Is it possible to take leave without pay from my current employer to start a new job?

The reason for the request is to try things out with the new employer, if the new environment is not as positive as the current environment for the current employer. My current employer is well aware of the offer I have received from the new employer, and I am a good employee with my current employer who does not want me to leave my position nevertheless, the offer I received was better.

I can start the new job and assess the environment there for 3 months, if I like it then I would send the first employer a 2 week notice before the 3 months are over. all I am trying to do is to get the reinstatement after 3 months if I do not find any positive signs in the new environment.

Please advise me.

  • I can start the new job and assess the environment there for 3 months, if I like it then I would send the first employer a 2 week notice before the 3 months are over. all I am trying to do is to get the reinstatement after 3 months if I do not find any positive signs in the new environment.
    – Amna
    May 18, 2015 at 15:12
  • Restating what is in the question is a comment does not add clarity. A lot of stuff is possible. I just don't think your current employer is going to hold your job for you for 3 months - that is asking for a lot.
    – paparazzo
    May 18, 2015 at 16:23
  • Leave without pay is asking for a lot?
    – Amna
    May 18, 2015 at 16:31
  • 18
    Only your employer can tell you whether they'll hold the job for you. Be prepared for possible responses ranging from laughter to "that's rather presumptuous of you" to "here, I'll help you decide: you're fired."
    – keshlam
    May 18, 2015 at 16:33
  • 14
    "Leave without pay is asking for a lot?" Yes it is. They have to cope without your services, but can't bring on somebody to replace you, or really even begin the search for a candidate, at least not if they're serious about holding your job for you. It's the mirror image of a company telling employees: "We're going to lay you off for a month, but we may hire you back, so please don't look for another job." May 18, 2015 at 17:50

6 Answers 6


As Loofer has answered, you can ask, but I'd be pretty amazed if any employer would say "yes" to a request like this. As far as I can see, it's a lose-lose situation for the employer: they've got to back fill your role for three months, which is going to cost time and money, and what happens after that:

  • You decide to leave. The employer's gained nothing.
  • You decide to come back - but are you really going to have stopped looking for a new role? You're going to be leaving in a while anyway when you do find a role that you like.

Basically, you're asking your current employer to take a risk for you - if you want to make that happen, you've got to be offering something really exceptional.

  • Yes, my current employer considers my role to be critical, and my attitude and work ethics to be outstanding. I know I would be asking for my first employer to take the risk on my behalf, but it would not hurt to ask.
    – Amna
    May 18, 2015 at 15:30
  • 2
    Just remember in that case they've already started hiring your replacement. May 18, 2015 at 15:32
  • 2
    Philip,My current employer has asked me to stay and not to resign. However, the new job offer seems like a dream to me but I am worried and scared of changing the environment . I like my current job, coworkers, boss, and never looked for a new position. I was recruited for the new opportunity while I was not looking. I am in the U.S.
    – Amna
    May 18, 2015 at 15:45

It is quite normal to be worried that a change in job might not work out as it seems. There is a risk that your decision is not the best one. Also, there is another risk that staying in your current position is not the best choice for you.

It is not normal to expect your current employer to cover those risks for you. I have not heard of any employer arranging such a thing. The closest arrangement commonly seen is a sabbatical, but that usually comes with an expectation that you will probably return, not an open-ended maybe.

However, at least one close friend of mine left a long-term job and made a change of jobs which they later regretted. They handed in notice and left. It didn't work out. They contacted their old employer and got their old job back, and are happy again. I have also been contacted by a previous employer that I left enquiring whether I would be interested in re-joining (they were a good employer to me, but I was also happy where I am now, so did not take up the offer). This can happen. Asking your current employer to somehow guarantee this scenario is not really possible, but if and when you hand in your notice, you can make it clear that:

  • You are not unhappy with your current job.

  • You have a new fantastic opportunity that you feel you should pursue.

  • You would be happy to work for your current employer again in future.

Leave it at that. What happens next will depend on too many factors to predict.

  • 2
    This may be the most helpful answer possible. Well said.
    – keshlam
    May 18, 2015 at 19:41
  • 1
    I also know someone who left a job, and was back 2-3 weeks later when the new one didn't work out. The key requirement is that the old employer didn't manage to fill the position before asking for it back, though. Once they do, you're out of luck.
    – Bobson
    May 18, 2015 at 19:54
  • 2
    Hi Neil, I agree with you. And I have already turned in my two-week notice so case is closed with the old employer, and looking forward to this exciting new opportunity.
    – Amna
    May 18, 2015 at 21:10
  • @Amna If this answer helped answer your question, consider marking the answer as "accepted", that is if it's possible. I notice the Q is marked as off-topic now.
    – Brandin
    May 19, 2015 at 7:56

I don't know what part of the world you're in as you do not say, so can only offer guidance based on my knowledge of UK employment law. As it stands I highly doubt this would be accepted by your employer, unless you're a genius in your field! However, I think what you're after is known as a Sabbatical

What is a sabbatical?

