There comes a time in many employees’ careers when they need to take a break or make a change but don’t necessarily want to move jobs. Whether taking time off is needed to look after children or care for someone else, relieve the pressures of the working environment, try a new role, or go and see more of the world, several options have pros and cons to consider.


Taking an extended break, safe in the knowledge that you have a job to return to, can be an excellent way of broadening your horizons and being able to see the world or tick off a personal goal from your bucket list. New experiences abroad or staying at home and writing the novel you’ve planned for years can aid personal development, boost morale and renew your hunger when you return to work. Furthermore, an employee on a sabbatical will often feel valued that their employer shows that they care and are willing to keep their job open for them. Returning to that same position rejuvenated will often feel like having a new job.

Aside from being unpaid, one downside to a sabbatical is that periods of something so immediately rewarding, such as volunteering work in a poor country, often make people reassess their lives and careers when they get back to normality. For employers, while the reduced turnover of a returning employee is positive, some may not be keen to agree to a sabbatical if they fear losing an employee permanently afterwards.


Secondments are an option for employees who are looking to take on a new challenge but don’t want to leave their company. They are excellent for professional development, are paid, and can lead to more career progression opportunities in the future. For employees who feel like they are in a rut or progressing slowly in their role, a spell away can often return them refreshed, motivated and ready for new challenges in their old role.

However, secondments can sometimes progress staff too far and make them over-qualified to return to their old role. An employee who has learnt new skills or experienced a more interesting department may not want to go ‘backwards’ again, leaving the employer having to replace them if they stay in the secondment permanently. Often, secondments are based abroad; leading to employees starting a new life they may not want to give up. For these reasons, again employers may be hesitant to agree to a secondment.

Career breaks

When an employee has something they need to do or have wanted to do for a long time, a career break can sometimes be the only option if they are not to become unhappy and resentful of their job hindering them. Fulfilling these personal ambitions can be life-changing and can help kick-start a career when they return. A break also allows the employer to fully understand the importance of the individual in question, improving that relationship and possibly honing their role to return to.

The downside of taking a career break is that they are often for a long period of time, giving plenty of opportunity for a complete change in lifestyle, location or ambition that may be difficult to come back from. Aside from maternity breaks, employers don’t usually agree to any extended career breaks that don’t have a return date in mind. 

If you would like advice on these or any other career-defining decisions you might be making, contact us today, we’d be happy to help. 

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