Mind the gap!

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Not content to stay in one place, many baby boomers are taking career ‘gap years’. Yet not all employers are in favour of the trend. Alice Orszulok reports. 


REPORTER: There is an increasing trend for Australian baby boomers pulling up stakes to pursue what has been dubbed a gap year.

It is estimated that about 90,000 people between the ages of 35 and 55 in Australia take a career break each year. The latest research from Direct Line, July 2012, states that: “Millions of Australian workers are set to trade in their parking permit for a passport as they plan to take sabbaticals from work.” A core member of Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre, Jennie Smalls, says:

JENNIE SMALLS: “This generation are pretty active compared to generations before and much more similar to younger age groups. The differences are not as extreme as they might have been a generation ago.

REPORTER: Gap years can be spent doing anything from traveling around Europe to volunteering in third world countries.

According to Direct Line travel insurance, nearly 5.5 million employees are currently contemplating their escape from the workplace. They’re set to join the ranks of the three million workers who have already temporarily climbed off the career ladder over the past five years. 53-year-old Glen Steer says that taking a gap year was the best thing he ever did.

GLEN STEER: “You’ve got to get out there and have a good time while you can. I think the more you travel around the world the more it helps you as a person. You learn a lot and have a greater appreciation of how lucky we are here.

REPORTER: Direct line states that employees are often attracted by the benefits of working for firms that offer their staff sabbaticals. They found that 33 per cent saying they would be more likely to remain with a firm long-term if they knew they could take a career break. Despite this, not all firms are in favour of sabbaticals.

More than one in 10 workers who have taken a sabbatical said that their employer was not supportive, with 64 per cent of these revealing their boss had tried to prevent them from leaving. One in three quit their job completely for the freedom of travelling.

JENNIE SMALLS: I think that break can be fantastic to get you out there and not waiting until retirement to then take all your leave. But I also know that if they take too long, people often struggle to get back to work.


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