You don't learn to walk by following rules. You learn to walk by doing, and by falling over
Richard Branson is an entrpreneur, and a very successful one. So I am not about to make a song and dance about how ridiculous his latest plan is, to do away with annual leave, as such, and allow staff to take leave as and when they see fit. Except it is ridiculous, as are the headlines. But the headlines make for excellent PR.
The Virgin Group employs thousands of people and this scheme is going to apply to about 160 people in the UK and the USA. These people will be a certain group of people with very clear KPIs, budgets and projects to complete, and probably high achieving type A personalities who struggle to take leave at the best of times. Assuming they are not in constant contact with the office while they are on leave anyway. They are not the client or customer facing, low paid workers who can't possibly just decide not to turn up to work one day because they feel like having a day off. A baggage handler or cabin steward working for one of the Virgin airlines for instance will not enjoy unlimited and unplanned leave.
But there are innovative ways employers can offer more leave, and not be quite as bold as Richard Branson.
More and more employers are discovering that flexibilty with employees pays off in terms of lower turnover, increased morale and productivity. Additional, salary sacrificed leave is one of the ways this can be easily done. Designing jobs so that peak times are acknowledged as requiring long hours, and in down times offering reduced hours or additional days off is also an innovation that works in some industries. One off, special leave days such as the first day of school for a child, or the day someone becomes a grandparent (or allowing those people to access carer's leave for that purpose) are also innovative and easy to implement.
Think laterally about how you run your business and how you can implement some changes to the way your leave policies work - for both you and your employees.