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LinkedIn's Unlimited Vacation Time Comes With an Asterisk

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on October 13, 2015 11:11 AM

LinkedIn has adopted a new unlimited vacation policy for its employees. At a glance, that sounds like a revolutionary thing for workers. But people who have been in the workforce for a few years are likely to be skeptical.

LinkedIn has joined a very small group of employers that have adopted a Discretionary Time-Off program for their employees. The practice is rare in the United States: only about one percent of employers offer it.

LinkedIn's New Policy Explained

Under the new policy, LinkedIn workers will be limited to some degree. No alternative work schedules will be permitted and an employee can't take six-months off. In the words of LinkedIn's Chief Human Resources Officer, "[t]hat's a leave of absence, not a vacation."

However, LinkedIn's new vacation policy will at least feel like more vacation from the standpoint of its employees in America. The company announced that those employees would also be getting the whole week of July 4th off. This brings the number of paid vacation days to 17. That's not bad.

Vacation in America

People on the street groan about vacation in America. It's general knowledge that Americans take fewer vacations than most first world countries on the planet. But did you know that we take even fewer vacation days than workaholic Japan? In fact, America is the only country in the OECD that does not require some form of paid vacation time for her workers.

Unlimited with an asterisk

So, people's first reaction to hearing the words "unlimited vacation" is "Great, finally my ship has come." Not so fast.

There are suspicions that unlimited vacation time may actually end up encouraging employees to take less vacation than they actually would if the vacation time were already allotted because they feel they have little choice. This is particularly the case with smaller companies where environment fosters a culture of dogged work-ethic. More often, from the standpoint of the employee, unlimited vacation time remains unused -- a siren calling the employee to at least imagined ruin. Thus, unlimited vacation can mean "vacation at your own risk."

It turns out that employees with boots on the ground actually prefer allotted time for their vacations. You'll recall in November last year that the Chicago Tribune rather hilariously announced "just kidding!" and reversed its own unlimited vacation policy after being effective a record one day. The reason? Well, officially it was because the company heads had received "valuable input from employees." Right.

When considering this issue with clients, in-house counsel should consider underscoring that unlimited vacation time might just be a sleight of hand way to squeeze out more hours from employees. However, it's also important to note that company perks are a great way to pull in top talent.

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