Unique Leave of Absence Policies

4 min readMay 21, 2018

Leave of absence policies differ around the globe, and while most companies still treat leave time rather conservatively, others are taking chances and try novelties. Below is an exciting selection of leave of absence policies you may find applicable to your own business:

Unlimited Vacation

No matter how odd it may sound, paid vacations may be no longer limited. It is becoming a common practice not only for small businesses where long absences are obvious and easy to track, — big companies like Netflix, Twitter, LinkedIn and GrubHubhave started implementing the same policy. So what is unlimited vacation and what are the benefits of it?

Unlimited vacation — literally means what it says: employees are free to decide how much time off they need to decompress and recharge before another year of hard work. Good salaries and health benefits these days come alongside with flexible schedules and open vacation plans, as companies are trying to increase motivation and boost productivity at all costs.

Sounds insane, but more and more companies let go and stop setting limits for vacation time for their personnel. The risk is obvious. However, according to The Forbes magazine, the effect is unexpected — employees start taking not more, but even less time off. Psychologists explain it by growing sense of personal responsibility and conscious behavior towards the employer. It may also be explained by existing workaholic culture Americans have generously been exporting around the world, supporting it by a common saying “why go on vacation when work is so much more fun”?!

Survey data shows a number of occasions, when managers had to convince their staff to take even longer breaks, and were thinking about introducing minimal vacation time or returning to the old school mandatory leave of absence policy.

Shared sick leave bank

Having discussed the benefit of giving employees freedom to decide how long they need to rest, it seems reasonable to cover sick leave options too. Normally nobody chooses to be sick, and unlike vacation it is hard to set limits for sick leaves in general. Still, a regular policy prevails and a large number of employers fix a certain number of days their employees may be on sick leave during a year. Unfair it may be, but this is how things are up-to-date.

A solution has been found. A new concept of “a sick leave bank” came to existence, which allows staff to donate surplus sick hours to colleagues, who really need that. Compassion and empathy are natural for human beings, besides it helps build stronger ties within teams and brings joy to those who choose to share. It is also good for employers as it allows to avoid unnecessary staff turnover, and helps to keep experienced team members despite their long absence. However, managers should be reasonable and save considerable portions of sick leaves for generous donors in case they might need to use those.

Panda Fridays at WWF

Unique work perks are offered widely and are instrumental in retaining top talent in the company. They vary greatly from payed days off to volunteer or do sports to on-site acupuncture and a possibility to ship breast milk.

World Wildlife foundation, for example, offers so-called “Panda Fridays” to its employees, so they can take every other Friday off. Panda bear is the unofficial mascot of the WWF, a nonprofit that champions environmental causes. And, according to The Washington Post, the organization felt it should lead by example: “By periodically closing down its office, the WWF said it is reducing its carbon footprint by trimming use of electricity, heat, air conditioning and other utilities. And eliminating one day of commuting for its employees means that the nonprofit is taking some cars off the road”.

Six month leave to start a private business

Liberal leave of absence policies may be governed by state law, and businesses have to comply. For example, Sweden is particularly known for its generous parental and maternity leaves (a combined period of 16 months for each child with 80% of pay!). Other attractive options Swedish employees are eligible for include leave of absence for education (6 months paid leave), political and union activities leave, care of close relatives or pressing family reasons leave, time off for trying a new job (state sector only), leave of absence to climb Mount Everest — just to name a few. Generally, such leaves of absence are not paid, still they provide a unique opportunity to secure one’s position and do important things in life.

Above all Sweden, a startups Eldorado, does a lot to encourage small businesses. A specific law (the Right to Leave to Conduct a Business Operation Act, 1998) regulates a quite extravagant leave of absence policy aimed at running one’s own company. Employees may apply for a half year vacation to attempt a private business as long as it doesn’t compete with the current employer’s company. If a small business fails, an employee can always return to the original workplace. Luckily for the employers, such behavior may be exercised once per job.

As you might imagine, extraordinary leaves may be very hard to implement, and there are companies like Google with unparalleled benefits and perks. Still, we believe there are ways for your employees to take leave time in style. And no matter what your vacation policy is aimed at: to motivate your staff, share sick leaves if others need your help, let somebody open a private business and do well in life, or you want to go green and save our planet — it’ll all do. As long as there is leave time.

Originally published at www.actiplans.com.




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