Leeds-based recruitment and executive search organisation Charlton Morris introduced an unlimited leave policy for its senior consultants in January 2017 as part of a wider strategy to attract and retain talent.
Unlimited leave is available to consultants who have been with the business for two years or more, which currently accounts for 14 of the organisation’s 41 employees. Andy Shatwell, managing director at Charlton Morris, said: “We trust our employees, we reward our employees where we see fit, and this is very much the next step for us.”
Unlimited holiday can demonstrate that an employer trusts its employees to take responsibility over holiday decisions, empowering staff to select time off that is right for them and that encourages a healthy work-life balance. “The responsibility that it gives [staff] is really motivating,” said Shatwell.
Other employers that offer unlimited paid leave for staff include Virgin Management, Visualsoft and LinkedIn US.
However, removing the framework around leave needs to be carefully managed if the policy is to succeed, said Samantha Gee, director at Verditer Consulting.
One potential issue is ensuring that employees are not afraid to utilise the freedom provided and that they continue to take an adequate amount of time off. Senior leaders have a key role to play a key here, explained Shatwell. This involves providing staff with an overview of what would be considered acceptable and encouraging employees to make the most of the policy.
Unlimited leave will not be appropriate for all organisations and sectors, for example, in industries where employees work shifts or have to be physically present such as in retail and caring roles.
Offering the policy to certain groups of employees rather than organisation-wide could also pose a challenge. “It can really help to give unlimited holiday to [the] senior team but the problem then arises that [there is] a different approach for the senior team to other employees and that can have its own problems: ones of equity and parity,” said Gee.
Whether or not an unlimited leave policy works for an organisation can largely depend on its culture. At Charlton Morris, the two years’ service eligibility criteria is designed to boost retention and provide new starters with time to settle into their roles and build up their client base. “It’s something for our employees to work towards. [They have] got that insight that there is a motivation to stay with the [organisation], that there are bigger benefits on the horizon,” said Shatwell.
While unlimited leave can serve as a key differentiator for some organisations, alternative forms of flexible working may be more relevant and effective for others. “I think what organisations should is have a very personal approach to flexible working, where how and when [employees] take holiday is something that [they] can agree,” said Gee.