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Our holiday / vacation policy – unlimited with bonuses (boxedice.com)
57 points by unignorant 1997 days ago | hide | past | web | 45 comments | favorite

I like this sort of policy a lot more than I like "Just take off whenever", because it establishes specific expectations that taking a day off TODAY is actually OK.

The all-you-can-eat-no-tracking-but-watch-out-for-the-evil-eye vacation policies scare the bejesus out of me, because of the potential for (planned or unplanned) social pressure to never leave. It is like "Take as much salary as you want!" coupled with getting guilted for every $5 bill you took out of the drawer. "Whoa whoa whoa, $3,000 this month? Somebody's a big spender! Dude, you don't even have a family, what do you need $3,000 for!?"

The all-you-can-eat-no-tracking-but-watch-out-for-the-evil-eye vacation policies scare the bejesus out of me

This is how I feel about leave in academia. I can basically take as much leave as I want. But because there's no clear expectation of how much leave to actually take, there's this (totally implied) social pressure to never leave.

I kind of would much rather be at a place like this where they say "use your time off" and clearly signal this by either have "use it or lose it" policies or this kind of vacation bonus.

Incidentally, in Sweden vacation bonus (semestertillägg) is mandated by labor law. For each vacation day taken, you get something like an extra 1% of your monthly salary.

This is where being a clear and confident communicator, and a planner comes in handy. Decide how much time off you deserve: four, five weeks, whatever, and then schedule and broadcast it to the company. Now when anyone has a problem with it, justify it based on your productivity and nothing else. Bam, ball is out of your court.

I really like this. They're an English company, of course, and must adhere to the European legal minimum of 28 days a year. I've never understood the American attitude towards vacation - unnecessarily macho, and geared towards burning people out (and, at the two-weeks-a-year end of the spectrum, effectively forcing people to never leave the country).

Depends on the company. In my home country in Austria I've got 25 paid days off + public holidays per year. Here in the US I get 15 paid days off (+ public holidays). While it's lot less it is not that bad.

Three weeks seems pretty unacceptable to me. I would be alright with four weeks and happy about five.

Just take the holidays between the jobs. :) I took 4 months off between my last job and my current job, even though I would have had the chance to start immediately.

In addition, some companies here also allow you to take unpaid holidays if justified. Even with an additional of two weeks of unpaid holidays I would earn more money here in the US than in Austria (and the available jobs are much more interesting).

I guess that’s an alternative but what if I don’t want to switch jobs all that often?

I personally need regular breaks. Irregular and really long breaks do less for me than regular breaks.

Just take the holidays between the jobs.

That might work for the kind of jobs HN posters work at, but the people who are most likely to have little or no vacation are probably also the ones that can't actually afford to be without a job even for a week (if they can find a new one).

Like so many other policies in the US, it works pretty well for the well-off, but keeps the working class toiling.

Agreed. I work for a UK University and get 30 days paid leave, plus public holidays, plus Christmas to New Year on top of that. Means I can take a couple of long holidays a year and still have plenty of long weekends and the odd day off here and there.

Even the staff on the lower "grades" get all of the above except for 25 instead of 30 days.

Same in IL - came from DE with 28 days, now I'm down to 18 and that's considered generous..

I believe the EU Working Time Directive only mandates 20 days holidays per year. Many countries give additional fixed public holidays off.

Minimum 28 days, is that including public holidays?

As in Sweden, 25 days is minimum paid vacation, not including public holidays.

The 28 day minimum includes public holidays (UK).


I'm not a huge fan of the "unlimited" time. I've never worked somewhere with that policy, but it seems an unintended result would be that nobody knows exactly how much time is considered "reasonable". The policy likely sounds way better than it ends up being.

I say pick a number that you think no productive employee should exceed. Make that the yearly number, and make sure everyone knows that they will be encouraged to take ALL their days. Make the days expire after a year, so people don't feel the need to "bank" days. Then, everyone knows where they stand in terms of how much vacation they "should' be taking.

For the record, If I were starting a company now, I would make the number of days in the aforementioned system start at 20, and then increase with seniority.

This "increase with seniority" that's so common in the US makes no sense to me. (At my current job at the kindof-sortof-federal government, I get 12 days as a new employee.) Do newly-hireds work less hard and need less time to relax?

