High Days and Holi Days


As part of our role as recruitment consultants we negotiate many contracts at every level from school or university leavers to senior executives and holiday allowance is something that is always discussed.

In UK we have 8 statutory holidays, often with religious or commemorative beginnings of which few of us understand or pay credence or respect to these days.

Most UK companies then offer between 20 and 30 paid holidays on top of this, with additional days given for length of service or specific management grades.

The average paid holidays for workers in UK is 26, with most people only taking 25. Although politicians and teachers get considerably more.

In US there are 10 federal holidays, with India having the highest number of statutory days at 21, yes 21 and in some states they throw in a few more.

However in US most companies only offer 15 paid holiday and most people only take 14 of these. It is quite unusual for an American to take 2 consecutive weeks off work, where in UK a 2 week summer vacation is pretty normal.

In South Korea the average allowance is 15 days but most workers only take 7 and in Japan with an allowance of 20 days most people only take 10. Europeans in France, Spain and Germany would find this very strange with the majority making full use of the 30 days on offer.

Why does this vary so much around the world and why does a manager deserve more time off than a junior, juniors after all are used to 13or 15 weeks holiday at school and 20 or 25 at university, how on earth do they cope with the dramatic change in UK, to just 4 weeks plus 8 statutory days?

We all seem to want to take a holiday but we also feel almost a sense of betrayal to our colleagues, clients, suppliers and responsibilities we leave behind, maybe this feeling is stronger for the South Koreans and Japanese, who appear to have much stronger work ethics than their European colleagues.

We also have to ask ourselves and this is very true for me, as today I am officially on holiday but instead of skiing, I am catching up on work. My choice as the piste conditions are not great, so instead of driving to a higher resort I am calmly drinking wine in front of a roaring fire and tidying up a bit of admin.

The question is – With the accessibility of technology do we actually ever switch off?

Once we have reached our allocated days, what would happen if we took an extra day or two? Would everything collapse around our ears or would the time to think actually stimulate our creative juices and give us the break to then come back firing on all cylinders?

Some companies have taken a whole new view on holiday days by tearing up the rule book and simply allowing people to take what they want, what they feel they need, with total flexibility and no one tracking days off.

Is this a recipe for anarchic disaster with very few staff actually being productive or getting the job done? Or is this a responsible approach to the way we all work today, more attuned to the self-motivated and self-disciplined workplace. Both Netflix and Virgin seem to think so.

Very few of us actually start at 9.00 and finish at 5.00 or fit into our allocated standard hours. We check our e mails and messages first thing in the morning and last thing at night, catch up on things at the weekend when the phones stop ringing and if you work in a global culture there is always someone awake, wanting answers.

Is it wrong to take a few hours out of the day to visit a friend or relative or watch a child’s assembly or even pop to the dentist?

Is it not more relevant to focus on what gets done, what KPI’s, sales or profit is achieved?

I am not suggesting a “I don’t fancy going to work today” policy, although this is a whole other idea, with many companies having duvet days if you just can’t get out of bed, or late starts to give people an hour or two extra on a tough morning.

Days off are probably still best planned to make sure the work can get done but just maybe a more flexible approach would work for many more companies.

Innovation and creativity are essential to business growth and success with rules, policies and procedures stifling creativity so allowing flexibility with holiday days might just result in more profitability.

It’s a grown up policy and might not suit everyone but anyone who would take advantage is simply not suited to this relaxed company style and would be asked to take a permanent vacation.

Employees are asked to act in the company’s best interest at all times. Mediocracy or taking advantage is simply not tolerated. With freedom comes responsibility, rise to it or find the door.

Obviously a certain amount of time is needed to complete various tasks and many of us have a work load that is often bigger than we can effectively manage but this is all about doing the job to your best ability, working hard but also smart and realising that we all need to recharge.

Just 1 great idea from a refreshed and open mind is more valuable than hundreds of ideas from stifled, exhausted individuals that actually just need a long lunch or an afternoon off.

If the rules are so rigid and inflexible maybe we simply encourage people to find ways to bend these rules, push the boundaries and find the loopholes. Maybe a culture of responsibility and good faith would encourage more cooperative behaviours.

If your current team rip you off, always wait for you to pay, order the most expensive food and drinks, stretch the breaks and holidays and generally take advantage. Maybe the answer is not to tighten the rules but to recruit a new team.

You can give them the freedom to encourage responsibility and enough space to make it work or show them the door.