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  • Nicky Webster-Hart

Are unlimited holidays a way to recruit / attract talent?

Why unlimited holidays can be a great policy

Here at Auxeris, we rather like unlimited holidays for employees, but then we also rather like flexibility and integrity and generally treating our team like the grown-ups they are.

Having worked in two organisations that had unlimited holidays in place, I, like many others, found them to be liberating. I found it fitted perfectly into a remote/flexible work mindset and allowed me to take time off when I needed it and work the rest of the time, allowing me to smash my targets, finish projects on time but ultimately allowing that perfect work/life balance. If an employer offers an unlimited holiday allowance, then this is a big sign that they treat people like grown-ups and shows trust with its employees, allowing them greater flexibility.

Why might it not work as a policy

But not everyone agrees and some find the lack of a limit on annual leave confusing. It’s worth pointing out here that unlimited holidays are not the same as taking time off whenever you want to without approval. What it refers to is no upper limit on the amount of holidays that you are requesting at any one time.

It’s also a concept that can be hard to understand after a working life of sticking to a very rigid leave entitlement. Without the right mindset of trust and flexibility of working, this could be counter intuitive for the following reasons:

  • Employees worry about asking for what might be seen as ‘too much time off’

  • Employees don’t take enough time off - unlimited is overwhelming and so they take less time off than they should.

It is not a replacement for working remotely

An unlimited holiday allowance is not to be confused with working remotely. When working remotely, an employee is working and can be contacted and engage with other team members - we're not saying that a relationship suffers by not being visible in an office. The key here is trust and personal responsibility - when you have a team that understands what their priorities are and what they need to deliver and are told that as long as they deliver then they can organise their annual leave accordingly then there are in fact no issues. In most organisations, teams are either WFH or WFA with some adopting hybrid working. This alone allows the flexibility to manage their day and workload against their own productivity.

The lack of upper limit can confuse employees if not managed properly

If employees are not motivated to take enough holiday days off because of the lack of an upper limit confuses them, they could risk burnout so how does an organisation tackle this? It is well documented that by not taking enough days of holiday - employees can damage their health and wellbeing by not taking time out to rest or do other things that boost their mood and wellbeing. It will in turn impact productivity and you won’t be getting the best out of your employees. This is where great management is important, leading by example - showing that they are smashing their targets and delivering results but at the same time taking downtime when needed. Leaders need to also be aware of their team’s wellbeing and ensure they are taking rest and recovery time when needed - after all if someone has an unmanageable workload then that needs to be addressed, whatever the holiday policy. Equally if you have a rock solid team member who may need a couple of extra holiday days would you really deny them these? If you say no, you antagonise a valued member of staff and if you say yes, you then set a precedent for others. Better to offer an unlimited allowance for staff to use, when they need it, in recognition of their hard work.

If your teams aren't properly resourced, unlimited holidays are a misnomer

For those teams that are under-resourced or where workloads are already high, the policy of unlimited holidays is a misnomer. If the workload or projects are not completed then it is unlikely that employees will be in a position that they will be able to take their unlimited holiday. With hiring gaps appearing across businesses and missing headcount it is unlikely in practice that businesses could honour unlimited holiday days or that employees would submit continual requests for holiday. In reality it is more likely that employees won’t take enough holiday time and wellbeing suffers as a result. This is why proactive recruitment approaches looking at succession planning and filling talent gaps are important. Partner with a specialist recruiter, such as Auxeris and they will find solutions so that your teams are not under-resourced and they can get that perfect balance of productivity, rest and reward.

The perceived benefit of an unlimited holiday policy can be lost if not managed properly

In practice, candidates are wise to workloads and know that businesses are trying to offer different policies that attract them to work for them. Candidates know that work demands are higher than they’ve ever been - with the need to upskill and switch workloads to digital platforms and to embrace new ways of working, there aren’t often enough hours in the day to move tasks down the ever growing to do list. The perceived benefit of an unlimited holiday policy can be lost if not properly managed.

Unlimited holidays are not a replacement for flexible working

Goldman Sachs have recently introduced an unlimited holiday policy for senior staff members. However, they are also an organisation that is not keen to embrace flexible working, whether this will help them to attract talent remains to be seen. In our experience, candidates want flexible working arrangements. Enforced breaks from the office and a new way of working have opened employees' eyes to what they want from their working life. Balance is where it’s at but unlimited holiday days are not a replacement or substitute for it but if managed correctly, can sit perfectly next to flexible working. Candidates want work to fit in with their lives and balance with their other interests, commitments and family life where relevant. They want and need balance. They are disciplined to deliver and realise that the best balance for them is a flexible working policy and wellbeing support.

Speak to Auxeris to get specialist help with your recruitment needs

If you are struggling with your recruitment in the current war for talent - see how Auxeris can help. Our network of specialist recruiters have been placing candidates throughout these crazy recruitment times and have been able to identify, source and attract candidates that meet the recruitment brief and are a match to culture. If you want to know which policies might be more attractive to candidates or how you might be able to promote your employer brand effectively to encourage more candidates to apply - get in touch today.

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