Plus, since the time to max out usually is quite long, it really penalizes people who switch jobs (which I guess is what you get when the vacation policies are set for the good of the employer as opposed to the employee).

"What’s normal for time off varies from country to country but a reasonable guideline is 30 working days per calendar year, excluding local public holidays."

They say what's considered reasonable in one of the rules. My personal take is that another 5 days more or less won't be that big of a deal. Combined with the last rule, you actually have a minimum--feel free to take off less than 25 days per year, but you won't get the 50% bonus in December.

As someone else noted many of these ideas won't work in countries where large chunks of payed holidays are enshrined in law.

In Australia most of us have 40 days per year that roll into the next year if you don't take them. There are options for employees to turn in some of their days for cash if they accrue a lot which is nice.

In Australia most of us have 40 days per year

Err.. most of us have 4 working weeks of paid vacation per year. That's 20 days, not 40 (although it excludes paid sick leave - usually 10 days - and public holidays). Vacation leave usually rolls over, but sick leave varies. Public holidays don't.

(I'm Australian, and I've never seen variance on this except on the roll-over rules. The one exception is my current employer that offers an extra day off on your birthday)

Gah you are quite right maths on a hangover obviously isn't my strong suite.

Careful with that if you are based in Europe, 20 is not enough for some countries.

The 5th bullet point says 30 days is a reasonable guideline with the bonus after 25 days there to encourage that further.


*Means 'you can’t have a year off!' I'd report you in Australia if you abused that word here.

Don't apply buzz words to your own employees as they do not want to feel like a sale; especially if they live in a country where people have got burnt for 'Unlimited' (ISPs, Shared Hosting, etc). Be more clear: "You can have up to most of the year without much restrictions (We might need your help!)" etc.

Caution to US workers: if layoff time ever comes around, you get paid $0 for your unused vacation time under this kind of policy. I know, it happened to me.

True, but that's not entirely bad. It even further encourages you to actually take your vacation. Since there's a checkpoint at the end of the year, you should never have more than a year's worth of vacation "saved up", and really, a policy like this wants you to take vacation slowly and steadily and never burn out.

Also, if you're a US worker and your employer is yelling at you for taking fewer than 5 weeks off, not including public holidays, you're in a pretty awesome situation.

Most years, I schedule a solid 2 or 3 week vacation to completely unplug from the office. For US people, that would consume most of your "socially acceptable" vacation time allotment during a calendar year. That particular year, my 3 week vacation was scheduled for September and I get laid off in July, so yes, it was entirely bad.

At my next job there was an annual allotment of 3 weeks of vacation that accrued little by little every pay period. I was able to "borrow" time from the next year so that I could take my already-booked vacation. And, for the duration of that job, I maintained a negative vacation-time balance vowing to not get screwed again.

Unfortunately, whenever I hear of the "fantastic unlimited vacation time benefit," I can only view it as a way for the CEO to milk an extra month of work out of employees before laying them off at no cost.

Our lawyers informed us that such a policy may not be entirely legal here in Colorado, particularly for the "non-exempt" employees.

If you don't work for a big company, chances are you lose your vacation time each year and can't cash it out anyways.

Worst use of the term "unlimited" since bandwidth-throttling ISPs. Basically they seem to be flexible about holiday timing and to have a Japanese-style minimum vacation policy.

If you have a small team and everyone is passionate and good at their jobs, does it really matter what the policies are?

The real challenge is in a larger company, where that assumption may not hold. Are there any existing examples of anywhere near as liberal a policy in such a company?

Correct. And a big company saying you can take any number of days off as you want is a big earning sign for me. One of the reasons I don't even think about joining Netflix.

I think you can have this kind of policy in a smaller company because you are assumingly in a closer relationship and also lack of funds , so that you must adapt to each others needs and work out in the interest of the company.You must trust each other more i think and that you must be closer and respect the other persons situation

On the contary....

Most bigger companies are impersonal and see you as mere statistic and will not be so felixble as they would say" many other guys would take your job". So thats why such actualy fair holiday conditions seems weird.

Best Buy corporate was at least testing a similar setup a few years back. I'm not sure what happened, but I'm not sure this is exclusively small company.

This is considerably better than others since he comes out and s ays it's 30 days off.

