The majority of Americans don't use all their vacation time, according to Human Resources Executive Online. A recent innovation in paid leave may reduce this problem, but it might also make it worse. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, has initiated a plan that will offer unlimited vacation to every employee provided they've done all their work. The problem with the plan is the question of when work has been finished is relatively ambiguous for most Americans – there is always something to do on the job.
Currently, only about 1 percent of companies offer unlimited days off. Additionally, the leave is typically given to those in positions that already provide flexible working days. The plan has more to do with human resource planning on the financial end than it does with presenting an incentive to workers.
"Unlimited leave is being offered primarily to executives and managers, who already have a great deal of flexibility," said Mary Tavarozzi, HR manager at Towers Watson. "Hourly workers would probably take more time if they were offered unlimited vacation time, but they – in general – are not the ones being offered this benefit."
She explained the reason many companies offer unlimited leave to executive is that when business people don't take their days off, they receive accrued leave, which must be reconciled with financial statements, becoming a liability.
The problem for employees
Time Magazine reported that the total cost of accrued vacation time that employees never use comes to about $52.4 billion, or 169 million paid days off, citing data from the U.S. Travel Association.
Some of the reasons people don't take vacation time are nobody else can do a certain job or that it may lead to a promotion. However it was found that those who forfeit their leave are actually less likely to become promoted. Additionally, those who refrain from taking vacations say they are more stressed at work.
A small company that offers unlimited days off
A business-to-business company called crowdSpring offers its employees as many days off as they want, but for the most part, they use it in small pieces, such as taking a Friday or a Monday off of work, rather than spending a month out of the office. Mike Samson, founder of the firm, said to Human Resources Online that it was likely if the company grows larger than its 15 employees, he may have to reconsider the policy, although he would never get rid of it completely.
Whether companies adopt more radical vacation policies in the future or not, it appears evident that taking time off is a good thing.