My current position is, unfortunately, not a good match for my skills and previous experience. Seeing everything in the retrospective, it seems that this position is quite a few steps back for my career. (and the original description of the job opening is quite different from the actual job). It's possible to change the team, but at the current moment it's difficult due to the hiring freeze. So, I'm currently considering two options - just leave, or take some unpaid vacation time and see if anything changes to the better in this company, and if there are any more suitable positions, and brush up my skills as I didn't have much practice in this position. The question is, how much time I can realistically ask for?

  • 2
    What's wrong with the more usual option - keep working while you look for a better position? Aug 28, 2023 at 2:16
  • @DJClayworth to be honest, I'm not interested much in another corporate drone position. I'd better work on my own projects and look for investors.
    – user_ok
    Aug 28, 2023 at 2:34
  • 1
    How long have you been at this employer? A ten year veteran of the company is gonna be able to ask to take unpaid leave for longer periods of time then someone who started a month ago. Also, it'd prob depend on the rationale you presented for wanting to take unpaid leave. Not that I'm necessarily proposing you lie but you might get more leeway if you clamed that you were gonna be going on a whirlwind trip around the world then you would with the reasons you presented in your original question.
    – neubert
    Aug 28, 2023 at 2:38
  • 1
    I'd better work on my own projects and look for investors. Isnt that all the more reason to keep working to pay your bills until you find an investor ? Aug 28, 2023 at 2:45
  • @neubert 2 years.
    – user_ok
    Aug 28, 2023 at 2:53

4 Answers 4


So, the answer very much depends on your Location and your industry.

Hypothetically when it comes to Unpaid leave, there is no limit. Afterall, it's not being paid for. I know in NZ that there are some rules relating to how taking more than 1 week's worth of Unpaid Leave impacts things like Annual Leave and Sick leave accrual - but in terms of an actual limit? There is none per se.

In some industries, it is common for individuals to undergo a Sabbatical or equivalent long(ish) periods of unpaid leave. In NZ, for example Teachers can take a Sabbatical of up to 10 weeks (I think). There's an old Formula 1 joke that Mika Hakkinen (two-time F1 World Champion) is going to return to the sport from his Sabbatical (he took one, never officially retired, even though we all know he has retired).

In other industries, this is far less common - especially industries that have rapidly perishable skills/experience/knowledge.

The question ultimately is one between you and your employer. If they have sufficient head-count, they might be happy with a 3, 6 or even 12 month period of Leave without Pay - but if they aren't, they either might not want that amount of time or they might want some more definitive start/end dates.

As a side note - what is the advantage, for you, between quitting your current job and doing whatever it is that you want during your Unpaid Leave time and keeping your job and doing whatever it is that you want during your unpaid leave time?

If your position is quite niche or positions rarely come up, I could understand that - but such positions are unlikely to have employers that are ok with long periods of absence.

If your position is one where you expect to have options and you have sufficient funds built up - just quit your job and then when you've had enough, apply for another one.

  • wrt possible benefits, I'm mostly interested in finding a more suitable team in the same company. But right now it's quite difficult due to the hiring freeze. And I want to brush up my skills while doing so, as I didn't have much practice in this position. It's not a niche position, but discrimination at the interviews is a severe problem for people like me.
    – user_ok
    Aug 28, 2023 at 3:06

but at the current moment it's difficult due to the hiring freeze

This is an imaginary stumbling block. In my experience if you're valued highly enough you can just disregard anything like this. If you can't then you know your perceived value is not very high and asking for anything out of the ordinary is unlikely to be successful in the long run.

Personally I would just ask to change teams, if it didn't happen in my timeframes I'd be job hunting.

  • How can you be highly valued when you're working in a position quite remote from your previous experience?
    – user_ok
    Aug 28, 2023 at 3:37
  • 2
    You're not........
    – Kilisi
    Aug 28, 2023 at 3:38
  • Vague comments aren't really helpful.
    – user_ok
    Aug 28, 2023 at 4:08
  • @user_ok - How is that comment vague? You asked how you can be highly value when you're working a position "quite remote" from your previous experience, the answer to that question of course, you can't be highly valued until your experience exceeds their expectations.
    – Donald
    Aug 28, 2023 at 17:27
  • @Donald that's what I though first, but it simply doesn't make any sense. You can't realistically expect to outcompete people who specialized in this particular field and worked in this company for more time than you did.
    – user_ok
    Aug 28, 2023 at 17:30


Unpaid leave are not arbitrary vacation times. They are approved on a case-by-case basis and is entirely up to the employer to approve. There are no standards to unpaid leave because it is entirely up to the discretion of the employer.

I wouldn't expect unpaid leave to be approved for a vacation.

  • No, I don't have poor working relationships. I just don't like this work. You really should stop pulling your conclusions out of thin air
    – user_ok
    Aug 28, 2023 at 2:29
  • The question wasn’t “how much unpaid leave can I expect” but “how much unpaid leave can I ask for”. OP isn’t Oliver asking for more food.
    – gnasher729
    Aug 28, 2023 at 8:17

There are two things you need to understand before you ask for leave without pay (LWOP):

  • the local employment laws
  • the company policies

Those will determine what might happen.

In some places you can be granted a small amount LWOP by a local supervisor. But the more leave you need the more explanation you may have to provide, and the higher in the company structure that needs to come from. The law may require them to grant you LWOP when it is need for a family emergency, or military leave. The law may require them to protect your job for x weeks, or months. The law may define the benefits they will still provide, or have to allow you to purchase. It may also direct how existing leave is handled. The law may even define different requirements based on the size of the company.

Once you have fully researched the applicable laws and company policies, you can know what you can reasonably ask for with your company.

From the companies point of view they are concerned that while you are on LWOP status they can't hire your replacement, and they will have to provide you with benefits; yet at the end of the period they might still lose you.

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