Is an unlimited holiday policy right for your business?

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With the advances in technology in today’s society, flexible working has become easier than ever and key to the success of many businesses.

Most recently flexible working has been taken one step further, with companies such as Virgin and Netflix introducing unlimited holiday policies for their staff.  

Unlimited holiday is still a fairly new concept and, from an HR perspective, is complicated. As it potentially allows employees to take limitless holidays at any given time it is vital that HR teams give careful consideration to how it will operate, and consider including specific guidelines in order to ensure a company is not vulnerable.

Culture

It’s important to review the type of culture that exists within a business before implementing the policy. Unlimited holiday is a scheme that would work in firms where there is a good degree of flexible working already, and where employees are responsible for their own workload.

However, for companies where staff are mostly required to be on site, an unlimited holiday scheme may lead to complications if employees are not present.

To be beneficial for both employers and workers there needs to be a significant amount of trust and autonomy. Employees need to be mindful and respect work priorities and deadlines. Employers will need to be confident that productivity and work output are not damaged if the number of holidays employees take increases.

Guidelines

While the intention of unlimited holiday is that it is effectively a non-policy, it is still important to set guidelines. This could include requiring staff to gain authorisation for proposed holiday dates in advance. 

Communication is vital, particularly in larger companies where there are different teams, as an employee’s absence may have a knock-on effect on another team and it is crucial for everyone to be aware of this to enable effective planning.

Record

Recording holidays is advisable. The Working Time Regulations require employers to permit full-time staff to take a minimum of 28 days, including public holidays, and if holidays are not recorded it may prove difficult for the company to evidence that employees take their statutory holiday entitlement. It will also provide statistical information to enable take-up to be analysed when monitoring the effectiveness of the scheme.

Measurement

As an unlimited holiday policy allows for a significant amount of flexibility, an employer needs to be strong in other areas of the business. Employee productivity and performance should be measured to help determine whether an unlimited holiday scheme is working for everyone and not having a detrimental effect on the business.

An unlimited holiday policy can be extremely beneficial for some businesses as it can help motivate and encourage staff and it can also act as an incentive when recruiting new team members. However, for it to be effective, it is essential that a company is clear about requirements and that everyone is aware of expectations. It is important that this feeds into the recruitment process and that employees who are selected are self-motivated and thrive in an autonomous and flexible workplace.

Kate Matthews is HR and employment director of business advisory firm Greenaway Scott

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