A sabbatical is a more formal system. A ‘sabbatical policy’ may exist within a company, whereby employees are able to take an agreed amount of time off. The usual job ‘perks’, such as being paid and your pension contributions, may be suspended for the duration of the sabbatical period. However, employees have the security of returning to their job. The period of time allowed depends on the company and may only be accessible to employees at a certain level in the organisation such as senior managers or full-time staff. This is the option for those who may be planning to return to the same job or field of work. It can be a useful way to take time out from your job to reassess where your career is heading and how you would like it to progress when you return. Read more: http://www.careershifters.org/expert-advice/career-break-or-sabbatical-how-to-decide-what-is-right-for-you#ixzz3aVIjgvCJ

You should note that some employers may not have any such system in place, and even if they did... Whether or not it could be used to then work for another company is highly debatable.

In the UK most companies/employers have a claus in their employee contracts which denotes a Conflict of Interest - Which basically means, you can't work for any other company who may be in the same line of business or a competitor, in your line of work. This is mainly so you don't / won't take customers/contacts etc etc. You may of course argue that "I would never do such a thing!" But that's hardly legally binding.

On the flip-side of this, you can but ask. If you're set for a change, then the most they can say is "No", at which point you may want to weigh up your options. It's always quite worrying leaving employment for something else, but you may have no choice but to just risk it. Your situation is very much a case of you wanting best of both worlds, which isn't always possible.

Food for thought: The grass may be greener on the other side, but it'll be just as hard to mow.

  • I am in the US.
    – Amna
    May 18, 2015 at 15:34
  • 2
    Taking a sabbatical means you are going to return to the original job. In this case, the OP wants their old job to be kept open in case they don't like the new job, but they want to be free to stay in the new job if it works out.
    – GreenMatt
    May 18, 2015 at 18:43
  • 1
    Agreed, but seeing as there isn't such a 'thing' available to any employee, that I'm aware of, this was the nearest similar scenario that I could think of. May 18, 2015 at 19:48

Generally a leave of absence or sabbatical is granted when you will be performing a task that isn't a conflict of interest. They generally fall into one of several categories:

  • Medical
  • school
  • military
  • religious (to go on a mission)
  • specialized training

during that time you may or may not be earning money from another source. What benefits you will have access to and how they will be paid for are a part of the approval process. The maximum time that they will protect your actual position, or promise to give you an equivalent position may be governed by laws, but even if it is not directly addressed by relevant laws the agreement would specify these promises and time frames.

I have never seen a situation where an employee was allowed to save a spot with one company while working for a new company.

Some companies do allow an employee to return and not lose seniority. This works by allowing a former employee to return within no more than 12 or 24 months. When you return to a new position you earn vacation at the same level you were earning it. You are vested in the retirement plan at the same level. They don't promise you a position, but it does help you if you comeback to the same company. Once you go past that window they treat you as a new employee.

Check the HR documents to see if they have a plan like this in place.


You need to consider both points of view. As others already mentioned that the employer will have an "empty" seat for your position. This isn't a big deal if you work for a large company and there are several people that perform your job function. However if you work for a small company and you are the ONLY person that can do the task then you may want to make arrangements to "take work home" while you're testing the water with your new company. You could probably ask for "No Pay" or "Reduced Pay". But keep in mind that there could be a possible conflict of interest and you may want to speak to a lawyer. As you're probably aware, people have been sued for the theft of intellectual property (or revealing trade secrets to a competing organization)

So to summarize the arguments

If you leave and DO NOT RETURN

  1. You take off work with No Pay from a large company for 3 months then give your two week notice. HR will review your resignation and will find out (from talking to you or your coworkers) that you worked a double job for a brief period of time then they take legal action against you for stealing/sharing trade secrets.

  2. You take off work with No Pay from a small/midsize company for 3 months then give your two week notice. Owners try to determine why you left. If they lost business, they will want to find a scapegoat and may sue you for theft of trade secret or sharing of intellectual property.

If you leave and RETURN

  1. Employer may find out that they didn't need you and lay you off (or your boss will give you a hard time and find a reason to fire you)

  2. You will be out of sync from whats going on. Your coworkers may not be happy you returned since they had to bare your burden. You may feel the environment changed and wished you stayed with your new company.

I've personally been sued by my previous employer for "Sharing Intellectual Property" with another company when that was not the case. I had to spend thousands of dollars on litigation before my old employer stopped.

My new employer was also part of the litigation and they did not appreciate this so I was "let go" and I had to find new employment.

  • This is hyperbolic.
    – Asher
    Jan 3, 2022 at 8:24

There is not going to be anything legal you can do to demand this. Asking them is the only course...

There maybe things in your contract about only working for them whilst the contract is in power so you would need permission.

If you do like the new position how would that work? do you have to give a months notice at your current place? so you would have to go back to them for a month after a week or so at the new place?

It seems a very unlikely thing to be allowed to do, and certainly very unusual. Normally you just have to take the risk that the grass is greener over the fence.

  • I can start the new job and assess the environment there for 3 months, if I like it then I would send the first employer a 2 week notice before the 3 months are over. all I am trying to do is to get the reinstatement after 3 months if I do not find any positive signs in the new environment.
    – Amna
    May 18, 2015 at 15:12
  • 2
    Pick one job. Work one job. Decide whether the risk is worth the reward; if it is, change jobs and if it isn't don't.
    – keshlam
    May 18, 2015 at 18:34

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