Staff 'should take as much time off as they want'

Virgin boss Richard Branson reveals new staff holiday policy

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Workers should be allowed to take as much paid holiday as they like, says Virgin boss Richard Branson - who has introduced the policy for staff in the UK and US.

Branson has revealed the move in his new book, The Virgin Way: Everything I know About Leadership, and says that if it's successful, he'll roll it out worldwide.

"Flexible working has revolutionised how, where and when we all do our jobs. So, if working nine to five no longer applies, then why should strict annual leave (vacation) policies?" he asks on his blog.

Instead, all workers are allowed to take as much time off as they want, whenever they want - without needing to ask for prior approval, and without their holiday time being tracked.

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"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% 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!" he says.

But will it work?

Virgin isn't the first company to take this approach - indeed, Branson says he was inspired by video streaming comnpany Netflix, which has been doing it for years. It was his daughter who first came across the idea, he says, and told him it "would be a very Virgin thing to do".

It's a policy that should be particularly welcome in the US, where employers have no obligation to offer any paid holiday at all - and around a quarter don't. Most give their staff a couple of weeks.

In the UK, almost all workers are legally entitled to 5.6 weeks holiday a year (which works out at 28 days for a full-time worker), although this can include bank holidays.

However, it'll be interesting to see whether Virgin staff do end up taking more holiday than before. There's a strong culture of "presenteeism" these days, with research from jobs website Glassdoor showing that only half of British employees take all their holiday entitlement each year, and that the average worker takes only three quarters of their entitlement.

However, might uncertainty about what's acceptable mean that staff end up working more than before? And how does the idea of considering the effects on the business work when every employee wants the same two weeks in August?

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