Branson: Take as much vacation as you want!

Posted at 8:06 AM, Sep 24, 2014

LONDON (CNNMoney) — Billionaire businessman Richard Branson has just given his office staff a big reason to celebrate: they can now take as much vacation as they like.

Employees at Branson’s Virgin Group can take unlimited vacation whenever they want, provided they work at one of the main offices in New York, London, Geneva or Sydney.

For now, the new policy will apply to roughly 160 employees.

In a CNN interview, Branson said Virgin subsidiaries would be encouraged to follow suit if the experiment is successful.

“Take a holiday whenever you want. Take as much holiday as you want. We’re not going to keep a check on how much holiday you take,” he said.

Virgin-branded companies, including Virgin Galactic and Virgin America, employ in excess of 60,000 people.

However, the apparent giveaway may not be as generous at it seems.

The lack of a formal policy can leave some people feeling pressured to take less time off, rather than more.

Branson said in a blog post that he assumes staff will only take time off when they’re up to date with their work, and feel their absence won’t damage the business or their careers.

Branson said he was inspired by Netflix, which gives its employees unlimited holiday time.

“Treat people as human beings, give them that flexibility and I don’t think they’ll abuse it. And they’ll get the job done,” Branson told CNN.

Vacation policies are at the center of a debate about work-life balance as more employees routinely work late into the night on their smartphones.

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim has called for a three-day work week. In return, workers would have to complete 11-hour days and stay on the job until age 70 or 75.

Policies on working time and vacation vary widely around the world.

European nations typically guarantee workers more down time than the U.S.

“The amount of holidays people are given in the States is dreadful,” the British-born Branson told CNN. “How can you find time to get to know your children if you’re working with very very little holiday time?”

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