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A colleague asked her manager for unpaid vacation for 6 months due to personal reasons (moving to another city/country). The manager and HR by extensions refused this although they allowed many colleagues to take a sabbatical or extended unpaid leave. I feel that this is not fair as it produces some discrimination between people. What should be an appropriate way for her to proceed? In the Labour Agreement there is a non-discrimination clause.

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    Why do you believe that it is discriminatory? Did she tell them she is moving to another city and will this move affect her ability to work with this company? More details are needed. – Steve-o169 Aug 1 at 18:50
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    Are there specific examples of sabbaticals/leave 6 months or longer? Are the circumstances of those examples similar or different to your colleague's request? Were those people non-essential for that period of time? – mcknz Aug 1 at 18:52
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    Country? And when did she tell them, was it 2 days before she is leaving? What is the notice period in your company for long unpaid vacations? – Sandra K Aug 1 at 18:56
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    @mcknz: Yes, there are several well known cases. The circumstances are similar but not identical - one asked for 6 months leave while he worked as a freelancer and nobody seemed to be bothered. – Hermann Aug 1 at 19:00
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    2 weeks notice for a half year absence sounds too much like her starting a new job while keeping the old job at a backburner to me. No wonder they refused it – Victor S Aug 1 at 19:06
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Sabbaticals are usually granted based on seniority and length of tenure. Companies have an interest in having lower level positions with relatively shorter term employees constantly filled instead of having a dubious 6 month absence whereas for more senior positions, granting such absences is worth retaining the employee since their domain knowledge is crucial to the functioning of the company.

So if a line software developer whose job market has a norm of 2-3 year turnovers wants a sabbatical, that is unlikely to be granted. Whereas if a senior director with 20 years of tenure wants half a year off to tour the world, no problem, they are not going anywhere and the company would be fine with them retained long term in exchange for a short term absence.

  • It's not happening so high in the hierarchy. She's a designer with 5 years experience in the company. – Hermann Aug 1 at 19:08
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    @Hermann: You might want to add that, as well as other details, to the original post so people have a better understanding of the situation. – GreenMatt Aug 1 at 19:14
  • Indeed, circumstances absolutely must be considered when comparing the privileges of employees. – matthewninja Aug 1 at 19:28
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Your friend should:

  1. Document the cases she knows of people who have had extended unpaid leave and what she knows of the circumstances around it. Having details written down helps make sure she is able to adequately make her case.
  2. Consult a lawyer with knowledge of the local laws and whether or not the company is legally required to handle her request similarly to how others have been handled. A lawyer can advise her as to whether or not she has a case and how best to proceed.
  3. Look into government agencies that regulate businesses, if any. Some governments offer agencies that help people handle discrimination and unfair labor practices. It may still be best to have legal representation to navigate this situation, but sometimes government agencies exist to help.
  4. If there is any reason to believe it could be productive, request an appeal if such a thing exists at this company. Sometimes appealing gets things evaluated by other people and can help you get what you want.
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What should be an appropriate way for her to proceed?

Accept that HR has denied her request and move on. Attempting to fight the company's decision or complain about it whether through legal or non-legal means is not likely to end well for your coworker. If she values her job, she will leave it be or start looking for a new company to work for that has a more transparent and unambiguous approach to granting unpaid leave.

The fact that other employees have had their requests granted means little considering that there are numerous factors to be taken into consideration when granting or denying such a request such as:

  • position
  • length of request
  • years worked
  • experience
  • coverage
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One thing to consider, is the workload planned for the period your co-worker has requested to be granted time off. If the work load is of such a nature that they would be unable to cope without her and the company doesn't approve of remote work, it would imply that they would need to hire a temporary replacement to cover for her for this period. This will cost the company time and money and will also most likely be somewhat disruptive.

Since the company has already declined the request, it would be best to just leave it at that. Pushing the matter is unlikely to end well for your co-worker.

Alternatively, your co-worker could resign and do whatever was planned anyway. She would of course have to find a new job when all is said and done. Whether finding a new job is something that is easy or hard in her specific field of expertise should give you an idea of how viable this option is.

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