May 2018

Why we have unlimited holiday at Duco

By Helen Ogilvie – Head of Talent

When Sir Richard Branson announced he was planning to offer staff at Virgin Group as many paid days of leave as they wanted, it sparked debate on whether an unlimited holiday policy represented a realistic and beneficial option for businesses. The inspiration is said to have come from Netflix who rolled out a similar policy, and the rules are, in most cases, simple. It is down to the individual employee to decide how many days, weeks, or months (!) of annual leave they take at any given time.

While popular in the San Francisco start-up world, actually only 1-5% of US companies offer unlimited holiday. The approach is even less common among UK businesses. So, when looking at the suitability of introducing such a policy at Duco, I spent some time discussing the pros and cons with the management team.

Pros

The benefits are fairly clear from an employee point of view – firms who implement the policy can expect higher employee satisfaction levels which is likely to increase productivity. It’s also a great benefit to attract new talent, plus there’s far less administration.

Cons

The most common question that comes up is: What if someone takes too much holiday and doesn’t deliver against their job spec? Yet, evidence suggests the question ought to be: What if someone doesn’t take enough holiday?

A direct consequence of rolling out an unlimited holiday policy – it turns out – is employees take fewer days off. Staff tend to take less holiday, perhaps for fear of jeopardizing their careers or being ‘the one who took the most holiday’.

What we did at Duco

After weighing up the evidence, we decided to introduce the policy company-wide. We wanted to give our staff the freedom to make their own choices. We were clear with our people – we treat them as adults and we trust them. We updated policies and contractual wording, and briefed the global team. And what happened? Not all that much actually…

Speaking to staff it appears (unsurprisingly) to be a very popular policy. Our people are enthused by the fact they do not need to count their holiday days – and so far we have not seen a significant increase in requests, although we continue to encourage people to take time off from their busy jobs. Who cares how much holiday an individual takes, if they’re still smashing their targets?

This change in approach is not just related to our holiday policy – in general we look to simplify all policies wherever legislation allows. For example, our Expenses Policy now reads “Be Reasonable” – we expect our employees to act with judgement, we needn’t advise them on the appropriate cost of every meal. Once again, this has proved very popular and reduces administration.

We will see where this takes us, but so far it’s working well. After reviewing the evidence we’ve come to the conclusion that companies who look after their people can expect the same in return. It’s that simple.