BBVA, a leading Spanish bank, is allowing staff to take five years paid leave, in an effort to cut costs during the recession.
Employees of BBVA, Spain's second biggest bank, are being offered 30 per cent of their usual salary in return for staying away from work for between three and five years.
Anyone signing up to the scheme is guaranteed a job when their extended leave comes to an end. They will also have their health care costs covered for the length of their sabbatical.
The offer is targeted at long-term employees of the company who have "personal or professional projects" they wish to undertake during their time off.
Juan Ignacio Apoita, BBVA's head of human resources, told the Financial Times: "We're looking at offering alternatives to people. It's obvious as well that it has an impact on costs."
Other options open to the bank's 30,000 Spanish employees include a shorter working week on reduced pay, or time off arrangements to allow staff to look after relatives or go back in to education.
Although Spanish banks have escaped the worst of the global downturn because of tight regulation, they have found it difficult to impose redundancies because staff are entitled to large payoffs under domestic labor laws.
In Britain, manufacturing workers at firms including Jaguar Land Rover have agreed to accept four-day-weeks and temporary factory shutdowns in an attempt to minimize job cuts and keep their employers afloat.