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We ask marketers: how much leave should an agency offer its workers?

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By Sam Anderson, Network Editor

December 19, 2022 | 5 min read

Unlimited leave has a mixed reputation in adland, from brilliant burnout-reducer to exploitative fad. But how much leave should employers give their employees? We asked four marketers from The Drum Network.

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How much time should agencies offer employees as time off? / Vicko Mozara via Unsplash

James Sandford, managing director, Propellernet

We have unlimited holiday and have done for the last two years. It’s been nothing but beneficial for us. Our staff enjoy it, they use it, they don’t take the piss with it, and it allows everyone across the agency to get a great life/work balance. I know that it can sometimes get a bad rap, but any issues associated can be easily mitigated through trust and good communication.

Using unlimited holiday to covertly get employees to take less is shocking, quite frankly. Employers have a duty to introduce a minimum (ours is 20 days) and to chase people up if they’re not taking their holiday. Some people may also struggle with the ‘unlimited’ thing and not having a maximum amount of holiday to aim for. If that’s the case, give people a steer on what is ok and what isn’t. Here, this year, people have taken on average 29 days plus bank holidays. So, there’s the benchmark for those that need it. That feels good and healthy.

Charlotte Tomlinson, organic & people director, Hallam

This might be controversial but: unlimited holiday schemes, while well-intentioned, are not a genuine benefit for employees. There’s plenty of reported evidence of unlimited holiday schemes leading to staff not taking enough holiday due to anxiety about taking too much time off. This is bad for morale and could lead to burnout. Call me old-fashioned but I’m a big believer in a standard approach to annual leave: setting a maximum and ensuring fairness for all.

At Hallam, we have 25 days plus bank holidays, with an extra day for birthdays and an additional extra after 5 years of service. We also allow staff to take a 3-month sabbatical once they’ve worked at Hallam for 5 years and we have a standard 'work from anywhere' policy, which has also proven popular. Holiday allowance is sacred and as a leadership team, we encourage everyone to take the full allowance every year (including ourselves). What employees need are clear guidelines to work within, a culture that encourages and celebrates taking annual leave, and for us as a leadership team not to overcomplicate things.

Zoë Ogden, people director, Impression

We did a lot of research into unlimited annual leave and we saw that, it didn't work as effectively as expected and a lot of companies were reverting back to the traditional annual leave model. However, we wanted our people to feel properly supported and not having to use their annual leave for other circumstances. This is why we have an enhanced sickness leave policy, enhanced parental leave policies and something called ‘life leave’ to use when unexpected things happen in your life – your child is sent home ill from school, or you need to support a loved one at an appointment. We want people to use their annual leave for genuine rest time, and promote that to be a time for focusing on wellbeing and not having to cover other life moments.

Brian Lewis, senior vice president, group director of people operations, NA, Momentum Worldwide

Time off to recharge, refresh, and relax is so important to the wellness of any employee population. Giving employees the choice to have time off without limits enables them to achieve healthy boundaries between work and life. Momentum’s ‘Time Well Taken’ policy allows for employees to have time off without limits – meaning no allotted time off buckets based on seniority, but rather flexible opportunities for all employees to have paid time away from work. The policy has been extremely positive and helped reduce burnout and increased overall retention, and what’s so great is it is now engrained as an overall philosophy of employee wellness at the agency.

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Momentum Worldwide

Momentum Worldwide is a global experience agency partnering with and transforming the world’s most famous brands since 1987. Built on the simple truth that it’s...

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Impression

We are Digital Growth Specialists helping ambitious brands push boundaries and drive impact. We define and deliver integrated digital strategies that transform our...

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Hallam

We’re a multi-award winning full-service digital agency based in the UK, and a trusted partner to some of the world’s biggest national and international brands.

Putting...

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Propellernet

Propellernet is a digital marketing agency that creates amazing commercial success for its clients. B-Corp certified, we put people and planet first in everything...

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