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Unlimited vacation comes down to placing the burden of taking time off on the employee. It's mostly there to deter employees from taking time off and to keep a competitive environment. "X left for 30 days last year, Y only 15. Y seems to be more invested in their work."

Don't let this fool you, it's more often a trap than it's not.

"deter employees from taking time off"

How come?

My understanding is - communicate with the team - know the release dates - be working in critical moments...

Personally I would love to work 6 months a year or 3-4 days a week... To travel and to develop my side projects. Treating job as a way to pay bills in expensive city like London.

Unless - my personal incentives are aligned with the company - very often it's not the case.

You need to ask yourself: Why does the company do this? Why does the company not grant everybody 50 vacation days by default and encourage employees to work more by paying out small bonuses (like $500) for not taking more than 50% of their vacation days?

It's because they want the employees to not take any days off. Peer-pressure is insanely strong in those environments. You are supposed to feel bad to letting your colleagues do the work, while you voluntarily (!) take time off. Especially at start-ups there is always something for you to work on.

As an employee it's easier to agree on like 25 vacation days/year beforehand because then it's in the contract and both parties can point to it when there are problems. If a colleague has a problem with someone taking more vacations days, it comes down to their own inability to negotiate more days for themselves; not to some "backstabber" leaving their colleague behind for some fun.

As I said, there are cases where unlimited vacation days work out but I would say those are the lucky 1%.

I've seen some employers keep an "unlimited vacation" policy with strongly-suggested (i.e., mandatory?) minimums like 3 weeks a year. Having minimums would probably help with this trap, although I can't really speak from experience on the matter.

Your understanding of what unlimited vacation means is not correct. It means: "more vacation than most jobs, probably" -- let's say about 5-6 weeks with stray days here and there.

Well, that's what they want you to think it means. The reality is that it means something quite different.

But either way -- just by calling it "unlimited vacation", they're f-ing with you from the very start.

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