Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Issues with unlimited leave

Unlimited holidays. It sounds great, doesn't it? In the 1990s, some small technology start-ups offered unlimited holidays as a recruitment tool, which was then picked up by some of the multi-national companies such as IBM. The concept probably got the most airplay when Virgin adopted it for their management team in 2014: not all staff, just the management team.

The idea is that staff take time off whenever they feel the need for a break. The management and timing of their own workload is up to them: they are grown ups and can work out when they need to be present and meet their own deadlines.

So what are the ramifications of this idea? One unexpected issue is that staff worry about being visible in taking 'too much' time off, or being uncertain how much time is 'too much'. As a result they end up taking less time off than they should (Spicer, 5 June 2018), because leave is not transparent within the organisation. Unlimited leave also becomes an issue when you leave a workplace: how much leave do you get paid out if you don't get an allocation to begin with (Bayern, 18 June 2019)? And, if HR stop monitoring it - which they usually do, because why go to the cost of counting it unless you need to use it - an organisational 'health' metric disappears.

A solution to all of this is to leave a minimum leave per annum in place (Imber, 26 July 2018), and check that all staff take at least that amount of leave each year. Then there is a clear pay out to make if you leave the organisation before taking your annual allocation each year, the organisational metric still means something, and staff know that holiday is truly considered to be important within the organisation.

The most interesting thing is that when staff take at least four weeks leave a year, then the sick leave appears to drop to almost nothing -at least in the experience of Australian consultancy firm, Inventium. Now there's an indicator of organisational health (Imber, 26 July 2018).



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