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Richard Branson recently announced that he was going to allow his employees to be responsible for deciding when they would have time off and said “It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours a day, a week or a month off”
This is a policy that has already adopted in the legal profession at Mishcon de Reya but can it work in practice? Fee earners who have to record a certain number of chargeable hours a day, not to mention investment time, would argue that this is a sensible idea as they are responsible and accountable for their own output. The majority of firms set their chargeable hours targets based on an assumed number of holidays that will be taken in any given year. Consequently each extra day you decide to take an extra holiday, would have to be made up.
The idea does offer flexibility for certain types of employees. For example mums returning to work after maternity leave or employees who find it difficult to cover children’s school holidays throughout the year. It could also be beneficial to those working in cyclical markets, or those working in transactional based areas of law.
The idea would only work in practice with teams who have a similar work ethic and will cover each other on unlimited holiday allocation! You only need one person within a team to decide to take it upon themselves to take large chunks of time off, without seemingly any comeback from the employer who has agreed to offer this policy, to create disharmony amongst the team members left at their desks to pick up the slack!
I am not sure how this would work in terms of the market I recruit for, namely personal injury and insurance in Liverpool and Merseyside, as fee earners have to be constantly aware of limitation dates and insurer deadlines.
Fee earners would have to ensure that their diaries were up to date and key dates covered by colleagues in their absence.
At BCL Legal we all have an allocation of duvet days a year, which allows you to take last minute holiday, and is an excellent benefit in terms of promoting flexibility.
As for my thoughts, as a working mum I think that provided the policy is used responsibly, I think it is a great step forward in encouraging and facilitating women in their return to the workplace after maternity leave.