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HR Policy
To Be Categorised
Associate Medical Director's Directorate Manager
Medical Appraisal and Revalidation Group
Medical Director/ BMA LNC Chair
04 April 2014
01 August 2018
01 August 2021

General Note

NHS Fife acknowledges and agrees with the importance of regular and timely review of policy/procedure statements and aims to review policies within the timescales set out.

New policies/procedures will be subject to a review date of no more than 1 year from the date of first issue.

Reviewed policies/procedures will have a review date set that is relevant to the content (advised by the author) but will be no longer than 3 years.

If a policy/procedure is past its review date then the content will remain extant until such time as the policy/procedure review is complete and the new version published, or there are national policy or legislative changes.


1.1 NHS Fife recognises that Sabbaticals can be a benefit both for the individual and the service. This policy identifies local guidelines for Consultants and Medical Management following national guidance on Consultant Sabbatical Leave, as outlined in the consultant terms and conditions (Paragraphs 7.4.1 and 7.4.10). Sabbatical Leave will only be granted where it can be demonstrated that the Consultant proposes to use the leave in furtherance of a project that is in the interests of the NHS. This policy is separate from the NHS Fife Career Break Policy and applicants are not eligible to receive the combined benefits of both policies at the same time.


2.1 The term “Sabbatical Leave” defines a form of paid or unpaid leave, to undertake research or other appropriate study where the Consultant proposes to use the leave in furtherance of a project that relates to the academic / professional clinical or leadership development of the Consultant, which will benefit NHS Fife and the department / service. It is distinguished from special leave or career breaks, in that it may be funded.


3.1 The responsibility for the application of this policy rests with Associate / Medical / Clinical Directors, Line Managers and HR staff within NHS Fife.


4.1 A Consultant will be eligible to apply for Sabbatical Leave of:

  • Up to 6 weeks, after 7 years (cumulative) service in the Consultant Grade
  • Up to 3 months, after 10 years (cumulative) service in the Consultant Grade

If either of these options is granted with pay, no further period of paid Sabbatical Leave will be granted until retirement.

The terms and conditions of service also allow for a period of Sabbatical Leave to be granted without pay in circumstances other than those set out above. The period of six weeks or three months may be extended by a further unpaid period at the discretion of NHS Fife. Any such extension will be considered on the same terms as the original sabbatical leave agreement.

4.2 In exceptional circumstances Sabbatical Leave may be extended without pay at the discretion of the Clinical Director / Service Manager and with the approval of the Medical Director / Director of Public Health. This extension would not normally exceed 1 month. When making the request, the Consultant should demonstrate how paragraph 2.1 continues to apply.

4.3 Where a period of unpaid Sabbatical Leave has been granted, NHS Fife has the discretion to grant additional periods of Sabbatical Leave, dependent on the circumstances. This would be considered at intervals of no less than seven years after the first period, and would follow the parameters above.

4.5 All employment rights will be preserved during periods of Sabbatical Leave. Extensions to that period will be subject to individual discussion about the impact of the Sabbatical on the service and their employment, depending upon the length of the extension.


5.1 All applications should be discussed initially with the Clinical Director / Service Manager, prior to an application being completed – see Appendix A.

5.2 A written case must be submitted as part of the application specifying:

  • How the leave will be used;
  • How the leave will benefit the NHS;
  • How the leave will benefit the applicant. A full programme, itinerary or description of the proposed use of the Sabbatical Leave must be attached with the application;
  • What arrangements will be made to cover the applicant during the leave;
  • How the applicant will inform the department, service and NHS Fife of the educational, training and experiential gains of the Sabbatical period;
  • What travel and accommodation expenses the applicant expects to be incurred. NHS Fife has discretion to meet these in part or in full (the total amount of the expenses agreed will be the responsibility of the Consultant and will be claimed back in the normal way);
  • If it is anticipated that payment, for example a salary travel expenses or bursary, will be made to the Consultant by a third party during the Sabbatical, this should be detailed.

5.3 Applications should be discussed as early as possible and could form part of the Consultant’s Annual / Job Plan Review. Written applications should be made a minimum of 6 months in advance of the intended date of the leave.

5.4 All written applications will be considered by the Associate / Medical Director / Director of Public Health responsible for that service and must have the written support of the Clinical Director / Manager.

5.5 The application form is attached as Appendix 1. Once received by the Medical Director / Director of Public Health, a decision will be made within 20 working days and the applicant duly notified. The Medical Director / Director of Public Health in considering applications for Sabbatical Leave will satisfy him / herself that:

  • The patient care and teaching responsibilities of the department can be satisfactorily maintained during the absence of the applicant;
  • The objectives of the proposed programme are justified in terms of the expected professional benefit to the Consultant and NHS Fife;
  • The proposed length of absence is justified by the requirements of the programme.

No booking of air fares etc should be made until approval by the Medical Director/Director of Public Health is received.

