If it’s not enough, employees may leave.


Time-off policies and regulation vary greatly from country to country, and from company to company.

Nearly all U.K. workers, for example, are entitled to more than five weeks paid holiday each year; almost every country in the European Union, in fact, provides at least four weeks of paid time off, according to USA Today. In the U.S., however, many companies offer a vacation policy with time off but aren’t required to by law.

Several large companies, regardless of location, have upped the time-off ante. Virgin Group, ZocDoc, SurveyMonkey, Motley Fool and Netflix, according to CNNMoney, are a few of the organizations that now let employees take all the days off they’d like.

That system isn’t anywhere near the norm — just 1 percent of companies currently offer unlimited time off, according to nonprofit human resource association WorldatWork — but considerable holiday time remains an important amenity.

Whether the country you’re based in requires a certain amount of time off or your organization voluntarily awards it, holiday time is one of the key employee value proposition items a company can provide.

A well-received time-off policy can have a huge effect on employee satisfaction levels — and on employee retention. If you haven’t revisited your policy in years, it may be time to re-examine how much time off you offer.

A few points to consider:

Is holiday time really all that important to employees? Generally, yes. Studies have shown that employees view vacation time as valued— even if they aren’t using all of it. Even though only about 38 percent of workers take all available paid time off, nearly three-fourths (69 percent) said an unlimited time-off policy would encourage them to take or keep a job, according to a recent Ask.com survey.

Why, then, would employees not always use the time? Maybe because it doesn’t really feel like a holiday. Sixty-one percent of workforce members work on vacation — most frequently because they feel they can’t delegate the work to anyone else or will fall behind — and nearly a quarter have been contacted by a colleague while out of the office, according to a recent Glassdoor survey. (Bosses are guilty of doing it, too: They’ve contacted one in five workers.)

Is my company offering a decent amount? If it’s located in Austria, yes: Workers are legally guaranteed a minimum of 22 paid days off every year, plus 13 paid holidays. Portugal, which also offers 35 annual days, actually tied for first place on USA Today’s global vacation policy list.

Should my company change its policy? Maybe. There’s no blanket program that will work for every organization. However, if you haven’t updated your time-off policy in several years, consider at least assessing its current level of effectiveness.

The first step in determining if any necessary holiday policy changes need to be made is to figure out how many employees are using their time off — and why some aren’t, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

An employee survey can help you assemble data on how your current policy is working. Our recent blog post on creating the most effective employee value proposition can help you craft a thorough one.

If your time-off offerings don’t seem to match up with your employees’ needs, or your company culture turns out to be something that’s discouraging workers from taking time off, consider assembling an internal team to come up with several vacation policy solutions. Appointing employees from various levels and departments can help you get a good overview of what your staff wants.

Like all committees, policy groups tend to work best with a concrete structure and goals. Find out how to make your time-off policy team as effective as possible with our tips on running a committee.