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Oscar Li

Uber is currently stirring up the local market by offering unlimited annual leave. But as good as it sounds, is this revolutionary approach going to work for Hong Kong?

Unlimited annual leave first came about in the 90’s in the US when big companies such as BMI introduced the policy to its employees. In recent years it has become a well pressed perk again, with many of the Silicon Valley tech companies adopting an unlimited leave policy. 

In Hong Kong, the minimum requirement for paid annual leave is relatively low; set at 7 days for up to 2 years of service, and an additional day for each additional year of service with a ceiling at 14 days per annum. This explains why when an average Hong Kong employee comes across a company offering 20 days annual leave, it feels like winning the lottery.  So just imagine finding a job with unlimited annual leave… you’re packing your beach towel before you’ve even started… right?

Unfortunately, although the policy appears desirable upon first glance, when you look a little closer you may find that the results of such a policy are not what you were hoping for.

 

Here are the things you should consider with unlimited annual leave:

Firstly, many companies with unlimited leave policies are also well known for an all-consuming work culture, meaning to take any leave offered to you may be detrimental to your career and the business. 

You might want to reconsider that dream holiday when you’re up against another employee for that next big promotion. 

When you are not provided with a definitive number of days for annual leave, your company won’t have to pay in lieu of any untaken days, meaning that instead of missing out on the time off, or the financial bonus at the end of the year, you’ll miss out on both!

 

But it’s not all doom and gloom…

Indeed introduced an unlimited annual leave policy in 2018 to improve their employees work-life balance. They coupled the launch with an internal marketing campaign to which encouraged employees to have autonomy on managing their own work schedule as well as encouraged managers to lead by example and take their leave and... it worked! Since the introduction of the policy, there has been a 20% increase in the number of vacation days taken by employees globally, and a 30% increase in the number of vacation days taken by US-based staff.

The offer of unlimited holidays, as exciting as it may be, will require a little more investigation to fully understand what unlimited really means. 

Our verdict is that every employer is different and this is something worth finding out before you start a new job… as you may need to return the sunscreen.