Days for a summer holiday, days for Christmas, days for festivals and family occasions, days for chilling out and taking a proper break.

By the time you plan all of your annual leave, your holiday days can get used up pretty quick, which is why unlimited holidays sound so appealing. A growing perk, particularly in technology companies, unlimited holidays have their pros and cons. Here’s how they work and some of the companies that offer them.

Who offers unlimited holidays & are they as good as they seem?

About 1% – 5% of companies in the US offer unlimited holidays. There are no figures on this in Ireland but you can expect it’s something similar, or lower. Netflix was the original unlimited holidays pioneer, followed by Richard Branson and Virgin. Unlimited holidays are largely offered by technology companies, such as WorkDay, LinkedIn and HubSpot. In Ireland, companies from other sectors are also offering this tempting benefit – such as accountancy firm Grant Thornton and, most recently, Paddy Power.

With these companies, the policy tends to be take as many holidays as you like, as long as it doesn’t impact your work or your team negatively. In the words of Netflix “act in Netflix’s best interest.”

There are no explicit rules or set limitations but of course, it’s implied you shouldn’t take weeks and weeks off at any given time.

For companies and employees, the results of unlimited holidays vary. Take for example American software company Kronos. Before introducing an unlimited holidays program Kronos employees weren’t using all of their holidays. Two years after the incentive was introduced employees are now taking on average an extra 2.65 days off and the company has introduced several other benefits with the money they’ve saved from getting rid of leave liability – the cost incurred by employees not using annual leave. A win, win for employee and employer.

At other companies the results aren’t as positive. Workers can feel they need to prove their dedication and worth by not taking excessive, or any, holidays and end up less happy and rested than before.

Make unlimited holidays work for you

The main issue with unlimited holidays is knowing where you stand. Will your manager be annoyed if you book holidays? How many is too many?

The best way to make your unlimited holidays work for you is to know exactly what your expectations and goals are. Have these written down and confirmed by your manager. This way, you know you’re both on the same page and can manage your time and holidays better. For example, if you know you have 3 projects on in May, followed by an ease in workload, you can book in and plan some of your unlimited holidays for this time. Similarly, if you know your colleague is going away for two weeks, try and avoid being off at the same time as them.

If you’re unsure of how exactly the policy works, ask HR or your manager. Ideally, get a written policy so you have something to check anytime you’re worrying about taking too much or too little time off.

Whether it’s in the policy or not, be open to alternative dates and try and book in your holidays at least 2 – 4 weeks in advance. This shows you have respect for your colleagues and gives plenty of time for those around you to plan for your absence. Plus, it eliminates any concern that your damaging your “career opportunities” by taking lots of time off.

Why businesses offer unlimited holidays – what’s in it for them

The main perk for a business is that unlimited holidays sounds appealing to potential employees, so is a great way to attract new employees. Unlimited holidays sets a company apart from more traditional style companies, and gives the impression of a laid back, trusting and modern workplace.

Another big plus is when there are no set number of holiday days, an employer no longer has to pay you for unused days. For example, in most places, an employee gets a standard 20 days annual leave. If they don’t use these days they’re entitled to receive the pay for their unused holidays.

A recent Cpl Employment Monitor found that over 80% of the Irish population don’t take their full annual leave entitlement, so offering unlimited holidays could be a no-brainer and cost saving measure in the near future. If the company culture is right, unlimited holidays is an amazing perk to have, and gets rid of that niggling “am I using my days right” worry.

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