What is sabbatical leave?

25/10/2018 by Hicham HMICHE


sabbatical leave

An employee may wish to suspend his employment contract without leaving his position. Sabbatical leave is therefore an alternative to resignation. This is a leave requested for personal reasons, for a period defined in advance and subject to conditions.

Profile of eligible employees

Before submitting a sabbatical leave request, the employee must ensure that he/she meets the eligibility criteria. Three points require careful attention.


An employee wishing to suspend his employment contract must provide proof of a minimum of 36 months' seniority within the company. It may be 36 consecutive or non-consecutive months. A collective agreement or an agreement may set a different length of service. It is therefore the reference to be taken into account before filing the application.

Number of years of work

The employee must have a minimum of 6 years of professional activity. These years of work are consecutive or not and may have been accumulated in different institutions.

The waiting period between two holidays

At the time of the request, the employee must not have enjoyed

A six-year period must be respected between these three types of leave and the date scheduled for sabbatical leave. However, the conditions may be modified by collective agreement.

Duration of leave and employee status

Although we often refer to this as a sabbatical year, this type of leave cannot exceed 11 months. The minimum duration is set at 6 months. From the date of departure, the employee is no longer covered by his or her employment contract. In this sense, he does not receive any remuneration, unless specifically provided for in a collective agreement.

The employee can support himself by using his CET (time savings account). As a reminder, the CET can be powered in many ways. Paid leave and rest hours generated by overtime are among the options to be considered.

It is also possible to engage in other professional activities or to start a business. However, the employee is bound by obligations of loyalty. In other words, any unfair competition against the employer is strictly prohibited.

During his absence, the employee may not accumulate either paid leave or seniority.

Request procedure

The employee must inform his employer of his willingness to take sabbatical leave at least three months before the planned departure. The letter must be given to the employer by any means necessary. It is customary to send a registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt. Hand-delivery is also possible, with a discharge as proof that the employer has received the request.

The request must include the specific dates he or she plans to leave and return to work. However, there is no obligation to justify the approach.

The employer's response

The employer has 30 days from the receipt of the request to reply. After this period, the employee may legally consider his sabbatical leave as granted. Three types of answers are possible:

The agreement

If the request is accepted, the employer informs the employee of his agreement, ensuring that the date of the reply is justifiable. The agreement covers both the principle of leave and the dates chosen by the employee who requests it.

The report

This is not a categorical refusal but a compromise. In this particular case, it is the date of departure envisaged by the employee that is not suitable for the employer and not the suspension of the contract. The justification for a postponement is not mandatory. However, it is important to know the reasons for this decision. For example, the employer wants to limit simultaneous absences within his company. These absences may be caused by several requests for sabbatical leave or leave for the creation/resumption of a company. The deferral is generally set at 6 months but can be up to 9 months, depending on the number of employees in the company.

The report notification must be sent to the employee by any means necessary to verify the date on which it is issued.


In the event of rejection of the request, the employer is obliged to justify its decision. There are generally two main reasons for refusal

The employer shall inform the employee of its decision in writing, ensuring that the response date is justifiable.

The employee has 15 days after the notification of refusal to contest before the labour tribunal.

Resumption of duty at the end of the leave

At the end of the period agreed with the employer, the employee automatically returns to his or her position. Failing this, the employer shall offer him an equivalent position, with a salary at least equal to the remuneration received before the leave is taken. In the event that the employee refuses several equivalent positions offered by his employer, this refusal constitutes a valid reason for dismissal.

The employee has no right to demand an early return to his or her position. If the sabbatical leave has not expired, the employer must provide its express consent for the employee to be re-employed.

A professional interview may take place before resuming work. It is then motivated by career development prospects and not by the need to assess the employee's skills for the position he already held before suspension of his contract.

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