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Unlimited holiday entitlement is no “entitlement” at all

3 Mins

Writing on his blog, Branson said that he had been inspired by online video-streaming company Netflix to allow staff to take as much time as they like off, without having to ask for approval or keep track of days away.

He said: “It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off, the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel a hundred per cent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers!”

While it will never work in some industries – “Sorry I can’t fly the plane today, taking some unannounced holiday time” – I wouldn’t be surprised to see this becoming more universally adopted, especially among businesses at the more trendy end of the spectrum.

On the face of it the policy sounds benevolent and wonderful. As much time off as you like! No longer will workers have to painfully endure a totally holiday-free autumn after using up all their days in summer.

In reality though I wonder if it has the potential to create a new battleground between the office’s most competitive workers, determined to show their dedication by taking the least time off that they can.

Peer pressure to not take holiday at particular times can be bad enough as it is. Salespeople who need to close a certain amount each month are often given no leeway to account for their holidays and some businesses are extremely restrictive about when in the year time can be taken off – although often unofficially.

This kind of policy has the potential to ramp up those pressures, creating problems not just for those who enjoy time off but also for those with family commitments, those in ill health, and those approaching the end of their working life.

Obviously those who are most driven deserve recognition for putting in hard work, but creating an environment where people feel bad for taking time off has serious potential negative consequences for employee health, morale and productivity.

While at the moment exhausted employees are armed with the justification “I still have 15 days left to take,” letting staff take as much time as they want would take this away.

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