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March 05, 2002
Sabbaticals Tougher to Come By
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baticals, never one of the most popular benefits, are getting even rarer these days, with the companies that do offer them cutting back, according to the Reuters news agency.

The number of unpaid sabbaticals plunged between 1996 and 2001, from 27 percent to 14 percent. The number of paid sabbaticals, which very few employees ever get to begin with, dropped from 6 percent to 5 percent.

"An employer can offer a sabbatical as a way for you to refresh your batteries and come back and be recharged and be a functioning employee," said Kristin Bowl of the Society For Human Resource Management, which gathered the data.

According to Industry Week magazine, companies with sabbatical policies include Charles Schwab, Du Pont, L.L. Bean, Xerox Corp., McDonald's, Nike and 3Com.
At Xerox, hundreds of employees have received a full year of paid leave to participate in volunteer activities they deem important.

In the current economic slowdown, some cash-strapped outfits may think there's no better time than the present to offer a sabbatical. Recalling an employee from extended leave when sales improve beats the high cost of firing employees today and recruiting new ones tomorrow.

Firms with seasonal cycles such as greeting card makers, often urge employees to take an extended leave without pay during slow times, according to Helen Axel, a human resources expert in Lebanon, New Jersey.

When a company offers an employee a sabbatical, said John Izzo, president of Izzo Consulting of Vancouver, British Columbia, it is telling employees, "We understand there are things other than work in your life that are important to you."

Many businesses that do not have a formal sabbatical policy for fear it will be abused, will negotiate with a valued employee on "a case-by-case basis" said Izzo, the author of "Values Shift," which identifies emerging worker expectations. "Younger employees now rate time off as a more important work place benefit than promotions," Izzo said.

The way to go about getting the time off, Izzo said, is to approach your boss and say, "'There's something important I want to do for four or five months and would the company consider it a sabbatical?'"

The way not to go about it is to say, "'If you don't give me this sabbatical I'm going to leave anyway."' After all, "The reason a company will give you a sabbatical is because they want you to stay," Izzo pointed out.

The positive approach he favors is: "I really love this company but I want to spend some time with my kids, (or take a course, etc.). I value my relationship with you and I'd like to find a way to do that and stay here."

When making this request, "The key is to come with solutions of how to help the company get your work done while you're gone," Izzo said. One salesman told his boss, "'I'll take my pager with me and be on call"' and it worked.
As Izzo pointed out, "The last thing a manager wants is a problem. It's your job as an employee to say, 'I've been thinking about some ways to solve the problems my taking a sabbatical will create.'"

To read the Reuters article, via USA Today, click here.

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