With the holidays coming to a close, chances are a number of IT professionals are leaving unused vacation time on the table. A recent survey found working Americans will likely leave an average of 12 paid vacation days unused as they exit 2013 – a 30 percent increase from the year before, according to Hotwire.com’s third annual American Travel Behavior survey.
These survey results bring into question the true value of the unlimited vacation time perk that companies are increasingly rolling out to lure highly sought after engineering talent. It sounds good on paper, but it may not really be fully utilized in the face of crushing deadlines for product releases.
Zynga, for example, offers an open vacation policy but scored only a 2.8 rating on employee review site Glassdoor for work-life balance. Netflix, which also offers unlimited vacation, scored a 3.3 rating.
A current Zynga software engineer on Glassdoor said: “Take vacation anytime.. doesn’t feel that open since there is nothing mandated, some people feel guilty taking time off.”
And one of Netflix’s senior software engineers groused: “Lousy vacation policy(get real, no vacation policy – no vacation), very stressful work environment, little to no career opportunities if you are hired as an engineer, Chaos everywhere – High Turnover always affects your work one way or the other.”
More Bait to Bite
Companies are increasingly offering unlimited vacation time and proudly touting it when recruiting employees. In fact, more companies are using this hook and lure to land engineers in this highly competitive market for talent.
An estimated 1 percent of companies in the U.S. offer unlimited vacation time to all their employees, while another 2 percent are eyeing the policy for possible adoption in the new year, according to a report in Business Insider, which cited figures from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM).
And there are other reasons for companies to offer unlimited vacation time beyond using it as a selling point for prospective employees. One potential benefit is avoiding having to payout unused vacation time should an employee or employees be terminated.
In a SHRM blog post, Dan Chammas, an attorney with Venable in Los Angeles, says, “Until more guidance is provided [by the courts], do not give your employees more vacation than you are willing to pay out.”