5.6 Where final approval has been granted for a Sabbatical Leave application, the Consultant would be expected to undertake the Sabbatical Leave programme within twelve months of the final approval date.

5.7 Sabbatical Leave will only be granted where approved arrangements have been made to cover the absence of the Consultant. Any arrangements should include a risk assessment of the impact on service delivery, cover arrangements, costs of cover, etc.

5.8 Each application will be considered on its own merits, and the decision will be taken accordingly.

5.9 If approved, the HR Directorate will issue the Consultant with the terms and conditions of the Sabbatical, and arrange for them to sign a Sabbatical Agreement.

5.10 Where an application for Sabbatical Leave is rejected, reasons for the refusal should be given in writing, detailing objective organisational reasons for the refusal.

5.11 Should a disagreement arise or where an application is refused, the Consultant has the right to raise a formal grievance in line with the NHS Fife Grievance procedure.


6.1 Any period of Sabbatical Leave taken is not regarded as a break in service, and would count towards reckonable service, and all employment rights will be preserved throughout the period of the Sabbatical Leave.

6.2 Where an extension is requested and granted, consideration must be given to the period of cover and any additional costs to the Department / Service.

6.3 At the end of the period of Sabbatical Leave, the Consultant will normally return to their substantive post.

6.4 As a member of staff has continuous service whilst on Sabbatical Leave any entitlements accrued prior to the break will not be maintained.

6.5 Where the Sabbatical Leave is unpaid, any pension contributions will be based on the pensionable pay received before the period of unpaid leave, and will be collected along with normal payments on return to work.

6.6 SPPA advice should be sought prior to any period of Sabbatical Leave, contact details are:

Scottish Public Pensions Agency
7 Tweedside Park
Telephone: 01896 893000


7.1 A Consultant on a Sabbatical Leave would be required to:

a) Advise of any changes to the original reason for the Sabbatical, or any changes during the Sabbatical that may affect their employment within the organisation.

b) Any extension should be in exceptional circumstances and discussed and requested in writing in advance, a minimum of 4 weeks’ notice on 6 weeks leave and a minimum of 7 weeks’ notice on 3 months leave. (Note: 4 weeks’ notice is below the normal advisory period of cancellation of professional activity).

c) After discussion with the Clinical Director / Service Manager agree and maintain the best method of maintaining contact throughout the period of Sabbatical Leave, to provide relevant updates.


8.1 NHS Fife will ensure:

a) The Consultant is kept informed of any changes that might effect their employment with the Board, provided with regular updates, minutes of relevant meetings etc, as applicable.

b) On return from their period of Sabbatical Leave the Consultant will nornally return to their substantive post.

c) In the event of an organisational change, NHS Fife’s Organisational Change policy will apply to individuals on Sabbatical Leave in respect of the role they held immediately prior to their period of leave.

d) An annual review of uptake and benefits of the scheme is undertaken.


9.1 By signing the application form and following approval of the Sabbatical leave request, the Consultant will have agreed to return to NHS Fife following the completion of the leave, and to fulfill the objectives set out in the business case in the application for Sabbatical Leave.

9.2 Arrangements can be made to direct relevant mail/e-mail and other information to the applicant during periods of Sabbatical Leave. This would be arranged via the local Manager for the service involved.

9.3 A written report would be expected within 2 months of the sabbatical period ending and arrangements put in place to inform the department, service and NHS Fife of the educational, training and experiential gains of the sabbatical period.


10.1 As there is no break in service during the period of Sabbatical Leave, annual leave entitlement will continue to accrue.


11.1 While on Sabbatical Leave any entitlement to sick leave will be maintained.

11.2 If the period of sick leave is extended and covers the duration of the Sabbatical Leave, alternative options for the sabbatical leave should be considered by the Clinical Director / Service Manager, following discussion with the Consultant. If an alternative date would not be viable, reasons for this should be given in writing.

11.3 Should a disagreement arise, the Consultant has the right to raise a formal grievance in line with the NHS Fife’s Dealing With Employee Grievances policy.


12.1 All applications will be managed by the Director of Human Resources, and associated paperwork will be recorded in the Consultant’s HR file for reference.


13.1 Paid Sabbatical Leave

13.2 As the Sabbatical constitutes continuous service, superannuation contributions will continue to be maintained for the duration of the Sabbatical period.


14.1 SPPA advice should be sought in all cases where unpaid Sabbatical Leave is being considered by contacting the SPPA.

14.2 For those on unpaid Sabbatical Leave superannuation contributions for the unpaid period will be deducted from subsequent pay over a corresponding period, following discussion and agreement with the Consultant.

14.3 Any tax rebate for which the member of staff is eligible during their Sabbatical Leave can be used to offset any superannuation arrears, following discussion and agreement with the Consultant and the Payroll Services Department

14.4 Where travel and accommodation expenses will be incurred, the employer has discretion to meet these in part or in full.


15.1 A draft flow chart (Appendix 2) enclosed has been devised that outlines the process as detailed in the terms and conditions for Consultant staff.

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