Silicon Valley top takeaway of the month: Unlimited holiday

What’s your current holiday allowance? Six weeks? Four weeks? A few extra days as a long service bonus? On Sarah’s recent trip to Silicon Valley, she came across a concept which definitely hasn’t made it across the pond in such a big way – unlimited holiday. Yes, that’s right. Employees are allowed to take as much holiday as they want. Down tools and hop on a plane whenever you want. What a great idea!

Well, having considered it here at Mango HR, we think it’s got potential, but it’s also got flaws. From an employee point of view, it sounds like a fantastic idea and a really good reason to choose to work for a particular company. It’s a great way to lure in the top talent, and keep the workforce happy. Motivation is sure to improve, with an increase in productivity to follow as a result. With more of a flexible approach to working hours, there’s nothing to stop employees going home on a quiet Friday afternoon if all their work is complete, or if there’s no work arriving at the office. Bored staff lead to all sorts of difficulties, and this would put paid to that. Removing the limits could also stop a long period of unused holiday leave building up.

Netflix, LinkedIn and Richard Branson have all been implementing the unlimited holiday, and Virgin’s administrative staff are big fans. When it’s done right, it’s removed the headache of calculating holiday leave, keeping track of who’s taken too little leave, and who’s taken too much, freeing up your HR and admin staff to work on other things.

Unlimited holiday also allows a more forward-thinking way of working. Working from home and remote working are becoming more widespread but do require a certain degree of monitoring and trust on both sides. In an almost freelance style, an unlimited holiday allowance could allow workers to focus their efforts on completing long-term projects, and stand themselves down when there’s less work.

On the other hand, the unlimited holiday concept does meddle somewhat with the minimum entitlement regulations. The law says that workers can take 5.6 weeks of holiday each year, and 4 of those weeks must be taken to ensure health and safety obligations. Without strict holiday quotas, how can you as an employer make sure that you’re complying with regulations? Could you be penalised if an employee chooses not to take all their allowance?

Let’s also consider employees who are off work due to maternity leave, or long-term sickness. Although they’re not able to be in the workplace, they’re still allowed to accrue periods of annual leave. Removing limits on how much holiday they can take could potentially leave them open to clocking up unlimited quantities of paid leave, never to be seen in the office again.

Whether the unlimited holiday concept is something which appeals to you or not, there are clearly positives and negatives to this transatlantic phenomenon which we’re sure will have you thinking the next time you choose to review your annual leave policies. Is the time right for you to join our pals across the pond and offer an all-you-can-eat approach to holidays?