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Life Leave: A New Workplace Trend to Consider

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Should you take a whole day of your precious annual vacation to wait for the broadband technician to visit? Should you get the car repaired or deal with a flooded basement?

According to conventional wisdom, this is your only choice. But maybe there is a better solution.

Some innovative companies give their employees extra time off for those things that work gets in the way of - or for when life just throws you lemons. Lifetime leave is additional annual leave granted in addition to existing leave (including sick leave and the like) for essential matters that do not require rest.

Brewery company Molson Coors recently introduced lifetime leave for its more than 2,000 employees in the UK and Ireland. This policy "allows employees to take up to two weeks of paid leave for important personal situations, such as introducing a new pet, moving, studying for exams or making final preparations for a wedding."

This is really very generous and seems like a good way to support employee well-being - something we are very much in favor of.

Another company, Ernst & Young, now gives its Australian employees six to twelve weeks (!) of vacation per year to "travel, work part-time or simply do nothing." These measures are an attempt to meet the growing demand for flexible working from travel-loving millennials.

But this seems a little too good to be true. EY, as the company is now called, is one of the largest accounting firms in the world and notoriously competitive. It could be a PR ploy, but maybe I'm just being cynical. I wonder though, why only the Australian employees? And does that apply to everyone, from the top dogs to the juniors? I would bet that quite a number of the 270,000 employees worldwide would not be happy about having to forego such a generous benefit.

However, if it's a real benefit, that sounds great.

Lifetime vacations do what other vacations don't

Adam Firby, HR director at Molson Coors, says of his program

"There are often things in our lives that we would normally use annual leave to sort out, but this eats up the actual downtime."

This is a really important point. We shouldn't have to use up our precious rest time managing life.

In another article we examined how to plan vacation pay throughout the year:

"It's also worth considering whether or not you want to account for every single day of vacation. While you may want to schedule every single day of vacation as quickly as possible, it may make sense to set aside a few days for unexpected needs."
"If you're happy that your company gives you extra days off for unplanned reasons such as family emergencies or if you have to wait at home for a parcel delivery or BT technician, then just book. Some may want to save a day or two of vacation until the end of the year for things like this."

We all have things in life that keep us busy. And some are hard to explain in the workplace - being distracted by a relationship breakdown can make work nearly impossible, but taking a sick day to do it seems silly. And you wouldn't plan a vacation in advance just to be sad about a breakup, would you? This is exactly the kind of thing a life vacation would be ideal for.

Could your company adopt this as a policy?

The dark side of life vacation

It would be interesting to know how the above ideas play out in these large organizations. We have already seen admirable and progressive annual leave policies abandoned because everyone could not agree on who gets what. The Wellcome Trust had to abandon its plans for a four-day working week because of the complexity of the matter - it is hard to agree when the organization has such a variety of jobs and necessary tasks.

You can imagine a life leave policy causing similar problems. Maybe your graphic designer can skip the afternoon to take his dog to the vet, but what about your IT help desk consultant? And can she do the same for her goldfish or tarantula?

A similar debate occasionally arises when the possibility of menstrual leave is suggested.

While this is a nice idea because of its impact on women's well-being and ability to work, it is not without controversy (as you can see from the lively debate in the comments section of the article linked above). How do you as an employer know when vacation is really justified? Is the system being abused? Is it unfair to men?
And if some people don't suffer as much as others, why should they have to work when others don't?

These questions can easily be applied to the vacation of life.

Priority for a holiday-affirming culture

It all depends on the company's priorities and building a culture.

If your company is stretched to the limit, employees are required to work overtime to meet their goals, and every minute of their day is being scrutinized for productivity, you will be wary of giving anyone special leave. Especially if it can be taken at short notice.

At workplaces where a certain number of employees must be present, such as: B. in catering, transport, logistics, construction, etc., the number of employees is precious and is strictly controlled. This is understandable and does not necessarily indicate a toxic culture. Lifetime vacation is not practical for paramedics and pilots.

But if you run a service-oriented business where the creative output of employees is the greatest value, it's worth the offer. If the output can be moved around a calendar, taking extra time off in exchange for better well-being (and therefore more productivity) could be a good idea.

If lifetime leave is introduced, it must be properly communicated so that there are no misunderstandings and employees are not taken for a ride. Write this down as part of a properly documented absence policy and you should be able to avoid conflict.

Lifetime leave offers flexibility for employees, but implementation requires careful consideration. IceHrm provides insights into navigating this emerging workplace trend.

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