Richard Branson has been in the news this week for his announcement that the staff who work for him will not have any maximum on the amount of holiday they can take. They will literally be allowed to take as much holiday as they like – at first glance this sounds like living the dream!
Branson says that the new arrangement (which he admits was inspired by similar ideas at companies like Netflix) is that the employees will be completely responsible for their own leave, on the assumption that they will only take leave when it is “suitable for them to do so.”
It is always interesting to hear about new ideas, and Branson’s approach aims to empower staff so that they more in control of their working life, which is in keeping with Branson’s entrepreneurial approach. It is difficult to see it working for other more traditional workplaces, particularly those that require an adequate level of cover.
All employers should ensure that staff are not discouraged from taking at least their statutory minimum entitlement to annual leave (5.6 weeks including Bank Holidays). While there are not likely to be many organisations who can offer the unlimited leave that Branson is promising, there are other approaches that can be attractive to staff. For example, allowing staff to ‘buy’ extra leave or exchange other benefits for it can be a good way of increasing employee engagement.
Although this approach has grabbed headlines for Branson and Virgin, it is open to question whether it will make much difference in practice, even for Branson’s staff. The clear message from Branson is that holiday will be taken only when staff are “100% up to date” and that it will not “damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers.” This could imply that taking leave excessively or at the wrong time will be looked down upon – but without clear guidelines, will staff struggle to know where they stand? We will watch with interest!
If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected]).