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Unlimited holiday great alternative to flexible working

Unlimited holiday could be a great alternative to flexible working for many businesses, director of EST Accountants Barry Esterhuizen told HR magazine.

He stated that unlimited holiday, where employees take as much holiday as they want when they want, offered the benefits of flexible working in terms of boosting people’s sense of wellbeing and engagement through a stronger sense of autonomy, but gave businesses more certainty.

“If you know someone’s away for a week you can work with that. If someone’s leaving at four one day and then two another for example, it becomes more difficult,” said Esterhuizen. “Unlimited holiday allows us to manage resources more effectively.”

Esterhuizen said that he believes unlimited holiday will soon start to become much more commonplace in UK business. He said it might even become more popular than flexible working in the longer term.

“Unlimited holiday won’t become more popular than flexible working in the short term future, but it might do eventually,” he said, adding that this was because: “very few people have real flexible working. It’s one of those things where they say ‘we offer flexible working’ but then can’t grant this when people make requests.” 

“Finding staff will be increasingly difficult however unless companies try to make the workplace more attractive in this way,” he stated. “So this is a way of offering more flexibility and autonomy. It makes more sense to me.” 

Implementing such a policy relies on a strong culture of trust, and hiring people the company can trust in the first place, said Esterhuizen. He explained unlimited holiday could also help build that culture.

“We work in an open, collaborative environment so people are aware it will have an impact on colleagues if they abuse the system.”

Esterhuizen said the policy would probably lead employees to take less than their allocated 28 days some years, as people often see 28 days as “a target” to be hit rather than a desirable amount of time off. He said he thought use would average out to around 28 days a year over several years though.

“People may want to go on safari one year, or be getting married. It doesn’t make any sense for them to take holiday they weren’t bothered about taking one year and not have enough the next,” Esterhuizen pointed out.

He added that seeing 28 days as a target is often a time-consuming preoccupation for employees, with the unlimited holiday policy designed to mitigate this. However, he warned that companies must still record holiday taken by staff to ensure they’ve taken the statutory amount.