Unlimited paid holiday policies in the UK

American companies such as Netflix, LinkedIn and Roku have successful unlimited paid holiday schemes, and as a result, many UK companies are considering whether to offer similar packages to their own employees. Offering employees unlimited paid holiday does not involve offering an employee an indefinite number of days off; instead, they can put in a request for holiday and you can decide the outcome based on their current performance. That way, if an employee works hard and stays one step ahead of their workload, unlimited paid holiday can become a great incentive for productivity.   Whether or not unlimited holidays are right for your company depends very much on your current workplace culture. If your staff work irregular hours, such as troubleshooting in the evening, answering calls or attending workshops on the weekends, you might want to consider unlimited paid holiday as an option. It is especially worth considering if there is already clear communication in the workplace, for example your employee’s line manager has a good idea of what stage employees are at with a workload and/or project, when deadlines need to be met, and when the employee is planning to take some time off.   As an employer, understanding the details of unlimited paid holiday will enable you to understand how it is best implemented. With UK employment law being different to the US, you must consider whether this new idea is a good fit for your business. This article will take you through the benefits of offering unlimited holidays, helping you to weigh up the potential pros and cons of offering it as part of your package.
 

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Benefits of offering unlimited paid holiday

According to research by Small Business Prices, additional holiday is currently a popular perk for employees, with 26.28% claiming they would value this over a pay rise. Offering additional holiday as part of an unlimited paid holiday package will make you more competitive to prospective employees during the hiring process.   Unlimited paid holiday helps to increase productivity and well-being in the workplace; a recruiter study shows that employees take 50% fewer sick days when unlimited paid holiday is in place. Offering unlimited vacation also creates a new relationship of trust between the employer and the employee, where the employee has the independence to choose when to take time off on the grounds that they complete their work. You can adapt to the changing nature of what is required from employees in modern work cultures; creating a ‘results first’ culture with plenty of work-life balance to keep employees can lead to a 10% drop in staff turnover. Research by Indeed showed that 9 out of 10 employees considered work-life balance more important than salary, with Transport for London (TfL) and the University of Leeds in particular offering a great degree of flexibility.
 

Potential cons of offering paid unlimited leave

One of the main pitfalls of offering paid unlimited leave to your staff is a psychological one; if your employees are conscientious, which is usually a useful trait, then you might find that they take fewer days as holiday. After HR software company CharlieHR implemented a paid unlimited leave policy for three years, they found that staff took fewer days as holiday; their highly motivated staff felt anxiety about when to take time off responsibly with looming deadlines and the prospect of handovers. Since ending the scheme, CharlieHR have decided that having a set number of days instead of unlimited days has a positive counterintuitive effect on staff. When they are given a set number of days of holiday pay, they feel as if they are theirs to take: “It’s some kind of psychological quirk of ownership – when something belongs to you, then you immediately value it far more highly.”   Another issue that CharlieHR found was that staff members differ in their conscientiousness, and so one particularly conscientious member of staff may end up “picking up the slack” while other staff members decide they should have more time off. This is particularly damaging to workplace relationships and team cohesion, if there are deadlines and a team needs to pull together during a project or campaign, or when there is a specialist issue that needs urgent troubleshooting.
 

Considerations for implementing a policy

In the UK, there is a minimum statutory holiday entitlement, put in place to protect the wellbeing of your employees. It is very important that your employees take this time off, as otherwise this would be in breach of Working Time Regulations. You can draft an unlimited paid holiday policy into your agreement with the employee, but they must claim 5.6 weeks of holiday a year according to UK employment law. If you are a UK business, it is important that you make this clear to your employee, even if you are planning on introducing unlimited vacations to their package.   Such as in the previous example of unlimited holiday cons, you might find that your respective team members have different ideas about how much time off they should be entitled to, which is dependent on their conscientiousness about their role in the team. If you are concerned that this is the case, it is worth considering implementing a policy to deter abuse, such as setting performance targets as a baseline.  

What to include in an unlimited holiday policy in the UK

In the UK, creating a hybrid policy which includes minimum statutory holiday entitlement and unlimited paid holiday should be your goal, so that you do not breach UK employment law. With the pros and cons of unlimited holiday pay in mind, you will want to create a policy that is clear and benefits both your team as well as your employees as individuals. With this in mind, consider the following points for what to include in an unlimited paid holiday policy:

  • Set performance targets to be reached by employees;
  • How many consecutive days off an employee can take;
  • Create a distinction between statutory holiday entitlement and any additional holiday;
  • Day-to-day management of the policy, including assessing workloads and outcomes.

Ultimately, you will want to make sure that you balance a progressive work culture with healthy relationships between staff. Therefore, it is best to only implement unlimited vacations if you think it would be of benefit to your workplace.

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