You’re never too old for a year out

Gap years aren’t just reserved for young students straight out of school. Neither are gap years restricted to donning a backpack and an ankle bracelet and heading straight to South East Asia to drink buckets of dubious alcohol on a sun-drenched party island. (Although, if that’s what you want to do with your year out, age shouldn’t stop you).

What’s more, employers are increasingly open to the idea of giving their staff a sabbatical or career break if it means having a happier, healthier and more fulfilled employee when they return, according to

Sabbaticals and career breaks are slightly different. A career break is defined as either a period of unpaid leave agreed with your employer, or simply a period of time before a change of jobs or career. A sabbatical on the other hand, is additional to your annual holiday and can be paid, unpaid or part-paid. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Career breaks, most similar to a ‘gap year,’ allow more freedom to decide how you will spend your time. Sabbaticals are more commonly used for career-development.

If you missed the chance to take a year out after secondary school and went straight into your career, you might consider taking a year out to travel, get a new qualification, volunteer or any number of things that would add value to your life – gap years come in many guises.

The Independent argues that a career break could actually be beneficial to your career: “About 90,000 people every year – 60 per cent of them women – take some sort of career break. Typically, these individuals are in their late twenties or early thirties, although an increasing number are in their forties and fifties.”

“The most common length of break is four to six months, although a year is not unusual and some take up to two years… they can also last a matter of weeks.”

Is an adult gap year right for you? Here’s some of the main reasons why so many people take time out from their careers later in life.

Retirement age is on the rise

In the UK the average retirement age is just under 65 years old, and this is forecast to rise.

“Already in the UK, one in 12 people over 70 is still in employment, double the figure of a decade ago,” reports The Guardian. And “given the current level of household savings, those aged 20 today are likely to be working into their late 70s or even early 80s and those in their mid-40s into their early or mid-70s.” This suggests that the linear education-work-retirement culture we have traditionally followed may not be what we need anymore, and we should be taking a more flexible approach.

Mental wellbeing and stress relief

With today’s workplace demands, sometimes your annual holiday just isn’t enough to completely recharge. The Managing Director of Talent Management at global HR services group, Penna, has urged workers to think of a career as more of a marathon than a sprint, saying “As retirement age creeps up, we’ll be working for longer and need to avoid getting burnt out. So taking a holiday is essential for survival.” Taking an adult gap year can relieve stress and leave you ready to return to work refreshed and ready to tackle work.


If you’re feeling pigeon-holed at work, want to learn a new skill to boost your career or even change direction completely, taking a year out from work to learn something new could bring you huge rewards. Employers are also becoming more welcome to the idea of allowing their employees time away to gain a new professional qualification, language or skill which could be beneficial to their organisation.