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What is the difference between a career break and a sabbatical, advice, travel, blog

So you are thinking of taking some time out of work...are you going to be taking a career break or a sabbatical and what is the difference?

More and more people are wanting to take extended leave to travel the world or pursue a passion, by taking a sabbatical or career break. This may be because normal day to day life is more stressful and people are working longer hours and want to take some 'time out' to make their dream a reality. Some people will refer to this time off as a 'career break', while others call it a 'sabbatical' what is the difference between a career break and a sabbatical?

Career breaks and sabbaticals mean that you will be taking an extended period from working, so it is not surprising that people do get them confused.

What does a sabbatical mean?

'Sabbatical' means that you are still employed during your absence from work and will have certain rights as an employee, even though you are off travelling the world. If you are on a sabbatical, there are usually restrictions or conditions that you have to comply with during your time off.

Many employers will not allow you to work for other companies during your time off or volunteer with competitor businesses. If you intend on working while you are travelling you need to ensure to get consent from your employer before your sabbatical break.

You will still have a job to return to when your sabbatical is over but your employer can change your role to meet business needs, so there is an element of risk involved.

If you go on a sabbatical break, you need to ensure that you have a sabbatical agreement in place.

Here is my full guide on taking a sabbatical, which should answer any further questions you have.

Career break meaning?

A career break means that you have handed in your notice in and are not employed during your time off. You are free to work for other companies during your career break as you are not under a contract of employment. The time is yours to spend how you wish.

I took a career break because I wanted the flexibility of coming home when I wanted, rather than having a set date that I had to return to work. I also found that I was able to completely forget about work because I had a fresh start when I got home. I think if I had taken a sabbatical I would have been thinking about my work and clients a lot more during my time off and may have struggled to get out of 'work mode'.

Here is the dictionary definition of sabbatical and career breaks:

Define Sabbatical:

'a period during which an employee can take time away from work to study or travel'

Define Career Break:

' a period of time when you choose not to have a job, for example because you want to travel or take care of your children'.

The Law around career breaks and sabbaticals?

There is no UK law which directly deals with either sabbaticals or career breaks, so the terms of a sabbatical are agreed between you and your employer. I have a separate blog post about the law (or lack of it) surrounding career breaks and sabbaticals which you can read here.

If you want further information on how to approach your employers to ask for a sabbatical, click here.

Even if you are on a sabbatical, it is highly likely that your normal perks will be frozen, such as your pay, pension contributions, company car etc but the difference is that you have some type of job security when you return. You will have to draw up a sabbatical agreement with your employer which discusses what type of security you will have when you return. 

It is as simple as that, if you quit your job and have no job to return to, you are on a career break, if you are going to return to the same job/employer, you are on a sabbatical.

Whether you take a sabbatical or a career break you will have the most amazing time to travel, volunteer, teach, learn a new skill, whatever takes your fancy... the world is your oyster. Have fun! 

Interested in taking some time out? Here are some helpful guides:

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What is the difference between a career break and a sabbatical, advice, travel, blog


If you have taken a career break or sabbatical and have a story to tell, drop me an email at to be a part of the interview series.



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