Unlimited holidays? Indian HR experts not enthused

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi  

October 19, 2014 Last Updated at 11:14 IST

 As companies across the world experiment with concepts like "unlimited holidays", human resource experts in India believe the country is not ready for such agile HR policy and people here would rather appreciate benefits like leave encashment and sabbaticals. 

Last month, Richard Branson, Founder and CEO of Virgin group said he would offer his employees unlimited holidays. 

"Flexible working has revolutionised how, where and when we all do our jobs. So, if working nine to five no longer applies, then why should strict annual leave (vacation) policies?," questioned Branson. 

The sole premise on which Sir Richard Branson announced the 'unlimited holidays' policy was that one should focus on what work has been done, and not on how many hours or days a person has worked. 

Virgin is not the first one to introduce this concept, as reportedly other companies like Netflix, Zynga, Groupon, Glassdoor, Evernote are some who offer such benefits. 

Such a policy may seem benevolent but in industries where human talent is critical for a competitive advantage, it could be a game changer for attracting and retaining talent and for creating favourable corporate branding, experts said. 

"Companies that offer unlimited vacation time tend to invest in hiring motivated, responsible employees who balance taking time off with getting their work done. Such a policy is great in attracting and retaining talent," Thomas Cook (India) COO and Head Human Resources Mona Cheriyan said. 

Sharing similar views Kempinski Ambience Hotel GM Puneet Singh said "having the freedom to work, whenever one wants, for however long one wants, boosts morale, creativity, productivity, quality of life. ...However, it is limited to companies, that work on project based or time bound sector, or where creativity is at the core". 

Unlimited holidays is an interesting approach but it can be applied partly and in limited situations in India as our work ethics, corporate culture is not ready for this, experts say. 

In India, "being there" for the sake of being there when bosses are around, is still the case in a majority of corporations, they added. In a majority of companies, even something as basic as a 5-day week is not introduced and people are still slogging for 6 days, 9-12 hours a day, a top HR official said. 

However, most US companies have 7-8 public holidays and 1-2 weeks of paid vacation while in comparison Indian firms typically have 10-12 public holidays and 4 weeks of paid leave. 

"India is yet to mature to this flexibility as employers and employees still believe in time spent in the office rather than productivity on the time spent," executive search firm GlobalHunt India MD Sunil Goel said.