Treating employees as adults: unlimited holidays?

August 2, 2017

As schools are in the midst of the 6 week break, many people will have their focus set on their summer holidays – one or at the most two weeks away from work in the sun…

What if you could choose to take the whole 6 weeks off? Or perhaps a month off at Christmas to make that round the world trip to see your Australian relatives? Or just take as much time as you want!

This strategy was famously pioneered by Netflix with Virgin and Linked In following suit more recently.

Claire Morley-Jones explores whether such ‘adult’ policies are accepted more widely.

By Claire Morley-Jones

Treating people like people, holiday policies, tips for business

Almost all UK workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year (known as statutory leave entitlement or annual leave). Seems generous doesn’t it?

What about UNLIMITED days off…

Unlimited holiday entitlement – really?

Netflix gave its employees unlimited holidays in 2004 – and it still does! Holidays are NOT tracked or approved, simply agreed between each other and avoid busy times – senior staff are encouraged to take holidays as an example to other workers.

One story goes that employees suggested, as they didn’t record additional time for work they did after hours for the company, why should holiday time be tracked? To the Netflix bosses, it seemed like common sense to treat employees as adults!

Is that actually a good idea?

The resulting (scrapped) holiday rules situation sounds idyllic for the employee – but is it, and how about the needs of the business?

It appears that it is very good for business! Netflix focuses on actual results rather than hours spent achieving the results. And as Virgin offer this as well, they’ve handled it by asking that any leave taken does no harm to the running of the business.

Experts have warned that though holiday flexibility sounds great, people are likely to be ‘choosing’ fewer holidays to help keep up levels of productivity. It seems that in reality a holiday deadline imposes a target that our brains naturally time manage which INCREASES productivity.

Should we do this in the UK?

Though some UK-based businesses are trialling this style of holiday entitlement, the US have had the biggest uptake – probably because US workers only get 10 holiday days a year (2 weeks) compared with the 5.6 weeks for UK workers.

As to whether we should do this in the UK, it depends on the business.

Whilst I can see start-up tech and creative industries taking up the mantle, it will still need careful planning to make sure employees are actually getting a fair deal – and to make sure that the business is not in breach of employment law – as well as putting in place systems for managing and measuring productivity.

At HR180 we can look at the options, how it would work within your organisation and how unlimited holidays (other other policies) might impact on your business goals. Our Superhero HR professionals love a chat, so get in touch – contact details below.

Leeds based HR180 is a team of superheroes in HR Outsourcing, Projects and Consultancy committed to work in partnership with organisations of all sizes to establish working policies to go above and beyond Employment Law requirements, to protect both employees and employers alike. We love to hear from you, so call us on 0113 287 8150 or hit the Rescue Me button.

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