Unlimited vacation policies


Companies are moving to unlimited vacation policies. What do you think about this?
To me, pros are that employees can benefit from this, we can have a better balance in our life-style, we could see vacation as a reward: the more we are successful with our projects the more we can benefit with time off.
The main cons is having employees abusing of this, the level of trust must be high. On the other side, if being extremely generous or workhaolic you will never been on vacation.
What is your experience or expectation?

Time Off Request
Human Resource Development
Paolo Beffagnotti
16 months ago

6 answers


This is a little like restaurants that ask diners to 'pay what they feel the food was worth'. People get 'shamed' into over paying. The suggestion is that employees take fewer days holiday, rather than more.

David Cottrell
16 months ago
Really good anology! Curious to see how this will work, in particular in my case. - Paolo 16 months ago
When I worked in the Netherlands, they gave extra holidays during period of high inflation instead of salary increases. No one ever managed to take all of the extra days but they did save them up and cash them in when the retired. It was treated as an unofficial savings plan. - David 16 months ago
It didn't know about this, I arrived here just few years ago. Thanks for sharing the experience! - Paolo 16 months ago
Yes, this would be my assumption, employees taking less holidays. And as there are no defined number of holidays, no possibility to "cash them". Also employees not taking enough holidays, could be a risk factor for the company. - Patrick 16 months ago
Agree Patrick, it could be a risk for the company but for the employee too. No life balance is not good. in general It is up to the company, and the team, to ensure everyone will benefit of the proper time off. - Paolo 16 months ago
Seems like a real red herring and if someone took too much time they would be shunned by the culture’s unwritten rule and perhaps fired for some other reason. - Anthony 16 months ago
good point Anthony Jaccarino , I would see also such a risk. Later for HR difficult to investigate. - Patrick 16 months ago

Hello Paolo,

a fascinating question. A lot of use have defined working hours and holidays, but if we are honest, it only counts how good we do our work and if we finish our tasks. This independent how much hours we work a day or if we do over-hours the weekends. Unlimited vacation empowers employees, but on the other hand pressures them, as HR may have a look how many days someone tasks, which may influence own's career.

Patrick Henz
16 months ago
Right Patrick, trust is the main point to me. This could help to be more efficient. I am trying the unlimited vacation policy now, curious to see how this will work. - Paolo 16 months ago

I strongly suggest you talk to some peers who have the policy, I think you'll find the reality is not quite what you're worried may happen. Real life examples will help your thinking.

Omer Aziz, PENG, CHRL
16 months ago
Thanks Omer Aziz, PENG, CHRL, definitely I will do this. Did you have any experience with this? - Paolo 16 months ago

Hi Paolo,

whereas a great idea, it appears that (in the majority of cases) the employees are taking even less numbers of vacation days than before. I guess it all comes down to the culture that your company has and what the company values.

Douglas LaBier, a business psychologist and director of the Center for Progressive Development, says part of the challenge here has to do with the gap between what companies claim to want to be versus the values espoused by their actions. “As there’s a push to try to make a work culture a more supportive, team-oriented kind of culture that promotes and rewards innovation and creativity, that can clash with old top-down command and control policies. So if a culture has been more traditional, and then it says they’re going to try unlimited vacation, that can create some backlash.”
It’s not that employees are not welcoming policies like these, it’s the fact they’re not used to them and don’t know how is expected that they react or what is “acceptable”.

Some companies have already set some guidelines around the unlimited policy stating things like “unlimited days, with a minimum of 25 per year” for example, to encourage those employees with a more conventional mindset to make use of their time off without feeling guilty or fearing that their manager/ colleague will think they abuse.

Anamaria Dorgo
16 months ago
I think that “unlimited days, with a minimum of 25 per year” is a good solution to encourage people to take the advantage of this. Employees will feel more free to take vacations. It is interesting even not to have a max, up to the employee to take days off. It is matter of responsibility. - Paolo 16 months ago
Why call it "unlimited" when you place a 25 day limit on it? Maybe "expanded" vacation policy. More time off will most likely lead to Europen mindset. The continent goes on Holiday for August, and when those institutions went to four day work weeks, they can never go back. Productivity is waning accordingly. - Tom 16 months ago
Tom Hayhurst having a minimum of 25 days per year was just an example on how companies could encourage employees to take the advantage of this - Paolo 16 months ago

Every policy has some pros and cons definitely,If you consider the pros -

> It is good for hard working employee to get some extra time to get relax.
> With this policy ,employee will work even more harder to complete the project more professionally to avail more benefits from it.
>It will definitely improve the productivity of company to a high level.

If you consider the cons -

> Again it will affect the company culture for sure. Because every one wants to avail this policy ,so sometime they won't work perfectly to make project deliverable rather than need to complete only.
> If at a time a huge team went for vacation and some critical issues came then who will take care of these issues.

Welcoming you to comment down your suggestions and thoughts below.Thank You.

Fact DNA
16 months ago
It is always important to coordinate the vacation time in a team avoiding to have everyone on vacation at the same time. It is even important to share what you are doing, so you can enjoy your vacation without thoughts as someone else can take over your work when you are out. - Paolo 16 months ago

I think it is a cop out from making a real policy. What if someone said I need 3 months off to travel? Would they approve? If they do how would coworkers follow this action? If they don’t then the policy is exposed for the gimmick it is.

Anthony Jaccarino
16 months ago
I've worked at places where people have been given a sabbatical to travel the world or return to study. It was done willingly but the returnee never enjoyed the same career development and usually left after 1 year. - David 16 months ago
Sabbatical with full pay and benefits? - Anthony 16 months ago
No, no - David 16 months ago
As David mentioned you can ask for a sabbatical, not just 3 months off - Paolo 16 months ago
If by sabbatical we mean time without pay then it is really an apples to oranges comparison. Vacation is traditionally fully funded time off. - Anthony 16 months ago
I was thinking about paid sabbatical, at least partially - Paolo 16 months ago

Have some input?