10 Unexpected Companies That Let You Take Sabbatical Leave

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While the concept isn’t new, we’ve generally considered the paid sabbatical leave a privilege for a select few professions. You may never have even thought to look for the option in your benefits package.

But why not?

As U.S. companies make inroads for working parents with paid parental leave, optional sabbaticals take work-life balance into consideration for all employees — regardless of whether they’ve just become parents.

Extended leave for professionals who don’t have children probably is not the intention behind this unique benefit, but those of us in that category certainly appreciate its growing popularity.

What Is Sabbatical Leave?

A sabbatical program is a special kind of paid time off, separate from accumulated vacation time, personal days, parental/family leave or sick leave. You usually have to take an extended period at once — from a few weeks to a few months — away from your normal job duties and it takes much longer to earn than regular vacation days.

Employee sabbaticals have been common for a long time, particularly among academics. But the practice is now making its way into company benefits packages, from retail stores to tech startups to international manufacturing corporations.

We found hundreds of companies offering a sabbatical policy, but a few really surprised us!

Retail and Food Companies Offering Sabbatical Leave

Who’d expect working as a cashier could earn you a paid extended leave from work? It turns out, with the right company, it can.

In some cases, loyalty to a company can earn all employees a sabbatical, even a part-time retail clerk.

In others, the benefit is only available to management or corporate employees. If you’re not quite there yet, consider starting in the store and working your way up the ladder.

Check out these 10 surprising companies offering sabbaticals.

1. Patagonia

Through its Environmental Internship Program, the outdoor clothing company allows employees “from all parts of the company” up to two months paid time away from work. However, employees must spend this time working for an environmental group of their choice.

You can find open retail and corporate positions around the country at Patagonia’s jobs page.

2. The Cheesecake Factory

Qualifying employees can take a three-week sabbatical after five years with the restaurant chain.

Most qualifying positions are located at the company’s Calabasas, California, headquarters. But you can also apply to be an hourly staff member and qualify for paid time off and other employee benefits.

3. McDonald’s

McDonald’s corporate employees can take an eight-week paid sabbatical for every 10 years of full-time continuous employment with the fast-food giant.

Benefits for restaurant manager and crew member positions vary, since most locations are operated by franchisees. Learn more about specific benefits by searching open corporate positions and restaurant opportunities.

4. QuikTrip

This Southern convenience store chain offers paid sabbaticals for both full- and part-time employees, according to their benefits page.

Apply for a position in your area. Hourly rates are dependent on where you live, but start around $13 per hour for store clerks, according to Indeed.

5. REI

Employees can earn a four-week paid sabbatical after 15 years of working for the outdoor retailer and every five years after that.

Search REI.jobs for openings around the country. Even cashiers are eligible for benefits and paid time off!

6. The Container Store

This retail chain/Type-A heaven offers full-time employees a paid sabbatical after 10 years of work.

Browse open positions across the U.S. The company offers medical, dental, and vision plans to all full-time and part-time employees, as well as paid time off, and 401(k) plans with company match and no vesting.

7. Timberland

As part of a flexible work environment, the footwear company offers employees opportunities for paid community service or a service sabbatical. Employees can take up to 40 hours of paid time off for their volunteer efforts.

Browse open retail and corporate positions around the country at the company’s careers page.

8. Purina

Love animals and want to be a part of one of the country’s leading pet food brands? Then you might just consider working for Purina (a Nestlé company) which offers eligible employees sabbaticals after each 10-year employment milestone.

Besides sabbaticals, the company has a whole slew of other benefits that make its work-life balance pretty sweet. Head to the Purina job search page to browse open positions.

9. Nike

The powerhouse shoe brand actually has some pretty sweet deals for its employees, including 100 hours of paid time off after 10 years of employment, plus additional hours every five years thereafter, according to a recent Glassdoor review.

The company also offers various retirement and health packages as well as opportunities for discounted fitness plans and continuing your education. Learn more and apply on the Nike’s benefits page.

10. Whole Foods

That’s right, the natural grocery giant does in fact offer sabbaticals for their employees, even the ones working in their stores. The company has over 500 locations across the U.S., Canada and even the UK and all employees are eligible for a myriad of employee benefits — including unpaid sabbatical leave.

While the exact amount of time away you can take will depend on the number of service hours you’ve worked (i.e., how long you’ve been an employee), it’s not unheard of for long-standing employees to take two months off. Keep in mind that most sabbaticals won’t be available to employees until they’ve worked at the company for a few years and have earned enough “service hours” to cash in on that benefit. You can browse open positions for Whole Foods to find a store near you that’s hiring.

What Do You Do During Sabbatical Leave?

For some companies, like Patagonia, sabbaticals are conditional. You’ll be required to do volunteer work or something else that fits the company’s mission if you want paid time off from your day job.

But in many cases, you’re free to use your time off as you please.

Companies offer the option as a way for you to recharge, explore and learn something new. In short, a sabbatical is an opportunity for you to become a better person — and a better employee.

This might mean completing a work-related training program, launching a side hustle, taking an extended trip abroad or even writing a book. The bottom line is this: Taking a sabbatical can be pretty much anything you want it to be.

Looking for more great companies fostering healthy work-life balance? Here are a few more to consider.

Contributor Larissa Runkle frequently writes on finance, real estate, and lifestyle topics for The Penny Hoarder. Dana Sitar and senior writer Robert Bruce also contributed.