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Is Unlimited Leave Good for Business?

Is Unlimited Leave Good for Business?

A modern business trend is to offer your employees the option of taking unlimited leave.

For many staff members, this may initially trigger off the idea of never having to work again. A stunningly magnanimous gesture from the business they work for—now they can disappear for a month having wrapped up all their projects way ahead of schedule.

But does the idea really work like that? There’s a school of thought suggesting it may be a bad idea for all concerned. This feature article explains why.

Unlimited holidays?

What’s this holiday policy all about, then? Simply put, it’s an attempt to promote a better work-life balance. The idea is this: staff can take off as much time as they like, so long as they’ve on track with their work schedule.

The thinking here is to move beyond the concept of just thumping in the hours to cover their shift times. It is, instead, about delivering great results. And if someone has done that and could do with a break—off they can go.

But as a leave policy, it isn’t there to be abused (stating the obvious, but its name can suggest otherwise). Employees can’t take weeks or months off at the drop of a hat.

Of course, It’s important to think about your employee holidays policy carefully. With many businesses, leave can be handled quite clumsily.

To infinity… but not beyond

Along with other progressive modern business trends (such as the office pet, game room, and Friday drinks), unlimited holidays promise a lot. But it’s a contentious issue with some claiming it’s a bad idea, whilst others love it.

As broadsheet The Guardian put it:

“Firms that have introduced unlimited holidays claim the policy works wonders, helping their employees to create a better work-life balance.”

As is gradually being recognised, the reality is a lot different:

“The companies that offer it tend to be demanding and all-consuming workplaces, so taking time off can make employees feel guilty … If you are up for a promotion against another colleague, it is unlikely you will book that two-week Himalayan trek. This means employees often end up taking less time off, not more.”

And the result of this is that many employees end up either too afraid to actually take holiday days, or they just overwork and forget to take any at all.

Worse still, many business don’t account for holidays they would have owed staff. So if the employee leaves the business, then they don’t get paid for unused holidays.

But the general problem is it tends to promote presenteeism instead of a better work-life balance. Even if employees push on and get far ahead of their schedule, many certainly won’t head off on holiday for a large amount of time.

Modern workers face a stressful, complex, and fiercely competitive world. They’re far more inclined to continue working to ensure they keep their job than disappear off to Japan for that dream holiday.

But there are some benefits—some businesses swear by it (have a look at Glassdoor’s feature: 7 Companies That Give Employees Unlimited Holiday Time). The pros can include:

  • Attracting Millennials and Generation Zers looking for a more flexible working environment. This helps your business snag talented young staff.
  • The promotion of an ownership mentality amongst staff.
  • If implemented correctly, a better work-life balance for employees. In the long-term, this means greater productivity and personal well-being (a knock-on effect being higher staff retention rates).
  • Better staff wellness can drop the amount of sick days your business endures.
  • With payroll and HR free from tracking all holiday time, this can free up extra administrative time for other tasks.

How to apply unlimited leave to your business

If you’re genuine about this concept and want to implement it in your business, you should make it clear to your staff how it works.

Prior to the roll out of your policy, let your team know a new type of benefits system is on the way. Train your managers and lower level staff about how it works.

Establish what is and isn’t acceptable within the policy. Clarify that it isn’t an opportunity for everyone to launch themselves off work for months at a time in a freeloading free-for-all. But make it clear that you don’t expect an epidemic of presenteeism, either.

Put all relevant information in writing in the employee handbook so everyone knows what’s going on.

Or you could just add a couple of days onto their normal holiday day quota to avoid the above issues. Sometimes the traditional approach is best.