Could unlimited paid holiday become the norm?

After Virgin and Netflix, Grant Thornton has become the latest to offer the perk - but only in the US.

by Jack Torrance
Last Updated: 22 Dec 2015

Unlimited paid holiday is a big divider. While many hardened HR professionals it can create an unhealthy attitude to taking time off, it's becoming an increasingly popular benefit for businesses keen to look like a great place to work.

So far it's mainly been the purview of trendy tech companies like Netflix (and PR hungry outfits like Virgin) but now it's even sneaking its way into the more traditional world of accounting. Grant Thornton's US arm has announced it plans to offer unlimited leave, although it uses the decidedly less exciting term 'flex time off', perhaps as a way of discouraging staff from disappearing for months on end.

'This is a modern move for an industry where these types of benefits aren’t really common,' Pamela Harless, the firm's 'chief people and culture officer', told Bloomberg Business. 'We are convinced it will help us to be far more attractive in retaining talent as well as attracting talent.' 

The fight for talent is exactly what has brought this about. Accountancy firms have been locked in a recruitment skirmish of late, forcing them to shake up their respective grad scheme entry criteria and focus more on appealing to women and ethnic minorities.

It's no surprise Grant Thornton got there first; it isn't exactly the crustiest of the world's accounting firms. Its UK boss Sacha Romanovitch recently capped her own pay and announced plans to share profits and allow junior staff to attend board meetings. As the beancounters get increasingly desperate for good staff, don't be surprised if others follow suit.

The policy isn't to everyone's taste though. The US crowdfunding platform Kickstarter recently reversed its decision to introduce unlimited holiday, though it's not clear whether that's because it was being abused or simply that it wasn't working well for staff.

It's certainly not hard to see how saying, Branson-style, workers can take time off whenever they feel on top of their work could discourage people from leaving the office at all. All the same, it seems more than likely that unlimited holiday will become an increasingly common perk - and not just in the sort of offices that are home to table tennis tables and smoothie makers.

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