One of the latest trends to help mitigate cost and create a value-add for organizations is the concept of "Unlimited Vacation". Organizations tout (especially those in the technology sector) that this allows employees to take as much time off as they need to recharge, refresh and relax. Where philosophically this is great - a world where employees are free to manage their busy schedules by incorporating work into their life versus trying to incorporate a life around their work sounds like nirvana, unfortunately, it's not all rainbows and unicorns.
This type of program isn't for the faint at heart; this can cause some real heartburn for you as an HR professional. Here are some things you may want to consider before you jump on the unlimited vacation bandwagon.
DON'T CALL IT UNLIMITED VACATION
This can have negative implications, especially if you have employees in California. Because California law is so employee-friendly you don't want to be in a position where you need to shell out substantial vacation pay because you said you had an "unlimited vacation policy". Instead, call it Flexible Time-Off.
HOLD YOUR MANAGERS ACCOUNTABLE FOR TIME OFF
Employees will resent your organization and will stop trusting your leadership if you don't hold your supervisors accountable for ensuring balance within their teams and the organization as a whole. Nothing will ruin a program like having two departments where one supervisor highly encourages employees to take time off and another that never approves time off requests. You need to educate your supervisors on your expectations and hold them accountable just like any other goal.
SET REALISTIC ORGANIZATIONAL GOALS
One of the biggest pitfalls is that employers create a long list of goals each year without any consideration to the number of employees who can do the work or the number of hours it takes to meet the goal. Employees will resent having so much work that they feel they can't take time off, or feel that it is looked down upon if they do.
CREATE A SEPARATE MEDICAL LEAVE POLICY
Develop specific guidelines on how Flexible Time Off is separate and distinct from a medical leave. Outline how each is reported and approved. If you don't, you may wind up in court for violating a Federal or state protected leave law.
FIND AN ABSENCE MANAGEMENT CONSULTANT
Unless you are an expert in this field, don't go it alone. Hiring a consultant to help you strategically align your leave program with business needs, develop the actual policies and determine the incremental cost savings for the organization will be worth every penny. You can find several qualified consultants on HR Company Store.
At the end of the day, employees see time off as an entitlement and not a benefit. If you design your Flexible Time-Off program correctly your employees will not feel that you are just implementing the program to save on the accounting accrual. They will see it as you really care about them and their families and want to help them have the best life they can have. In the end, your Flexible Time-Off program will turn back into the benefit is was originally meant to be!