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Survey Report

Sabbatical Survey Benelux: Is sabbatical leave becoming the next must-have in employee benefits?

Future of Work|Health and Benefits|Talent
N/A

July 18, 2019

In a time when attracting and retaining talented employees is becoming increasingly challenging, the need for organisations to focus on delivering a modern benefits package has become a competitive advantage. Sabbatical leave is a highly valued element and increasingly popular, especially among Generation Y. Willis Towers Watson conducted a study to identify best practices from organisations across the Benelux region.

Exploring policy options

One out of three organisations has a formal policy on sabbatical leave in place, whilst 50% of the participants decide this on a case-by-case basis. 13% are considering a formal sabbatical policy as part of their total benefits package in the coming year.

The sabbatical leave is in most cases unpaid, only 9% of organisations stated it was a partially paid period. The organisations that did provide a paid period of sabbatical leave had varying policies; with some paying 20 to 40% of the base salary, whilst others are paying it in full up to a certain period (e.g. 3 weeks).

Combination and duration

75% of participating employers allow employees to combine their sabbatical leave with other types of leave. Most common policy is to combine it with maternity/ paternity leave, holidays and care leave.

Typically, the maximum sabbatical length of time is 6 months median, of which a majority of organisations (77%) do not define a minimum length of time for the sabbatical period. When companies do have a minimum criteria, it typically varies between 4 to 12 weeks.

With regards to the maximum length of the sabbatical period, 77% of the organisations indicated a maximum of 12 months.

Image of a bar showing 75% of participating employers saying yes and 25% saying no to allowing employees to combine sabbatical leave with other types of leave.
Figure 1. Combination with other leave

Other benefits during leave

During the sabbatical many companies continue the pension accrual either on a voluntary (23%) or obligatory basis (23%). Besides pension contributions, there is a mixed view around how to handle other benefits such as a company car and telephone during the leave period.

For example more than one third of companies state that the employee needs to return their vehicle during the sabbatical leave. Another 21% asks the employee to pay for the costs.

From our research we can conclude that a sabbatical leave as part of the total benefits package can be a useful differentiator in a tight labour market providing it is supportive of the organisations’ overall policy. Employees want to be treated like consumers: they seek more choice, flexibility and personalisation in how they work, and how they are rewarded. (Modernising Total Rewards, 2018).

Figure 2. Sabbatical length of time
Maximum sabbatical length
25th Median 75th
3 months 6 months 12 months

Flexible working arrangements are ranked 2nd as the most effective retention tool for digital talent.” (Artificial Intelligence and Digital Talent Survey, EMEA, 2018

Steps to create a successful sabbatical policy

In Figure 3 highlighted steps can be distinguished in order to develop a successful sabbatical policy.

Image showing the steps needed to create a successful sabbatical policy. 1. Offering 2. Eligibility 3. Approval process 4.Benefits 5.Pension 6.Communication
Figure 3. Steps to create a successful sabbatical policy

If you are interested in ordering the full report or discussing this topic in further detail please contact Charonne Min, Account Manager Data Services, or your regular Willis Towers Watson consultant.

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Charonne Min
Account Manager Data Services

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