Take as much holiday as you like…

Richard Branson has hit the headlines following the announcement of his new holiday policy for 170 staff at Virgin’s head office.  Under the new regime, staff can take as much holiday as they feel comfortable with as long as doing so won’t damage the business.  The idea is not new.  Netflix introduced a similar scheme in 2010 and reported increased creativity and profitability. 

The scheme works on the basis that staff will only take time off, be it a couple of hours or a month, when they feel 100% comfortable that they are up to date with their work.  The standard holiday request system is abolished and there is no need to record the amount of holiday taken.  With the advancements in technology we are all used to working flexibly and often putting in extra hours at home.  Richard Branson takes the view that his staff no longer work 9am – 5pm and their working hours are not recorded.  He therefore sees no need to have a rigid system for time away from work.  He wants to focus on what the employee gets done rather than the amount of time it takes them. 
This all sounds very laudable and on-trend with the move towards increased flexibility in the workplace, but will it work in practice?  As any manager who has tried to co-ordinate time off during the peak summer weeks or Christmas will know, making sure you have enough staff in to cover these periods can be a logistical headache.  Letting staff determine their own holiday arrangements with no notice requirements will make this even harder and potentially leave the business with inadequate cover.  Whilst one hopes that Richard Branson is right and this regime creates a positive and engaged workforce, one must question how an employer would deal with an employee who takes the mickey.  Presumably, this would be dealt with under the disciplinary policy, but it may be difficult to discipline an employee without any records of when they have taken holiday and how would you determine what amounts to damage to the business?  Finally, an employer is required to pay a worker in lieu of accrued holiday on the termination of their employment. Again, with no records of what holiday has been taken, this will prove difficult.

So is this just a gimmick or a real attempt to move with the times?  Are you ready to follow suit?
Petra Venton