Is an Unlimited-Vacation Policy Truly Good for Workers?

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Richard Branson offers unlimited vacation to his Virgin Group salaried employees, but it may not be as good a deal as it sounds.

Imagine being able to take off as much time as you want from work. It sounds like a pipe dream, but it’s a new reality for salaried employees of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group.

According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Virgin has joined the tiny ranks (less than 1 percent nationwide) of companies that offer unlimited time off. Companies like Zynga, Motley Fool, Netflix and SurveyMonkey already have unlimited-vacation policies.

Virgin is testing the new policy with salaried staff at its parent company. If successful, it will be implemented at all Virgin subsidiaries.

Branson, in a blog post (an excerpt from his book “The Virgin Way”) said he was inspired by Netflix’s policy, which he described like this:


It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off, the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel 100 percent comfortable that they and their team are up-to-date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers!

But some think a policy like that could backfire.

“If the first condition for taking time off is deciding you wouldn’t be missed, it sounds scarily like an invitation to the boss to make it permanent,” The Guardian said.

Bloomberg Businessweek agreed:

Already, some 40 percent of American workers don’t use all their paid vacation days. Even away from the office, employees can still choose to be on their BlackBerrys for 168 hours a week (as the device’s marketing materials point out, to every worker’s distress). Abolishing official vacation days also means you can’t trade unused days for cash, or hoard them for 20 years and take a hard-won paid sabbatical before retiring.

Bruce Elliott of the Society for Human Resource Management told The Huffington Post that an unlimited-vacation policy can work at companies that are more project-oriented.

“They can say, ‘I just finished up a project, now is the perfect time to take a week off before the next one starts,’” Elliott said.

What do you think of Virgin Group’s new unlimited-vacation policy? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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