Unlimited Annual Leave

Contents: a short blog on why we need to keep a focus on the substance of what matters to people

I was on 5Live a couple of weeks ago talking about unlimited annual leave. When you give a radio interview broadly you get to answer the questions and then broaden things out a bit. Also if you are me you are very scared and slightly confused as to how you ended up on the radio.

We ran out of time so this is what I was going to say if the BBC hadn’t decided that somehow people would be more interested in hearing the national news at 10am rather than an extended interview with me…

“I’m glad more organisations are at least thinking about being more creative in the way they support their people. Of course I am. And I’m glad they are being more creative about it – and hopefully more trusting. These are good things. It would be cheap to knock them.

And yet… There is something gimmicky and headline seeking about things like this because all too often they are dealing with the frippery of people’s experience of work. They aren’t addressing the heart of what people would like improved. We live in a time of rightly heightened awareness of how unfair and dehumanising work can be – and so many examples of how it is for so many. A caller described this issue as a ‘middle-class problem’ and I’m inclined to agree.

It seems wrong to be talking about unlimited annual leave when so many people are working hard in unacceptable conditions with little job security and struggling to meet the rent or mortgage payments. It seems wrong to focus on annual leave when the duty of care for mental health and wellbeing that employers have is so manifestly not being delivered for millions of people.

So I can talk about unlimited annual leave and whether it is a fad or a good idea (or possibly both) but it isn’t the conversation that would concern most people. It isn’t the elephant in the room. People want fairness, dignity, security and transparency. That’s not about how many days they get off. It’s what happens on the days they don’t have off”

I’d have said that. But I didn’t get the chance so I’ll write it here.

One thought on “Unlimited Annual Leave

  1. David, I saw you on the radio – the wonders of today’s technology, I get to see you in the radio studio! I would tend to agree, in some ways, unlimited holidays and flexible working, distributed teams etc are all first world problems. You could also say that it’s all relative. I do believe there is indeed an elephant in the room, especially to the non knowledge working groups or what’s left of the ‘blue collar’ category. We have been dehumanising that group for decades and things like zero hours contracts don’t help at all.

    In terms of basic and fair conditions of employment we still have a long way to go for those trapped in working patterns where some of the things we’ve discussed are not an option. Or where working conditions are still an issue.

    But lets not forget, mental health isn’t a low income problem, it affects many in the knowledge economy – many in the ‘middle chattering classes’. Poor treatment of employees is not limited to the unforgotten – the news this week about Revolut and its culture is a case in point.

    Ultimately, yes we need to own these issues and call them out. And demand change. But that shouldn’t stop us making changes and pushing the boundaries in the other categories which might seem to have it better than others. So, lets keep championing full working flexibility, unlimited time off (let’s stop calling it holiday or some other needless categorisation) remote working etc because the more we do that, the more others can look at that way of working and say “why can’t i have that”.


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