But it leaves many questions unanswered. Is it paid holiday or not? I see there is a bonus for unused days, that seems to imply it is paid holiday.

The bonus scheme clearly is designed to wrap up so things don't carry over from year to year.

That does prevent someone from banking time to be able to take a 3 month sabbatical to write a book. Whether that would be permitted is not disclosed.

I see there is a bonus for unused days

You read it wrong, there is a bonus for used days.

Hm, well thanks for the clarification. I just reread it several times and it's not clear. I'll agree that it's ambiguous. It would be interesting to know more. Is this a fixed 25 day cut off then, or is it prorated? Kind of alarming is the part where the monthly salary as an example is £100, surely he meant to type £3000?

It sounds like you might work there? If so I have a couple questions for clarification, in addition to (1) clearing up that the £100 thing was just a random number and not representative (since some Chinese developers do make in that range, so it's not an impossible salary to claim). (2) Did "What’s normal for time off varies from country to country" mean that US employees of the company (for example) are expected to use less days than european ones? That the cut off for what is considered "unreasonable use" differs depending on company. (3) If the answer to that is yes, then are salaries matched to standard market rate in the economy each employee lives in? Are SF based employees paid 20 times as much as the guy in Bangladesh for the same work? (4) With a worldwide workforce, how does the company handle paying social insurance tax and providing for benefits in each country? Are competitive insurance plans offered, a different one for each employee? Or is there some insurance company that is able to provide insurance for all employees regardless of what country they are citizens of and resident in? Thanks for any clarification you can provide, these are all interesting subjects.

We have a similar policy but even more open. The one rule is that any time-off needs to be approved by the person's team: can the team still meet their commitments?

We figure that if we need to trust teams of people to make complex technical decisions and want to have people around who are basically programming artists... Well, then we should be able to trust those teams with managing their own time.

So far, no one has ever taken advantage of this.

That policy is crap.

Any time someone takes vacation their team is going to move a bit slower on the current project. Commitments should be built around vacation, not the other way around.

Sad to see responses like this on Hacker News (referring to your usage of the word crap). Ah well.

Why we know this isn't "crap".

Commitments are built around Vacation AND Vacations are built around commitments. It doesn't have to be an either/or proposition and here is why:

We apply Agile and the management aspect of our company uses Scrum. The teams are self-organizing. This even includes who is hired into the team and who is fired from the team. The team commits to an amount of work (it isn't forced on them by management).

This commitment process is very well defined in Scrum through the iteration planning meeting. If someone wants to take time off to go on vacation, then during the planning meeting (and hopefully they talked about it with their team members before), they let the team and product owner know at the start of the planning meeting (every team member, as Scrum requires, let's everyone know the number of hours they have available to commit directly to the current log).

In this case - Commitments are built around vacation.

On the other hand, the team has been given the authority and responsible of getting out potentially shippable product increments (a part of Scrum). The team, as a whole, has taken on this responsibility so, as a whole, must take that into consideration when taking time off.

In this case - Vacations are built around commitments.

Our approach to time-off and vacation aligns quite nicely with the Agile process and, in my opinion, is an other example of why Agile (and Scrum in this case) is such an amazing way to manage the production of software.

Aren't people chronically optimistic about how much time something will take? Unless your teams are awesome time estimators, this sounds like it would mean that if the schedule slips, out goes your vacation? And that sounds like a recipe for a burn-out spiral.

Agreed. I generally take a three to five week trip each spring (I get about 20 days of PTO). I generally try to work remotely for roughly one week of the trip (depending on overall length), and I always give my team plenty of lead time. I've never been denied my request, nor has it affected project time lines.

When you say "no one has ever taken advantage of this", do you mean that nobody has ever taken any time off at all, or that you feel nobody has abused the rules in your opinion? I certainly hope it isn't the first, because if so, that's a very very bad policy.

Latter - no abuse.

People have taken off time to go on Vacation and people just decide they want to have a 3 day weekend to visit their family, etc.

But no one, as of yet, has taken off an extended period.

I'm very confused about the bonus calculus.

More days of = more bonus, fewer days off = more bonus, or you always get the same bonus?

If you take at least 25 days off, you get the bonus. Fewer than 25, no bonus.

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