Thursday 16 May 2019 8:56 am

Some companies are offering unlimited paid holiday, but it's not all it's cracked up to be

David Israel is a partner in the employment team at law firm Royds Withy King.

Unlimited paid holiday might sound too good to be true, but some British businesses are now using this perk as a way to attract employees.

As a general rule, the more trust that is placed in someone, the better they behave, while a happy employee is a more productive employee – one who is far more like to stay loyal to the company.

However, does an offer of unlimited holiday really give power back to an employee, or does it simply create more uncertainty for them?

For a company, advertising a job with unlimited holiday will always grab the headlines, and positive PR flows from that.

But do we then take more holiday? Well, the answer appears to be no – staff tend to take the same amount of leave with or without the offer of unlimited days off.

Of course, the concept of taking unlimited holiday will always be subject to certain company rules, such as pre-booking your holiday and ensuring that your work is up-to-date.

But that is the problem with this perk. You can take as much holiday as you like, provided your work is complete – but how do you know when your work has been done to an acceptable level? What happens if more work comes in just before you are due to take holiday? Many employees probably fear that this would be seen as negative mark against them.

We all have appraisals, and there will usually be some way of measuring how well you have performed during the year. So the question is: will the company compare your performance with the amount of holiday you have taken?

There is also the question of whether the employees who are performing better than you are taking less holiday. And there’s the other worry that colleagues start to gripe about you taking too much holiday, leaving others to pick up the mess you’ve left behind. After all, we are all human and most of us love to whinge.

It is all very well to say “take as much holiday as you want”, but if your boss only takes a few weeks off, will you really feel empowered to take more leave than them?

Culture is driven from the top down, so don’t expect people to see unlimited holiday as a big plus if the reality is that they do not feel able to because their manager doesn’t leave the office.

Though at first sight, they might be less headline grabbing, perhaps companies should look at other ways of motivating employees.

For example, companies could offer a set amount of holiday, plus a number of “duvet days”, which would offer true flexibility – this would allow someone to take a certain number of days off a year, with the only requirement being that they advise their employer before a certain time of day.

It would be no different than someone deciding to take a “sickie”, but it takes away most of the fear factor that an employee would otherwise have.

The key to all of this is demonstrating some flexibility on the part of the company, trusting in your employees.

We all like to know what the rules are – if the rules really do allow you some degree of self-choice, that would go far in establishing the right culture, a happy workforce, and a lower turnover of staff.