Sir Richard Branson allows his staff to take unlimited holiday

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Sir Richard Branson, the boss of Virgin Group which employs more than 50,000 people around the world and operates in more than 50 countries, is offering his personal staff of 170 unlimited holiday time.

Sir Richard Branson explained the move on his website.“There is no need to ask for prior approval and neither the employees themselves nor their managers are asked or expected to keep track of their days away from the office. It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off, the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel a hundred per cent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers!”

He explained his daughter had seen an article about Netflix: ‘The Netflix initiative had been driven by a growing groundswell of employees asking about how their new technology-controlled time on the job (working at all kinds of hours at home and/or everywhere they receive a business text or email) could be reconciled with the company’s old-fashioned time-off policy. That is to say, if Netflix was no longer able to accurately track employees’ total time on the job, why should it apply a different and outmoded standard to their time away from it? The company agreed, and as its ‘Reference Guide on our Freedom and Responsibility Culture’ explains, ‘We should focus on what people get done, not on how many hours or days worked. Just as we don’t have a nine-to-five policy, we don’t need a vacation policy.’

Finally, Sir Richard Branson gave hope to the other 50,000 employees by saying: “Assuming it goes as well as expected, we will encourage all our subsidiaries to follow suit, which will be incredibly exciting to watch.”

Jayne Carrington, Managing Director of Right Management Workplace Wellness reacted to the news: “Richard Branson’s decision to give his personal employees unlimited holiday is certainly a good step in the right direction towards having a productive and engaged workforce. Our own research, The Flux Report, found that nearly half (46 percent) of HR decision makers reported an increase in employee fatigue and disengagement in recent years, so something clearly needs to be done to tackle this. Offering unlimited holiday could give many organisations the opportunity to offer a type of flexible working that could ultimately benefit the business’ bottom line. However, each organisation should consider the impact of implementing such an initiative and how they can make it work for them, if it is indeed appropriate for them.

“Embracing flexibility has been a big workplace trend this year and Branson’s encouragement for other companies to follow suit is set to spark this even further and may indeed prompt an increase in unlimited holiday entitlement in other organisations.  However, not having a set holiday allowance does have its potential pitfalls and employers need to be aware of these. For example, when it is left to the employee to make the decision about when they should take time off, it actually may be the case that employees take less holiday than they would if they had a set amount to take. This is largely due to the fact that they may not realise how little holiday they have taken and do not feel the urgency to use up a certain number of days before their holiday year ends.

“The best way to meet any challenges is to build a culture of trust within the organisation. After all, a happy employee is one that feels valued and trusted by their employer, feels aligned to the business’ vision and mission and feels that their workplace has a pleasant and motivating culture of honesty. Like any relationship, it’s a two-way process, whereby both employer and employee play a role in making it work.”

So would you allow your staff unlimited holiday time? Add your comments below!

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8 Comments - Write a Comment

  1. I can understand the argument on flexible working = flexible time off for some types of organisations but there should be contraints on both sides to avoid exploitation by managers and staff taking too much or too little leave and it should be recorded for health and safety and holiday pay records.
    I do not think it will work for public or client facing services where there are set opening hours.
    Sounds like a good idea in theory but high risk for complaints and litigation – time will tell.

  2. This won’t work in the EU where the Working Time Directive requires all employers (with very few exceptions) to ensure that their staff take a minimum of 20 days leave each year. This regulation is specifically designed to stop employers driving their staff too hard – in this case, we can expect taht some of Virgin’s employees won’t take any leave, for whatever reason, and risk burn out. If that happens Virgin would have a share of the responsibility.

  3. When it goes on to be applied in Virgin Trains and Virgin Airlines, will it improve the punctuality?

  4. I do strongly believe that there everyone should have 3 days off a week, who said we should stick to 2 anyway..!! and only work 4 days, you would be more motivated to work a bit harder over 4 days if you know you have 3 days to rest and sort your life out..most peoples lives are now so busy and stressful especially with both people in relationships having to work these days, that weekends go too quickly before you are back at work again…this is leading to more stress and less work life balance especially for parents. Imagine if you could spend a bit more time with the kids when a lot of parents don’t get to see their kids during the week that much these days, or you only see them when you are rushing around….the economy would be better off as you would spend money on the extra day off…this would work if it coincided with schools also only doing 4 day weeks, at least 8hrs a day and having shorter summer holidays…something needs to change as the work life balance doesn’t work with the current set up anymore…. so im all for radical idea’s such as this..but yes it will not work for everyone but you should be able to have a choice..

  5. This isssue here is that unlimited holiday can be taken provided it does not affect the running of your department, which brings in an element of guilt for anyone taking a holiday. This is not the case at the moment. You currently have an entitlement and it does not matter if you are sorely missed when on holiday – you take your holiday anyway, if you have any sense. I dont see what is wrong with having a set number of days holiday every year, which is after all part of your working agreement, and I dont need any more holidays that I already have. I certainly would not want to feel guilty if I need to take a holiday that I am already entitled to.

  6. I like the theory and the potential benefits however there are big downsides about how to avoid exploitation by Managers making employees feel guilty about taking time off, or even worse penalising them from doing so because they are not “committed to the Company”; so all of a sudden they do not get promotion or bonuses. There is still a culture of presenteeism in many organisations and at least under the current system employees have a right to time off which is clear and understood by all. Under this system the situation could be made worse. It will also be difficult to define when a job is 100% complete and up to date, after all I am sure that in the vast majority of jobs there is always something else to be done. Then there is the risk that team members could give another person a hard time if they perceive they are not pulling their weight. Finally in the UK we have legislation that demands people take holiday so how do we make sure we manage that properly. Whilst the idea sounds simple and sensible it is fraught with all sorts of pitfalls and potential arguments that will create all sorts of problems for busy HR Managers who will have even less chance to say their job is 100% up to date and take time off themselves. As ever the devil is in the detail around practical application and I see very few organisations with the right culture where it could be made to work effectively and fairly.

  7. Here in the Silicon Valley this is gaining traction. However, the way this is being applied is that employees do not accrue vacation any longer so when they leave they are not paid out for untaken leave. The company also gains because they are not required to carry vacation on the books as a liability.

    But really the unlimited vacation means you are never on vacation because culture expects you are always accessible. Flexibility is great but losing the opportunity to unplug from devices and go on real vacation where the internet can’t be accessed is a shame.

  8. A company’s success depends on how good and effective the management is. Nowadays it’s not just about bonus or rewards to boost employee engagement, but it’s about great leadership.

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