When it comes to human resources for small businesses, if there’s one thing that should entice candidates to your company it’s a generous holiday package. And for the majority of us who are in the United Kingdom, the good news is that our legal statutory holiday entitlement is 5.6 weeks’ worth of paid holiday a year. Or in simpler terms, 28 days a year based on a five day working week.
And that’s only the minimum as specified by the UK government. So technically speaking, your organisation could offer more days of holiday if it wanted to.
And while some (particularly business owners) might see that as an-already generous allowance (and it is when compared to some countries), we’re also not top of the pops when it comes to holiday entitlement. Take a look at this very brief list of annual leave comparisons:
UK: 28 days paid leave BUT these include bank / public holidays
Sweden: 25 days paid leave AND 11 public holidays
France: 25 days paid leave and 11 public holidays (AND a 35 hour working week)
Cambodia: 15 days paid leave and 27 - yes 27 - public holidays
And at the other end of the scale we have (among other countries):
China: 5 days paid leave (after 2 years of working for the same company)
USA: 0 days of paid leave (while most employees do get some paid annual leave, it is not a legal requirement and there is therefore no guarantee that they will have time off.)
So how does YOUR annual leave allowance stack up?
So if you want to make your job vacancies more appealing to the best applicants that your industry has to offer should you offer more than the statutory annual leave? Or would you be better off investing in other perks such as gym memberships, duvet days or free in-office snacks to show employee appreciation?
And if you do decide to entice promising potential employees with time off, is there a limit? Could you actually be offering too many days off? If you’re wearing your employee hat you might be tempted to declare “There’s no such thing as too many days off!”
But is that really true? Even from an employee’s perspective?
Why offering too much annual leave might not be a good thing
You’ve probably read about startups who offer their employees as many days of annual leave as they like. Indeed, some corporate firms have even started offering the same policy. It’s the HR equivalent of the salad bar or the bottomless refill of coffee. But is it a good thing? And would it work for your organisation?
Well it sounds pretty great at first glance and as far as employee retention practices go, surely it’s a winner. Who wouldn’t love as many days off a year as they could cram in? But even the biggest crouton lover or coffee drinker in the world would probably admit there’s only so many visits to the salad bar or as many cups of joe they can handle.
For as cool as this perk may sound, it doesn’t come without its issues - for both employer and employee.
For you as an employer or someone working in human resources for small businesses, you might find the admin of dealing with non-stop holiday requests unwieldy. Could your HR systems handle the hassle of trying to make sure shifts are covered, deadlines met, or teams adequately staffed?
For your employees, while they may jump at the mention of ‘all-you-can-eat’ annual leave, the issue is that it starts to pile on the pressure.
You may have worked in one of those offices that operated on a ‘sort of flexi time’. You come in at 9am, you can leave at 5pm. You come in at a quarter past and you leave accordingly. You get people that leave on the dot as soon as their 8 hours are up and you get others who stay two hours late every evening regardless.
And you’re probably left somewhere in between - not wanting to be seen ‘leaving early’ - even if you’ve finished your working day, but not wanting to add an hour of unpaid work onto the end of your working day through guilt because someone else shows no sign of logging off at 7.30pm.
When there’s no set definition for a policy it can cause issues, pressure and resentment among staff and colleagues. And the same can be said for unlimited annual leave. How much do you take?
Do you want to look like the model employee and only take seven days a year (cutting your own nose off to spite your face…) or do you instead plump for a cool two months out of every twelve and risk taking the title for the company’s biggest slacker - even if you’re not technically doing anything wrong?
It might look like the ultimate act of employee appreciation but when a policy is vague it doesn’t really benefit anyone. As an employer or HR department, you are leaving yourself open to exploitation while at the other end of the scale, your people are at risk of exhaustion because they’re too afraid to take enough time off.
But offering a generous annual leave policy can work in your favour
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that employees who feel trusted and respected by their employer are more likely to be more engaged and therefore less likely to seek employment elsewhere. Therefore you could conclude that a generous annual leave policy is just one more of your employee retention practices.
And of course, an employee who has enough time off, whether to deal with personal issues, take a vacation, take maternity or paternity leave, or to just chill at home is going to be less stressed, and more productive and creative when they are at work.
And as we’ve mentioned, if your annual leave is generous (but fair and stipulated) and above the statutory government mandated leave it can be an attractive carrot to be used in recruitment.
And let’s not forget that implementing an above average annual leave policy will also go a long way to building a great company culture and fostering a feeling of employee appreciation. It’s telling your people that you respect the fact that they have a life outside the workplace.
And this is something that goes two ways and works in your favour too. After all, respect is earned and usually mutual: you respect your employees’ downtime and they’ll respect your company and its policies.
It’s a catch 22 situation - but in a good way!
An ongoing cycle of respect, productivity, creativity and engagement makes for happier employees and a business that is more likely to delight its clients and turn a greater profit.