So there is this article about how Virgin is allowing employees to take as much vacation leave as they want, as long as they get their work done.

This appears to be a good thing, as it allows a great level of flexibility while still expecting people to do their work rather than disappear suddenly on the eve of a deadline.

However, what if the employer allocates workloads such that it is never possible to take vacation leave? Even with standard working hours and leave procedures, it is fairly common for employers to expect employees to work a lot more than the standard 40-hour week. If this is already a problem as it is, how much worse is it if there isn't a set number of days that are yours to take, and your employer always expects an excessive workload to deliver?

How can one protect oneself from this kind of 'exploitation' (for lack of a better word) in a setting such as Virgin without a clearly defined number of leave days you can take (same argument goes for companies that no longer have a fixed number of hours per week)?


1 Answer 1


An employer that is reasonable enough to offer a non-fixed number of leave days has very likely already decided on what qualifies as reasonable levels of work. Anyone who works in a corporate (or government) capacity already has to show their value through performance reports/reviews/etc. This is not a new concept. So those individuals not successfully performing in their reviews obviously would be subject to some kind of sanction particularly if there was an excessive amount of leave taken.

Then also consider the concept of peer review. We work in group environments, and despite our best efforts almost everyone is at least a little gossipy. We're always in each others' business poking around, being nosy, worrying about things that have nothing to do with us. If an individual is slacking in an environment and taking excessive amounts of leave, it will become obvious through the common peer review process. People will complain about it. Maybe not to the person's face, but the feedback will be presented at some point.

Not wanting to be called out as one of these individuals will be a heavy motivator for people not to abuse the system. There will also be a loyalty factor. My company let me take 5 weeks straight vacation and it was the best thing ever. "Now I absolutely have to crush these tasks as well as I can to prove I'm worth it." This, btw, is what employers like Virgin are banking on. Happier, more loyal, dedicated employees when they are there.

As for the system abusing the people, the people will never stand for it. While the offer of "unlimited" leave may be on the table, if people are never free actually to use it, they will quit. The purpose of offering unlimited leave is so that they don't quit. Again, we're talking about reasonable employers here. I'm sure there will always be some employer out there who'll try to use a benefit like this to extract every last ounce of blood out of his employees. The catch is they won't be his employees for very long once they see it.

  • Makes good sense. I wouldn't make the assumption that the employer does this because he's reasonable - there are many who do it expecting bigger returns, but your answer addresses this as well.
    – Gigi
    Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 18:58
  • 1
    @Gigi: Even that implies reasonable though. They're making this investment of non-fixed leave days in the hopes of achieving a higher payout from employee contribution. An unreasonable application (to me) would be when an employer adopts this leave structure with the sole intent of overloading employees so they can't use it in the first place. Commented Oct 2, 2014 at 19:01

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