United Educators employees are rewarded with paid sabbaticals

Company: United Educators.

Location:

Chevy Chase.

Employees: 120.

In November, Janine Gilbert-Carter will jet off for a month-long trip overseas, where she’ll sing jazz, blues and gospel music at performance venues across Russia and Israel.

It sounds like a tour schedule that could only be taken on by a full-time musician, but, in fact, Gilbert-Carter’s day job is with an insurance firm.

United Educators, based in Chevy Chase, rewards its workers by offering them a one-month paid sabbatical after they’ve put in 10 years of work at the company. After that, they are eligible for another paid sabbatical every five years.

“People look forward to it, being able to just know that your hard work and dedication gives you something a little extra,” said Gilbert-Carter, the firm’s manager of claims billing.

June Stacey, associate vice president for human resources, said many staffers will take the sabbatical back-to-back with several weeks of regular paid time off, meaning they might have more like two continuous months off from work.

While some people opt to fill the break with an ad­ven­ture, Stacey said, “We also tell staff, you don’t have to do anything fantastic. Just take the break.”

About 10 people are slated to go out on sabbatical this year. Stacey said that is typical, because the firm has relatively low turnover, so many employees reach the tenure thresholds to receive the benefit. At a company of just 120 employees, Stacey said the breaks end up being a learning experience for workers who remain in the office and must take over some of their colleagues’ responsibilities.

“It’s actually a great opportunity for people who are next in line,” Stacey said. “And it gives them an opportunity for us to see them in that role.”

Sarah Halzack is The Washington Post's national retail reporter. She has previously covered the local job market and the business of talent and hiring. She has also served as a Web producer for business and economic news.
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