Leanne Mennie: How effective are unlimited leave policies?

Preact introduced an unlimited leave policy during the pandemic to extend our flexible-working practices.

It demonstrates the trust we have in our team and acknowledges personal circumstances can change the amount of leave someone may require. Things happen in our lives, and our ability to take time to enjoy these moments should not be limited by a defined number of days

We have seen the positive impact this has had on our team as people can do things with family and friends they might not have previously been able to do with limited holiday entitlement.

Before making this commitment, we spoke to other organisations to understand how similar policies had worked for them and what challenges they had encountered. One of the important lessons we took away was the need to make sure all holiday requests are subject to an approval process. Our team can book an uncapped amount of holiday, but it does not mean days can be taken off at the last minute. It is also about being respectful to the business and colleagues so others are not regularly picking up additional workloads.

Another challenge identified was that sometimes not enough holiday was taken, which is something we review. We have a duty of care to the team to ensure they are taking adequate time to rest and recharge.

It takes a little more planning for those in customer-facing roles such as our technical consultants and project managers because of the amount of time they need to be available, but they still manage to make good use of their unlimited leave entitlement and successfully juggle workloads within their teams

I have found that some of our team feel more comfortable working with a set number of holiday days. In these instances, I have suggested identifying the number of days they would perhaps have previously taken. If they reach this number and need more time, they know it is available.

Our policy allows individuals to take time off that they feel is necessary to their circumstances, but ultimately it is important to remember we are all aligned to our company’s objectives and individually, we have key results that have to be met. This remains a balancing act to ensure unlimited leave continues to work well for the business and our team. It is an integral part of our HR policy that contributes to keeping our people motivated and engaged to retain the best talent.

Leanne Mennie is HR and operations director at Preact