In Part 1 of our leave policy blog series, we navigated the sensitive side of leave policies by exploring menopause, menstrual, pregnancy loss and domestic violence leave. Whether you are wondering what all the fuss is about or considering implementing these policies yourself, we’d suggest heading over there and taking a look first.
This time we’ll be exploring the more unique side of leave policies. Many businesses are turning to unusual policies in an attempt to make their benefits package stand out from their competitors.Delving into everything from your birthday off to unlimited holidays, Part 2 of our series should leave you feeling inspired!
Birthday Day Off
Lots of people choose to take their birthday off work as annual leave, but of course, this restricts their options at other times of the year. For those that choose to work on their birthday, there’s always the risk of them having a ‘lazy’ day – resulting in lost productivity and therefore, profit. Conversely, giving employees paid time off for one-off social occasions can foster loyalty, improve engagement and reduce turnover.
That’s why many businesses are now offering for employees to take their birthday as a paid day off. At We Are Adam, we surveyed our team to find out what benefits they would like to see added to our wellbeing package in 2022 and everyone asked for their birthday off. So, we said yes!
But we are by no means alone in offering this benefit. Glassdoor has a great list of companies who offer the same, with quotes from real employees to back it up. If big businesses like Virgin Media, Shoosmiths and Goccompare can offer it, why can’t everyone?
Moving House Leave
Moving home is a pivotal, stressful moment in anyone’s life. Trying to orchestrate moving all your belongings from one location to another, often in a single day, whilst juggling a full-time job and other family or social commitments can feel like an impossible task.
Of course, if you offer flexible or agile working, you may not need to offer an additional days’ leave for moving home. But some businesses see this as a key opportunity to help them stand out from the crowd. Elsewhere in Europe, for example in Spain, taking the day off to relocate is a statutory right.
Offering additional support around moving day, whether that’s with flexible hours or paid time off, could be a great way to make your business stand out when wooing a potential new employee.
According to this study, 61% of employees have admitted to taking a duvet day from work in order to cope with increasing stress levels. With mental health issues reportedly costing the UK economy a whopping £26 billion per year, it’s no surprise that duvet days are being transformed. No longer just ‘pulling a sickie’, businesses are offering an additional days’ leave that can be taken at short notice to aid recuperation if you are feeling tired or burnt out.
But it’s a controversial topic. Some in the HR industry believe duvet days are a ‘sticking plaster’ and can be used to mask an otherwise poor wellbeing strategy. That being said, Sleep specialist Time 4 Sleep found in a survey that 65% of UK workers would be more inclined to take a job if said company offered duvet days as part of their contract. Perhaps it’s worth exploring if duvet days would complement your current wellbeing offering?
There’s no hiding from the fact that there is currently a skills shortage in the UK. A report by the Learning and Work Institute forecasted that it will cost us £120 billion by 2030.We won’t be getting into the political sensitivities around the governments ‘levelling up’ agenda - which aims to create a “high wage, high skill, high productivity economy” - however research shows around 30% of workers need to transition between occupations, or upskill themselves, in order to achieve their vision.
So what can you do about it?
We all know how tough it is to hire in the current climate, and with salaries rising due to demand, you might not be able to afford to bring in the skillsets you need. Offering study (or professional) leave could be a win win for both your business and your employees. They get to explore new learning opportunities whilst you bring new skills into your existing workforce.
If you do introduce study leave, you certainly wouldn’t be the first. In Sweden everyone is entitled to access Study Leave (although employers can defer it for 6 months), whilst closer to home the NHS offers professional leave for Consultants, Associate Specialists and Staff Grade Doctors.
Perhaps one of the most widely covered (and contested) types of leave to gain momentum in the last few years is Pawternity – time off when you get a new pet to help them settle and establish a routine.
According to a poll by Sodexo Engage, just over 31% of respondents would consider getting a pet if their workplace had flexible policies on the matter. Add that to the whopping 17 million households (59%) that already have at least one pet (Source: PFMA), and you could be on to a real winner by offering this perk. In fact, 1 in 20 pet owners have already been offered this paid time off.
But not everyone agrees.
Despite big names like Brewdog and Mars Petcare (Whiskas, Pedigree Chum etc.) having paid leave policies in place for new pet owners for some time, a recent poll on LinkedIn by Boxpark Founder Roger Wade, found that 61% of people were against the idea. Wade compromised by offering for the employee in question to work from home whilst they got their new puppy settled – something we also offer at We Are Adam. Plus, our offices are dog-friendly, so the new family member would be more than welcome to come in and join us at our HQ!
This is a tricky one. On the one hand, the UK is quite far behind some of our European neighbours. Spain, France, Poland and Malta all offer paid leave for special life events such as weddings. The flip side of this, however, is a risk of discrimination. By offering additional paid leave for weddings, you may be discriminating against single people and non-married couples, so be sure to check in with an employment lawyer before implementing something similar.
According to Mark Di-Toro, Careers Expert at Glassdoor, additional leave policies are great for improving employee retention. He says, “Offering marriage leave is a sign that a company is willing to take a more holistic approach to employee welfare which extends beyond the bare minimum we so often see.”
