Unpaid leave in consulting

Client and MBB
Bearbeitet am 5. Aug 2021
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Anonym A fragte am 5. Aug 2021

Hi all,

 

I'd like to get your takes on unpaid leave in MBB / big four strategy / tier 2. By 'unpaid leave', I mean taking 1-2 months to travel, train, or prevent burnout, and then returning to continue full-time, e.g. similar to McKinsey's Take Time programme. Some questions I had in mind are:

 

  • Is this something that is common at top consultancies or do employees have to either carry on as usual or leave the firm altogether?
  • Is it only for the very top performers or can anyone do it?
  • Is it hard to get permission?
  • How soon after joining a company would it be reasonable to ask to take unpaid leave?

 

Any thoughts would be much appreciated. Thanks!

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Erica
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bearbeitete eine Antwort am 5. Aug 2021
Ex-McKinsey / 100% offer rate / LBS / Principle driven / Real case/ If you get the interview, you should get the offer!

Hi there. I can share something on McKinsey.

  • Is this something that is common at top consultancies or do employees have to either carry on as usual or leave the firm altogether?
    You're encouraged to take leave instead of just quit altogether. The firm spend ton of resource in each consultant so it's always a big loss to them when someone leaves the company. 
  • Is it only for the very top performers or can anyone do it?
    In McKinsey you don't need to be top as 1% or 5% to apply for “take time” but you need to have acceptable performance, meaning there is no red flag. After all “take time” is considered a way to reward consultants. If you apply for “no pay leave” then there is no restriction on your performance but you do need to have a good reason.
  • Is it hard to get permission?
    Yes and no. The application process is simple but you do need to make sure your long absence won't bring hindrance to on-going project. If you're a junior staff and not engaged in client management then it's fairly easy, as you're mostly free between projects. But if you're engagement manager or above, usually it gets tricky because you would have client management tasks which requires regular communication with the client.
  • How soon after joining a company would it be reasonable to ask to take unpaid leave?
    In McKinsey you're qualified after 12 months as a full-time consultant.

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Adi
CoachingPlus-Experte
Content Creator
antwortete am 5. Aug 2021
Accenture, Deloitte | Precision Case Prep | Experienced Interviewer & Career Coach | 15 years professional experience

Hey,

Unpaid leave/career break is best used to take 3 months or more as time off. Most examples I have seen (including myself) took 6 months. 12 months is also becoming fairly common which includes child care, education and various other aspects.

Regarding your specific questions:

  • Is this something that is common at top consultancies or do employees have to either carry on as usual or leave the firm altogether?
    • Most consulting companies support this and you can join back once you finish the break. Its a matter of personal choice and planning. There is no set mandate that “you must carry on” or "you must take time off"
  • Is it only for the very top performers or can anyone do it?
    • Fair to say if you are underperforming, request for career break can be tricky with the bosses and HR. Most people in this situation leave the company. From my personal experience, the people who took such breaks were doing well in the company (not necessarily high performing).
  • Is it hard to get permission?
    • This will depend on how clearly you position your request and manage on-going critical project commitments. But if you plan well & early I don't see any reason why this should be an issue
  • How soon after joining a company would it be reasonable to ask to take unpaid leave? 
    • This is common sense, unless there is an urgent issue (family, personal etc) asking for time off when you are new (under 2 years) wont go down well. Its okay to ask for extended leave 2-3 weeks + should there be a need but taking unpaid time off very early without good reason is not a good move.
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Agrim
CoachingPlus-Experte
antwortete am 5. Aug 2021
ex-BCG Dubai PL | 100% Personalised Coaching | 2021 Real Cases only | 6+ years in Consulting
  • Is this something that is common at top consultancies or do employees have to either carry on as usual or leave the firm altogether? - Unpaid leave is a fairly common phenomenon. It is known and handled differently by different companies. At BCG it is known as Leave of Absence or FlexLeave.
  • Is it only for the very top performers or can anyone do it? - Per my understanding it is NOT available for “bottom” performers. And is accessible in-principle to everyone else.
  • Is it hard to get permission? - I can speak for BCG here. The main steps for approval are A) having a reasonable performance standing; B) Having available leave slots. Every month only a limited number of people can go on unpaid leave. If you apply for it well in advance - it should not be an issue. There is no specific reasoning required other than it being a personal choice.
  • How soon after joining a company would it be reasonable to ask to take unpaid leave? - Companies have rules on this. It is usually after 12-24 months of joining. There are rules on recurrence of the leave as well.
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Ian
Experte
Content Creator
antwortete am 5. Aug 2021
BCG | 100% personal interview success rate (8/8) and 95% candidate success rate | Personalized interview prep

Hi there,

My #1 recommend is talk to HR/your manager. Just have an open discussion about your needs etc.

In terms “perception” of leave, it's absolutely allowed and generally viewed neutrally (neither bad nor good). That said, it's certainly uncommon to take leave within the first year or two and is generally a bad sign.

Finally, 1-2 months is right in the “awkward” spot. Normally you'd either use annual leave to take 2-4 weeks off OR request extended leave for 3+ months.

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Simon am 5. Aug 2021
Hey Ian, I guess this is the US view, right? Speaking for Germany / DACH / Europe (?) it is very common to use additional time off (1-2 month off in addition to your ~25 days annual PTO), even if you are a first or second year BA/Asc. At least in McKinsey it is very common to use the Take time offer and it is also frequently used by top performing consultants. Best, Simon
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Erica

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Ex-McKinsey / 100% offer rate / LBS / Principle driven / Real case/ If you get the interview, you should get the offer!
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