Everything You Need to Know About Sabbaticals

The daily grind of a work life often feels like a hectic and demanding routine, which is only one reason why the concept of a sabbatical is gaining increasing importance. A sabbatical, often referred to as a gap year, is a longer period of professional leave where employees take a break from their regular work routine. Sabbaticals can have positive effects on one's work-life balance and personal development. More about that and the challenges that may arise below.


Sabbatical - a Definition

During a sabbatical, individuals temporarily step away from active work life and instead engage in other activities, often outside their regular work context. The duration usually ranges from one month to a year.

The goal of a sabbatical is often to respond to physical and mental exhaustion and recharge one's batteries. Employees see it as an opportunity to focus on personal interests and passions. This can include traveling, further education, volunteer work, or other projects - the possibilities are virtually endless.

Sabbaticals: How Employers Can Support

Employers can support sabbaticals in various ways. This can include offering unpaid leave or even establishing special programs through which employees can plan their breaks and smoothly return to work.

Integrating such options into the company culture shows appreciation for employee well-being. The long-term benefits of a balanced work-life ratio and increased job satisfaction are reasons why employers should support sabbatical planning and execution.

Key Information about Sabbaticals

Taking a break from the regular routine to focus on personal goals and needs for a limited period is certainly attractive. Common questions that arise with this topic: How to remain financially secure during this time? How does health insurance coverage work during a sabbatical? And how to plan it effectively?

Financing a Sabbatical

Employees planning a sabbatical naturally may face the challenge of financing. There are different options: You can take a sabbatical as unpaid leave and forego salary during that time. To do this, the employment contract for the sabbatical period needs to be updated or put on hold.

Alternatively, some models involve financial participation from the employer, such as wage reduction through a part-time arrangement. In this case, employees work their contracted 40 hours but receive a salary for a set number of part-time hours. This allows hours to accumulate for use during a sabbatical, with continued payment, including health and pension insurance coverage.

Employees can also accumulate extended periods of overtime and vacation days for a sabbatical. This works similarly to the part-time model, and employees benefit from continued payment, including health and pension insurance coverage. A minimum of six months of company tenure is required for this, and the company must have at least 15 employees.

However, with the latter model, it is crucial to comply with all legal requirements. For example, it must be clear which part of the vacation entitlement can be saved and which part of the overtime can be carried over.

How Are You Insured During a Sabbatical?

This depends on the form of sabbatical as described above. A leave with continued salary includes ongoing social insurance. However, certain points need to be taken care of:

  • There must be a written agreement with the clear intention of a sabbatical, not just flexible working arrangements.
  • The salary during the leave is higher than €450, unless it is marginal employment.
  • The salary corresponds exactly to the unpaid work during the sabbatical period.

The situation differs when it is unpaid special leave. In this case, employees are insured for a maximum of one month. For periods beyond that, employees must independently handle payments for health and social insurance.

Who Can Take a Sabbatical?

Taking a sabbatical is theoretically possible for every employee. However, there is no statutory entitlement to it in Germany. In other words, employers can reject an employee's request for sabbatical leave.

In negotiations between employers and employees, certain factors should be considered: In addition to the duration and corresponding payment, it should be contractually agreed how bonuses are handled during the sabbatical. Gross salary during the sabbatical should range between 70% and 130% of the average salary over the previous twelve months. Furthermore, terms for the employee's return should be defined.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Sabbatical

Of course, like in any decision, there are factors that speak both for and against taking a sabbatical.


  • Enjoy a break to the fullest, as job security and income await your return.
  • Recharge and relax to prevent burnout.
  • Potentially increase your performance after a sabbatical.
  • It can foster employee loyalty for companies.


  • A potential setback in your career, as colleagues may advance during your absence.
  • Saving money as a necessary requirement.
  • Sabbaticals should generally be adhered to once agreed upon. Extending them may not be an option.
  • Reentry can be challenging as things may have changed during your absence.

Sabbatical in the Public Sector

Taking a sabbatical in the public sector is possible, as well. However, the exact regulations differ from state to state and from employer to employer. It's crucial to consider the following factors: Collective agreements or labor agreements often already specify rules regarding duration and compensation. For civil servants and public employees, the regulations can vary depending on their status and official directives.

The maximum duration of a sabbatical may also be limited, depending on the existing regulations. Furthermore, in most cases, it's expected that employees return to the public sector after their sabbatical and seamlessly reintegrate into their positions.


We would like to point out that our website provides non-binding information, which under no circumstances constitutes legal advice. This also, and especially, applies to topics within the sphere of legal HR advise. The content of this contribution cannot and is not intended to replace individual and binding legal advice. For this reason, all information provided is without guarantee of correctness and completeness, but always researched with the utmost care.

HRlab Logo

Flexible All-in-One HR Software For Medium-Sized Companies


© 2024, HRlabImprintPrivacy
Play Store HRlabApp Store HRlab