Unlimited Paid Leave

Rapid Context is entering its fifth year of our Unlimited Paid Leave policy. We get asked all the time about this particular policy, most often by other workplaces who are considering radical approaches to employee entitlements and who want to understand how it works in practice. So, if you’re curious, here are some insights into our policy and its implementation.

So what is Unlimited Paid Leave?

We believe that time off allows employees to ‘free their minds’ and brings them back refreshed and creative.  In this hyper-connected world, with smartphones and tablets tethering workers to the office on nights and weekends, the line between work and play has become so blurred that keeping tabs on hours is almost irrelevant. Unlimited leave is about trust and empowerment. It’s about actively discouraging presenteeism (ain’t nobody got time for that). It’s also about practically leading the way in creating a good society.

Rapid Context employees are trusted to deliver upon all project and task requirements during their employment (with appropriate support), and therefore they are also trusted and encouraged to take the time off that they need: as much as they need, and when they need. We ask our employees to consider fairness to our client’s and team’s needs and to be reasonable in their conduct. This enables an environment of self-monitoring and being able to work together to balance personal and business needs.

Practical aspects:

How does it work?

During the first year of employment our staff are entitled to the leave entitlements set out in the National Employment Standards (NES). Once employees have completed their first 12 months with Rapid Context they are automatically entitled to our Unlimited Paid Leave policy. This means that employees can take as much leave as they like and are paid at their normal rate for the duration of that leave.

Unlimited paid leave is a foundation policy for Rapid Context, in that it brings to life our values and business aspirations. The policy is situated alongside the NES. For the avoidance of any doubt, Unlimited Leave may be used after minimum accruable leave entitlements (as set out in the NES) are exhausted.

Notifying of intention to take leave

All part-time and full-time employees are entitled to unlimited paid leave after 12 months of continuous service. However, we follow the usual internal leave process – leave requests are made and approved in writing. This process assists with project planning and resourcing and ensures that Rapid Context is able to deliver on our commitments to clients during all absences. It is also fair conduct toward colleagues.

We have dedicated significant effort to knowing our team. We can predict the periods of time when there will be overlap in employees taking time off (such as school holidays) and we are mindful to these dates when setting out project timelines.

Reasons for leave

Unlimited paid leave can be used in whatever way an employee sees fit – they don’t need to justify the reason. This can include holidays, study, sporting commitments, carer responsibilities (for example to try and manage the mis-match between school holidays and traditional annual leave entitlements), and community service. We don’t want anyone to feel like they have to be “sneaky” about taking a mental health day. Mental health and wellbeing is important and should be prioritised. Unlimited Leave does not include periods of time used for parental leave (we have a separate policy for that).

How do employees know if they are taking too much or too little leave?

This has been the biggest challenge for our team; who want to access the benefits of a generous leave policy without abusing it. Where is the line? We talk about leave openly. We have performance and wellbeing conversations on a regular basis. We talk regularly about individual needs, project management, and the company’s needs. Our goal is to provide generous leave privileges that encourage work-life balance, optimal health and wellbeing, and increased productivity. Our additional leave policy is therefore intended to foster a work environment that promotes the building and sustaining of high-performance teams, without losing sight of the realities of small business. We trust that each employee is mindful of this balance and, overwhelmingly, they are. We do sometimes need to encourage employees to take more leave. There can be a period of adjustment to this approach from workplace cultures that take a more transactional approach to leave (eg. a sense that you have to earn it to take it).

Key dependencies

One thing we do know is that regardless of what the policy is (leave, security, complaint handling etc) you can’t simply ‘set and forget’. Successful policy implementation takes effort. We have consciously chosen to invest time and resources in to making our Unlimited Leave policy work. Where we might ‘over-spend’ in HR oversight to make the policy work, we save more on absenteeism and poor employee engagement and productivity.

So, does it work?

We are very proud to say that our Unlimited Paid Leave Policy does work. It has enabled Rapid Context to continue to deliver on its core values of being a workplace that encourages employees to bring their whole self to work, and we have continued to be profitable. Rapid Context is also a flexible work space, and our Unlimited Paid Leave Policy reflects this. We strongly believe that this policy has built a relationship of mutual trust between Rapid Context as an employer, and our team. Our team consistently perform at an exceptionally high standard, knowing that they are encouraged to take a break when they need to.

We hope that this gives you some insight into how our Unlimited Leave policy works, and some ideas to think about if you’re considering implementing a similar policy in your workplace. It may feel like a radical concept but, speaking from our experience, it’s really not as risky as you might initially think.

Rapid Context can help you understand and make targeted changes to your organisation. We use high quality defensible research to meet urgent needs without compromising rigor. We assist organisations in solving sensitive and complex problems. Our experienced team of specialists analyse issues using different lenses and vantage points – not off the shelf models - to provide a more complete appreciation of the problem and to develop solutions that are tailored to your specific context. Please send enquiries to enquiries@rapidcontext.com.au

Sara Edwards is the Managing Director of Strategic Communication and Training at Rapid Context. She specialises in flexible workforces, organisational culture, and education and training. She works with clients across industries to develop successful flexible workforces, analyse and report on organisational culture and assist with team development.

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