The pitfalls of unlimited holidays

Something for the weekend: Do you dream of unlimited holiday allowance? Well, dream no longer, because there are organisations that are offering this rare perk to their lucky employees, such as County Down company Clearbox Communications for one.

The business has been operating this benefit for just over six months and has reported that it has been a roaring success with both staff and bosses, with big increases in punctuality and worker satisfaction.

Clearbox owner John Megaughin told Newstalk FM: “If you want to take nine weeks off a year to go scuba diving and your client work is still outstanding, then who are we to say you can’t do it?” Who indeed.

But before you start sprucing up your CV and ordering your scuba diving suit online, think again, because not all endless holiday benefits have delivered such successful results. Research by HR firm Namely has shown that employees with unlimited vacation plans took less time of than those on a traditional holiday plan, partly because staff felt guilty about taking more holiday than their colleagues.

Software firm CharlieHR withdrew their unlimited holiday plan back in 2018 after finding staff were just not taking the time off they were entitled to, which co-founder Ben Gateley put down to employees valuing their holidays less under the scheme.

He explained: “Putting a numerical limit on holiday time has a counterintuitive effect. If you are given 25 days of holiday that are yours to take, then you are subconsciously motivated to take them. It’s some kind of psychological quirk of ownership – when something belongs to you, then you immediately value it far more highly. Whereas the lack of a number – the very concept of unlimited – potentially meant you didn’t value that holiday time in the same way.” Really?

Here at Employee Benefits, where the offer of extra holiday is always met by the cry “weekend do it!”, we think failing to take holiday allowance is nothing more than a travelsty and feel sad about the guilt trip some staff suffer at the thought of taking more holiday than their co-workers. It just goes to show that the benefit of unlimited holidays can sometimes be a bad break for employees.