Unlimited Holiday Allowance: Workplace Heaven or Hell?

Written by: Laura Chetcuti
Published on: 15 Mar 2016

Unlimited Holiday

The notion of an unlimited holiday allowance sounds so romantic doesn’t it? The freedom to take as much annual leave as you like, whenever you fancy it, sounds as though it only exists in a parallel universe. The same parallel universe that houses unicorns, the Easter Bunny and zero calorie burgers. Sounds GREAT! 

The likes of Richard Branson’s Virgin and global streaming service Netflix, have already implemented this at large within their organisations. At Virgin, salaried employees are allowed to take as much time off as they like, whenever they want. Netflix has the same policy, which actually caught Branson’s eye for the ‘non’ policy in the first place! Netflix’s argument for zero holiday tracking on their culture deck is as follows:



Netflix Vacation Policy and Tracking

“there is no policy or tracking”

There is also no clothing policy at Netflix, but no one comes to work naked

Lesson: you don’t need policies for everything


Fair point on the naked thing. We don't operate a dress code and I can confirm that no one arrives to work in our office sans clothing. These unlimited holiday allowances are all made under the assumption that the employee will only take time off work if they are 100% comfortable with that decision. Given the responsibility to orchestrate their own breaks, it is expected that employees consider the wider team and indeed their own contribution before taking six weeks off to go trekking in the Andes. 

But what does everybody actually think of unlimited holiday allowance? Is it truly as good as it sounds for both employers and employees or does it generally cause more problems than it’s worth?  

I genuinely believe that as nice as unlimited holiday sounds, most of us probably don’t really need it. Especially if we are working in a happy, healthy environment. Perhaps in strict, more corporate cultures, where working from home isn’t an option and clocking-in and out is firmly monitored, it might be more appealing? Maybe someone who works for this kind of organisation can divulge their view?

I brought up the debate with the rest of the office, and there is definitely a divide in opinion here. Here are a few points we considered: 


The Pros 


Does It Even Itself Out? 

If every employee was given the freedom and flexibility to take time off as and when they like, perhaps annual leave would even itself out naturally? Usually, staff members from the same team aren’t encouraged to take time off in tandem. If people are socially-aware within the workplace, you’d like to think that they wouldn’t monopolize on holiday time to the detriment of their colleagues and friends. There’s a whole team to consider. It's feasible that holiday is naturally distributed fairly between employees, equating to a slightly more generous but plausible holiday allowance. 


Weed Out The Team Players From The Narcissists 

Could unlimited holiday be a form of workforce natural selection? An interesting move if you look at the unlimited holiday argument from this angle. Perhaps offering this to employees can help businesses weed out the valuable team players from their more self-absorbed contemporaries? Every business is trying to cultivate an enviable working environment, with strong teamwork ethics and a collaborative culture. Even the most old-fashioned businesses dream to jump onto the culture bandwagon in some way. The culture of the business is fast becoming one of the most vital tools in candidate attraction, so maybe unlimited holiday can assist employers in spotting their less committed employees. 


It Promotes And Demonstrates Trust In Staff 

Offering an unlimited holiday allowance requires an extreme level of trust in employees to actually get their jobs done and to the best possible standard. Shouldn’t companies have this level of trust regardless of an unlimited holiday allowance though?


Allow Your Staff To Determine What’s Fair 

Everybody is chasing the autonomy to direct their own path in whatever capacity possible. It’s the autonomy, mastery, purpose argument. The infamous motivation formula.  We are all built with a natural inner-drive. Self-direction is a natural inclination for the human race. A huge pro of unlimited holiday allowance is offering employees freedom of choice. Most professionals care enough about their careers to sensibly determine what is fair and what is unreasonable. This also links back with the idea of team players and narcissists. No one wants to be the most disliked member of a team do they? Fair is fair after all. 


The Cons


Jealousy Or Tension Towards Other Colleagues 

Offering unlimited holiday to an entire workforce can create a huge amount of tension between colleagues. If somebody is seen to be catching more breaks just because they ‘got in there’ first, it’s bound to cause internal rifts. In many ways, offering unlimited holiday as a 'perk' can actually cause more problems than it’s worth. There may be ways to tackle this but doesn’t that defeat the object in the first place? Why have policies in line with an unlimited holiday policy? That automatically makes it a policy? MY BRAIN HURTS.  


Taking Holiday For Stupid Reasons 

If someone wants to take a day’s holiday because they feel it’s vitally important they celebrate their second cousin’s cat’s birthday, then that’s their prerogative. People take days out of their allocated allowance for reasons which are personal to them. Fine. But can you imagine if people could just take a day here and there for the most utterly ridiculous reasons (example above!)? It would cause RIOTS. 

Take an example. Fred might be looking for a week off to whisk his wife away on a romantic anniversary break. Lovely. Fair. Good husband Fred! But Darren is taking the Wednesday off on the only week Fred's wife can do, to take his Spider Plant to a specialist house plant clinic in Romford. Fred now can’t take the week he desired because Darren booked the day off 5 weeks in advance for the critical house plant emergency that is the demise of his Spider Plant. Ridiculous? Yes. 


Too Many People Out

Do you ever have days in the office where loads of people are out on meetings and it’s terribly quiet? They are the WORST days. They definitely are in our office anyway. We love it when we are all in together. Believe it or not, we actually have fun with each other. Unlimited holiday could make for a morgue-like, tedious work environment. Who really wants that every day for 40 years? No one I know!



“The equality of treatment towards incentives and holiday seem to be extremely significant to modern workers. For example if one team is told that they can have this day off if you hit ‘this target’ by ‘this point’, this might incentivise that particular team but others feel left out. People get jealous that they haven’t been given similar opportunities to be rewarded in such ways. This is understandable but it’s very difficult to reward each person equally, due to the different roles people play in a company. Our move is to try and create a company/family goal, and a subsequent incentive. Something that involves everyone and this sense of teamwork works better for us.”

Will Russell, Director, Edge Global Media Group


I agree with Will, but this is just how we operate as a business. It’s each to their own at the end of the day, but I think the days of just being another cog in the wheel are dying out. Teams are becoming closer and surely productivity is increased if everyone is 100% committed? Unlimited holiday has the potential to completely obliterate this kind of culture in the workplace. The future may well hold a remote working culture, which is fine, but for now I think we do very well without an unlimited holiday allowance. 

We’d love to hear your views on this! If you’re working in a business that doesn’t have a culture that fits your personality, why don’t you think about a move? You spend the majority of your life at work for roughly 40 years. It really isn’t worth staying somewhere where you’re not comfortable and most importantly, not happy. We’re advertising jobs from some of the UK’s best businesses to work for, so why don’t you have a look yourself? Good marketing jobs are hard to come by, but we make sure we only advertise the best. Have a look and find business that’s right for you today.