It’s something many businesses offer. In fact, according to research by Thomsons Online Benefits, 63% of employers offer additional benefits to married employees. They found that employees who are either married or in civil partnerships receive an estimated £2,390 extra per year in additional benefits when compared to their non-married colleagues. This includes an average of 5.4 days of additional annual leave – worth on average £1,083 in pay – wedding gifts, and enhanced contributions for benefits such as family healthcare and dental plans.
So whilst it’s certainly a common additional benefit, be sure to make allowances in other ways for your single or cohabiting employees to ensure no one is left out.
Volunteer Time Off (VTO)
Giving back to the community is a key part of many businesses corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies. What better way to fulfil that, and simultaneously enhance the employee experience, by offering paid time off to volunteer? It’s an opportunity to make a meaningful difference to the lives of both your colleagues and your local area.
Yet despite the obvious benefits, 63% of people do not receive any VTO in their benefits package. Clearly, with such a tight squeeze on the job market, and a distinct lack of the required skills available, businesses are reluctant to give their current employees more time off.
That being said, offering VTO is a great way to tap into the significant chunk of the marketplace who want to join an organisation that reflects their values. It matters most to millennials (FYI - they’re your current and future leaders, aged about 26-41 in 2022); 75% said they would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company, and 64% would turn down a role if the company didn’t have strong CSR values.
There are some amazing examples out there such as Patagonia who offer up to 2 months VTO, and the CIPD has a superb resource on Employer-supported Volunteering so there’s plenty of inspiration to get you started if you are considering a VTO policy.
Taking a sabbatical or career break has become something of a hot topic following revelations that older workers are returning to the job market due to the cost of living crisis as their pensions are no longer enough to live on. Younger people are being warned to be prepared to work later in life, and the idea of a career break keeps being mooted.
Firstly, career breaks and sabbaticals have a subtle difference – a sabbatical allows you to return to the same job, a career break usually means leaving your employer – but both are (typically) unpaid time away from work.
Sabbaticals can be a great way to retain your top talent, allowing them to take a period of time to explore new passions or go travelling, for example. As the employer gets to set the parameters of a sabbatical, you’re far more likely to have the employee return at a time that suits the business.
The great news is that gaps on a CV are becoming less taboo thanks to fallout from the pandemic. A poll of HR professionals showed that 82% thought there was stigma before COVID-19, but nearly half said that stigma has since reduced. The idea that career breaks are taken because of burnout is fading, being rightfully replaced by the narrative that they are an enriching experience.
That’s the approach that professional services firm Ernst & Young has taken in Australia. They offer up to an additional 12 weeks of unpaid leave to travel, work part-time or simply relax - called Life Leave. It forms part of a wider flexibility initiative designed to attract and retain all demographics of employees. Here’s hoping the policy is as catchy as its title!
We would be remiss to explore leave policies without including unlimited holidays. Despite being around since the 90s, it is still considered a highly controversial topic.UK law dictates that employees are entitled to a minimum of 28 days leave per year, inclusive of bank holidays. A growing number of UK businesses are going above and beyond the statutory entitlements to offer an unlimited amount of leave … with mixed success.
First off, it’s a GREAT talent attraction piece. The lure of unlimited time off work often proves too hard to resist and companies that give this perk tend to fill roles quickly. There are a ton of benefits including a better work-life balance (which reduces the risk of burnout), improved accountability for personal performance, greater productivity thanks to a focus on outcomes rather than time at a desk … the list goes on.
Some big names offer unlimited holidays and swear by these benefits. Netflix says it doesn’t have a 9-5 working policy, so it doesn’t need a holiday policy either. You can just take what you want. LinkedIn followed suit, as did the likes of Github, Hubspot and even Glassdoor.
But there are some distinct disadvantages too. One of the most common reasons unlimited holiday policies fail is that people often don’t take enough holiday thanks to the ‘always on’ culture of modern life. And whilst that might seem like a good thing at first, you can easily end up with a burnout workforce, lost productivity and ultimately, lower revenue. It’s much harder to make sure statutory requirements are met, and if time off isn’t tracked correctly, it’s likely you’ll miss red flags that could damage the business further down the line. Whilst some might not be taking enough leave, others may be taking an unfair amount – leading to resentment and a toxic workplace culture - where people are left to pick up the slack for those who choose to abuse the system.
Since their inception in 2015, CharlieHR offered unlimited holidays. They were vocal advocates, encouraging business leaders to get involved and enhance their employee experience. Since then though, CEO and Co-Founder Ben Gateley announced they would be revoking their unlimited holiday policy. They found that “unlimited holiday doesn’t work – but probably not for the reason you think.” So before you jump onboard this band wagon, we strongly suggest reading this brilliant blog to discover their key learnings.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on enhanced leave packages. Are they essential to a great employee experience? Do you see them as a handy talent attraction tool? Does all this talk of extra time off have you worried? Join in the conversation on social media!
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