Virgin Group eyes the ultimate stress reduction policy

When is a holiday policy not a holiday policy? According to Richard Branson, when you let your employees take off as much time as they want, provided they get their jobs done and hit their targets.

Netflix has already implemented this policy - as a technology business that lends itself naturally to flexible working practices such as flexi-hours and web-enabled home working.

How well the idea would work in other fields such as retail, public services or seasonal industries is another question, but before you write the idea off, consider this…

According to the UK Chief Medical Officer, mental illnesses lose the UK economy £70-£100bn year and accounted for 70 million sick days in 2013. It is the UK’s leading reason for sickness absence.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that giving employees control of their time off increases productivity, innovation and morale. And the Netflix business appears to be thriving with the policy in place.

Of course it’s not all about the bottom line. Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees, including their mental well-being.

The Chief Medical Officer’s suggests that by giving employees more control over when and where they work you can reduce the risks of stress, anxiety and depression in the workplace.

She also suggests encouraging staff to adopt healthy lifestyles, being sympathetic to parental leave requests and providing proper support to employees when they are absent and when they return.

A more flexible attitude to leave may well represent a significant step in these directions and it will be interesting to follow Virgin’s experiences, if and when it adopts the policy brand-wide.

If you would like advice about annual leave, benefits or any employment policy, strategy or issue, please get in touch.

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