The Unlimited Holiday Debate
The Unlimited Holiday Debate
27th Nov 2019Written by: Iain Brook

If you were going to give a run-through of the ultimate workplace perks, unlimited holiday allowance would get a mention. As benefits go, it sounds wicked. We’re talking about unlimited time off that you get paid for. What’s not to like?

I thought it was a new thing, but a bit of groundwork suggests unlimited holiday was birthed sometime in the 1990s. Starting in the US, IBM pioneered the concept, with Netflix, LinkedIn, Glassdoor and other companies adopting the policy since then.

Today, loads of US tech companies use unlimited holiday allowances to attract and retain employees. And more recently, it's become a trend on this side of the Atlantic. Richard Branson introduced unlimited holidays at Virgin Management in 2014 and other companies have followed suit.

I’ve seen a slow, but steady growth in the uptake of limitless holidays, with the technology sector accounting for 34% of all jobs offering the perk. A handful of my clients offer it & I've generally heard good feedback - it seems they've adopted it in the right way.

Lots of companies see unlimited holiday as part of their drive to offer a truly flexible working policy. They say it helps employees reach a better work/life balance, ultimately contributing to their overall happiness. It's also a great way to attract talent. Handy, when tech skills are in such high demand.

As long as employees and the business are performing well, I’d say it makes perfect sense. Doesn’t it?

On paper, an unlimited holiday allowance should work. But when you look at these policies in more depth, some of the evidence shows that they can fail if not – and not for the reason we're all thinking.*

One example I spotted was UK software firm CharlieHR. They cancelled their unlimited holiday policy saying it was seen as unfair, unsuccessful, misleading and anxiety-creating. Now they offer alternative benefits such as more flexible working hours.

Something I didn't think about at all, but was suggested to me recently - what if an employee leaves their job? Will they not be paid for unused holidays, given there's no predetermined amount.

If it's going to work, it's clearly important to have defined rules that support your employees, like a set minimum that you have to take in a year. That way, you're not stressed about how many you've taken & you're protected against losing them.

Thoughts & feelings welcome as always!

*taking too much for the less cynical amongst us.

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I won’t lie, I wouldn’t mind giving unlimited holiday a go, but I’m pretty happy with what I currently have. Revocians get 25 days holiday plus bank holidays. We also have an incentive scheme which allows us to 'earn' an extra day’s holiday per quarter, and a much-appreciated half day on our birthday.

This year I’ve ended up with 29 and a half days; perfect for recharging the recruitment batteries.

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