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The business value behind unlimited leave

Think that offering your employees unlimited leave is a terrible idea? Think again…

There is immense risk attached to the idea of offering your employees unlimited leave, particularly in a country like South Africa. Here, leave is a legislated and regulated minimum that cannot be lost, so offering unlimited leave can potentially open the organisation to people spending their lives on holiday, conning the system they’ve been given. But, according to Nicol Myburgh, Head: CRS Technologies HCM Business Unit, this is not the case if the organisation adopts an outcomes-based approach to employment.

“The benefit of offering unlimited leave lies in trust – trusting your people to do their jobs, deliver to their key performance indicators (KPIs) and achieve their goals,” he explains. “Managing it requires a fresh approach, turning the organisation into an outcomes-driven system that recognises people as grown adults and rewards them for meeting their targets.”

The premise is simple. Offer employees unlimited leave. They can take off as much time as they want, or need, but can only do so if they are meeting their achieving their targets. If they have dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s by August, why not let them take off until January the following year? The driving force should be their ability to reach their targets, a motivational tool that puts the onus back on the employee and gives them full control over their working life.

“In return for unlimited leave, there has to be a full commitment from the employee but there are risks to consider,” says Myburgh. “Some people are workaholics so if they don’t get legislated leave, they may never take it and run the risk of suffering burnout. Then there’s the other type of person who will take as much leave as they can.

“Unlimited leave also has to be relevant to the work and the people and consequently won’t work in all sectors so,” Myburgh adds.

“Manufacturing, for example, couldn’t implement unlimited leave as employees have to turn up at set times to ensure goals are met on a daily basis. In a corporate organisation, however, it could transform the culture and the way people engage with management.

“In any corporate, an unlimited leave policy would be a solid fit as it allows for people to work on specific tasks and operate intelligently while recognising that they are adults who can manage their own lives,” concludes Myburgh. “You will need to ensure that there are restrictions in place, that the leave is balanced against clear outcomes, and that employees are not given space to wriggle out of their work commitments in favour of paid-for holidays. But it works, and we have seen the proof of it working well.