10 October 2014 by

Up up and away for an unlimited holiday

Following in the footsteps of Silicon Valley success stories such as Netflix and Google, to name but a few, Virgin empire tycoon Sir Richard Branson has recently announced that his staff can now “take off whenever they want for as long as they want”.

The novel concept of rewarding employees with unlimited annual holiday allowance is seen as a way of reassuring staff that they are valued and can be trusted not to abuse this somewhat risky system.

To end speculation Sir Richard, known for going the extra mile, clarified that there would be no need for employees to ask for approval before taking annual leave, or say when they planned to return.  The assumption is that the absence will not damage the business and that employees themselves would not want to abuse the system as a mark of respect and dedication.  This is essentially a foray into flexible working at its most extreme, as it would be up to the individual employee to decide whether they want a couple of hours, days or weeks off work.  The only condition is that they hold up their end of the bargain and make sure their work gets done.

The question is whether this novel approach can work in practice in the real world. Are employers taking too much of a risk allowing employees to decide when and how much annual leave to take and to also expect them to ensure that their work is up to date, that there is sufficient cover whilst they are away and most importantly to know when their absence may be detrimental to the business?  Is this a step too far?  Not according to the multi billionaire; he for one is hopeful that the policy will work wonders and can be introduced across other sectors of the business in due course.

As Netflix, Google and Virgin lead the way in focusing on output and results, as opposed to the somewhat draconian view that employees must be in the workplace 9 to 5 in order to get the job done, will other businesses now follow suit?   Any contractual changes can only be made with the consent of employees following a consultation process. Given that such a change is beneficial, there is unlikely to be any resilience towards the move and businesses can therefore amend the clause and issue new contracts with consent of the employees.  The trick is getting the clause drafted properly to avoid any issues in the future.

For advice on drafting unlimited holiday clauses or any employment related issues please contact one of our solicitors in the Employment team here.

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