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Risk of staff resentment grows as sabbaticals increase - New comments from Caroline Walker in The Financial Times

The Covid-19 pandemic upturned established ways of working, proving that even large multinational corporations can function reasonably well with staff working from kitchen tables and spare bedrooms.

As the shift to more flexible working becomes permanent, the work sabbatical, once exclusively available to senior executives with many years of experience at a company, is becoming more common.

“There has been an increase in the use of sabbaticals due to the post-pandemic shift towards flexible working and employees striving to have a better work/life balance,” says Caroline Walker, Managing Director of Cavendish Employment Law.

UK challenger bank Monzo announced earlier this month that it will allow all employees to take three-month paid sabbaticals for every four years worked, having previously only allowed staff to take up to one month of unpaid leave every year.

The change was the result of demands by staff for more flexible working arrangements following the pandemic.

Ms Walker says asset managers have also been widening the threshold for staff to take a sabbatical.

“Sabbaticals have historically only been available for senior employees, but in recent times there has been an increase in firms offering career break sabbaticals to enable valued employees to take time away from work,” she says.

However, companies are likely to encounter a number of challenges as the number of sabbaticals increases.

Ms Walker adds that firms “should have a fair and transparent policy that sets out the conditions they will consider for any sabbatical application”, including “specifying that, subject to all other conditions being met, the applications will be given priority in the order that they were received”, in case more than one request is received in the same department.

She says: “There is a potential risk of resentment if some employees are granted a sabbatical whilst others are required to continue working to support the business.

“It is also important for the firm to ensure that the workload is adequately covered in the absence of any employees on sabbatical, to ensure those remaining in the business are not overworked or subjected to additional stress covering additional work.”

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