We have an unlimited holiday scheme and I am not sure it works - but not for the reason you might think

I read yesterday's piece on unlimited holiday with interest, as I introduced a similar policy when launching Ready10, 20 months ago.

We have an unlimited holiday scheme and I am not sure it works - but not for the reason you might think

The scheme is something people ask me about the whole time. Recently I have given a response that surprises some: "Yes, we have unlimited holiday but I am a bit concerned about whether it works." To this I get a raised eyebrow, a knowing nod and a tut, usually followed by: "Why, because staff abuse it?"

Unlimited holiday means Golin's UK staff take 'two or three more days a year' - while Manifest London has 'stopped counting'

That’s not the issue I have with it.

I am not worried that staff are taking the piss – I am concerned that this system does.

That’s because, simply, not enough people are taking enough days.

Our approach to holiday is simple; people are adults and can manage their own time. We have a system called ToC-ToC (think of colleagues, think of clients) when booking leave and for the most part it works. That's underpinned by a formal sign-off and tracking system of holidays, which is, I think, vital to ensure we are fulfilling our duty of care to staff and their welfare.

That tracking has enabled me to uncover some curious stats: only one person has taken more than 25 days (and that was 26), many have taken fewer than 22 and there are a couple of instances of allocations still being in the teens, with just a month of the year to go. We will ensure they now do take appropriate time off.

For context, we have 12 staff and our engagement scores are high. We have staff turnover of zero – a year and half in and no one has left us yet (he says, tempting fate). So as best as I can tell this is a fun, fair and motivating place to work, hopefully borne out by us winning Best New Consultancy at last month’s PRWeek UK Awards (#humblebrag). Which leads me to believe that the reason for fewer holidays being taken is because people are motivated, driven and quite enjoy being here - but I suppose I would say that.

Regardless, I don't like people not taking enough holiday and it makes me wonder whether having a non-prescriptive system is fair on everyone.

While a senior employee may have the experience and confidence to take the time they need, is that the same if you are in your first or second job? Is it confusing to suddenly have a 'rules-lite' system? If you are only a couple of years into your career will you be worried if you are perceived to be taking "too little" time off? Will unlimited holiday lead to the next stage in presentee-ism where taking fewer days becomes a workplace-sport?

These are questions we are grappling with. We have our end-of-year away day next month and one of the sessions will be on our unlimited holiday system, how staff feel it is working and what the future of it looks like.

It's a system I want to keep – but it's not one without its challenges.

David Fraser, founder, Ready10

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in