticals, there's a danger they can be a perk for the middle or upper-classes with enough cash in the bank to leave their job for a few months. No doubt at all there's a high propportion of people who simply couldn't afford such a long time off work.

No one should have to deal with financial worries when they’re taking time off. Offering a fully paid (or even partly paid) sabbatical policy makes then benefit  more inclusive.

9 companies that offer paid sabbatical leave

There are a number of employee focused and very successful companies out there that offer paid sabbaticals. Use their ideas as inspiration for your own policy.

1. Buffer

The team at Buffer can take a six week paid sabbatical after five years with the company. If they don’t, their allowance continues to grow the longer they stay at the company.

They say:

“Those on sabbatical are invited to fully disconnect from Buffer and are not required to attend team retreats, onsites, or events (but are always welcome!). Full benefits will continue during their time away.

After 10 years, Buffer team mates have the option of an 11 week sabbatical if they haven’t already taken one—or an additional six week sabbatical if they have previously.

2. Deloitte

We’ve touched on the fact that sabbaticals can be part-paid. Deloitte is a superb example of how to do this.

They offer a three to six month paid sabbatical for volunteering, or to work on personal or professional development. They'll continue to pay at 40% of normal salary too.

Plus, if needs be, their team can take a one month unpaid sabbatical for any reason, nice.

3. PayPal

“Rest and recharge. Taking time off is essential to your personal well-being and professional success.”

That's what PayPal says (and lives up) to in their employee rewards package.

They offer a four week paid sabbatical for every five years of service, alongside a range of volunteering opportunities to help their team give back to their communities.

PayPal even promotes paid sabbaticals as a major job perk for anyone looking to apply for a role there:

“In addition to our Time Off program, we offer four weeks of paid sabbatical for every five years of service, a unique benefit that few tech companies can match. We can’t wait to hear your sabbatical story!”

4. Adobe

Adobe has a generous paid sabbatical program that’s open to those who've worked more than five years.

It starts at four weeks and scales up depending on length of service. Everyone on their team gets full pay and benefits during their sabbatical—a huge reward for their longest-serving team members.

If you want to get a sense of how sabbaticals can drive employee relations and goodwill, then just take a look at the general sentiment of Adobe employees  who tweet about sabbaticals.

5. Intel

Intel also offer a sabbatical scheme where the duration depends on your length or service:

  • An 8-week paid sabbatical every seven years of employment
  • A 4-week sabbatical every four years of employment

Their team gets three years to take the sabbatical leave they’ve earned.

Intel claim they’re named on Glassdoor’s 25 Highest Rated Companies for Vacation & Paid Time Off list because of their paid sabbatical policy.

6. BrewDog

Unsurprisingly their entire brand revolves around dogs. So, they created an on-brand “Dog Years” sabbatical program. You can take a week of fully paid time off to welcome a new dog into their family—because let’s face it, it’s hard to work with a tiny puppy to run around after.

(This perk sits alongside their main sabbatical program, which offers four weeks of paid sabbatical after five years’ service on a project.)

7. Epic

Epic offer an amazing incentive to travel. If you want to use a sabbatical to spend time in a country you’ve never been before, Epic will even help fund the trip for you and a lucky plus-one.

Their team has visited more than 150+ countries because of this perk. Talk about making the most of your time off!

8. Clif Bar

The team at Clif Bar, can take advantage of a multi-week sabbatical every seven years:

“You can travel to far-away places or enjoy a staycation, your choice. Clifsters have chosen to learn the ukulele, go fishing with dad, do community service in Florida, eat pizza in Napoli, and create a backyard wonderland for the kids. Your sabbatical, your dream. Every seven years.”

They also encourage volunteer during company time. They’re contributing to the community and getting paid for it. Talk about a win-win.

9. Vistaprint

Printing company Vistaprint offers a four week paid sabbatical known as a “Vistabreak”. You can take a paid sabbatical after five years of service.

What’s different about this policy is that if colleagues don’t qualify for the five years of service, they can still have the paid sabbatical by referring new colleagues to the company. It’s a genius way to attract more top talent whilst also rewarding your existing team.

Who wouldn’t want to pick their colleagues and get more paid time off for doing it?

10. Timetastic

Yes we do. Who'd have thought eh?!

Once you've got 2 years service under your belt you can take up to 3 months off on full pay. We limit it to once every 5 years.

Are paid sabbaticals right for my team?

Paid sabbaticals give your team a chance to take time off work without worrying about money, they certainly make your job perks more inclusive and in line with some amazing companies.

Think about whether you could afford to pay your team whilst they’re on sabbatical, or if there’s anything you want to reward them for doing (like volunteering or helping you find top talent, for example.)

Even if you’re only offering a paid sabbatical for short periods of time, we’re sure that your team will be appreciative of it!