Bioethics Blogs

Will Virgin staff really be allowed to take ‘as much holiday as they want’?

This week Richard Branson announced that Virgin would no longer be tracking people’s holidays. The move was apparently inspired by Netflix, who have similarly instigated a “no holiday policy” policy, which permits all salaried staff to ‘take off whenever they want for as long as they want.’ According to Branson, the idea came to him via his daughter, Holly, who sent him the following cheery email about Netflix, sounding suspiciously like a copywriter from Virgin’s media team:

Dad, check this out. It’s something I have been talking about for a while and I believe it would be a very Virgin thing to do to not track people’s holidays. I have a friend whose company has done the same thing and they’ve apparently experienced a marked upward spike in everything – morale, creativity and productivity have all gone through the roof.

Setting aside the fact that this seems like a cynical attempt at ‘humanising’ what may turn out to be an incredibly nefarious policy decision, and that Branson might be using his daughter as a placating mouthpiece for something that was actually dreamt up in Virgin’s intergalactic HQ, let us ask: would this practice really work?

The introduction of the policy means that employees will no longer need to ask for prior approval to take leave, and that neither the employees themselves nor their managers are asked or expected to keep track of their days away from the office. Crucially;

It is left to the employee alone to decide if and when he or she feels like taking a few hours, a day, a week or a month off, the assumption being that they are only going to do it when they feel a hundred per cent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers!

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.