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Should You Offer Unlimited Vacation?

This Perk Has Come To Canada

Should You Offer Unlimited Vacation?
19 days of vacation after one year’s work. That’s the basic holiday allowance, statutory holidays included. It’s hardly a perk to brag about when recruiting new talent.
Competitive employers up their vacation entitlements. Employees love getting more time off. And it can boost productivity as your people return more rested.
But offering unlimited paid vacation? It’s a benefit that some employers here have begun to provide. If you’re thinking of joining them, make sure you plan for it properly.
Putting Your Fears To Rest
Sounds like a risky proposition at first. Worst case: half your staff is away for a year
In fact some of your staff will probably take fewer days off than before. People want to display their commitment and professionalism. They may feel that sticking around work even more will help them stand out at review time.
Examples of Companies With Unlimited Vacations
The U.S. is leading the charge in this realm. Best Buy, IBM, and Netflix are adopting the model. Unrestricted time-off doesn’t guarantee or track the number of days that workers are on leave. It does oblige them to get the boss’s OK beforehand.
It’s estimated that fewer than 2% of employers in Canada offer this perk. Here are a few that do:
  • EllisDon is a leading Canadian builder. They have an unlimited policy for time off. Employees are permitted requests for paid holidays as they need them, rather than according to a vacation schedule.
  • RL Solutions is a software provider for safer healthcare solutions. They are headquartered in Toronto, with offices in the U.S. and abroad. On their Careers page, unlimited vacations are described as follows: “We don't restrict your vacation days because we trust you not to abuse the privilege. RL staff take their breaks when they need them.”
  • Karos Health Inc. also is a healthcare-focused software company, helping to exchange vital information across communities and enterprises. Along with unlimited vacation it offers flexible hours and time off to help with a charity of the employee’s choosing.
How This Policy Can Benefit You
Think about what a great recruiting tool this is. It’s not only a highly valued incentive, but a rarely offered one. What an appealing way to differentiate yourself as an employer of choice.
Another positive is that it can lead to lower turnover. Reduced burnout – and the unlikelihood of finding another job that offers this perk – leads to increased loyalty.
Reduced administrivia too. No one has to track remaining days off or time owed. Plus it’s a way of focusing your staff on meeting milestones, rather than measuring performance by hours worked.
Making Sure The Workplace Is Staffed
You’ll still have to manage vacation scheduling conflicts. Don’t worry, employees have to ask in advance for time off. This way you’ll always know who will be away when.
If some people do take extended vacation, you may have to arrange for temporary coverage. Bringing in a temp for clerical duties is fairly easy. For staff in important positions, you can insist they complete crucial work before they leave. Encourage work-sharing arrangements for those in similar roles. Then they can alternate their holiday schedules.
Countering Negative Reactions
There may be some pushback against this new policy. It could actually be perceived not as an expansion of a current benefit, but as the removal of one.
How so? It could be that “unlimited vacation” is interpreted as code for “no vacation.” That’s especially true for employees nervous about being seen as slackers. You may have to urge them to take at least their usual vacation entitlement.
Whether To Go Unlimited Or Not
Does it seem like unlimited vacation might be good for your company? Like any reward policy change, avoid plunging into it because the cool firm down the block did.
Do an honest assessment of the risks and benefits. Consider your organization’s culture and workplace requirements. If it will be seen as a win for employees, and you control potential abuse, it could be good for all.
Plot the steps involved in shifting your policy. The smoother you implement, the more “unlimited” your returns will be.