How much annual leave is enough?

3 minute read •

March 12, 2019


Annual leave is a reward, you work hard, you save up the days, you’ve planned a holiday or a staycation and when you take it you get a much-deserved break whether it be big or small.

So when asked the question “how much annual leave is enough?” you would assume the answer is pretty simple…there is no limit. What if you throw Unlimited leave into the equation? Does it take away from this reward and would you really take it? A 2016 study showed Australians have an average of 16 leave days unused each year with 84% experience burnout because of it. If we are not taking our leave why offer unlimited?

Legally speaking the paid leave you are entitled to from your employer can range anywhere from 0 – 30 days a year depending on where you are in the world. The UK mandatory is 20 days plus 8 bank holidays which are recognised as leave days bringing it to a grand total of 28. By law in Australia you are entitled to 20 annual leave days a year which can be accrued over as many years as you work in the company, Singapore offer only 7 days and in the US there is no law on annual leave days and it is at the discretion of the employer, the average offered is normally around 10.

The Growing Trend of Unlimited Leave

Across the world, there is a growing trend of workplaces offering unlimited leave promoting a flexible and understanding work culture. Unlimited leave is what it sounds like, unlimited paid holiday days. Great right? The first big company to ever offer this was IBM back in the 90’s with Netflix following suit in the early 2000’s and then LinkedIn, Virgin and other big tech companies around the world quickly jumping on board.

Each company sets its own rules around how this works within the company. Most revolve around making sure you are not leaving anyone in the lurch and a load of work piled up. There are also limits on how much you can take at a time, so as much as you’d love to, you can’t decide to pack up and go on a six months paid holiday.

The Positives

When it comes to the positives of unlimited leave and the flexibility workplaces offer its staff with it, the numbers speak for themselves. Australian company Inventium began offering it’s staff unlimited leave in 2016, and two years later the average leave taken is seven above what is legally required, however, sick days have been cut in more than half. CEO and founder Dr Amantha Imber says that the employees have respected the policy, her staff often work overtime and this rewards them for that.

The Negatives

Offering staff unlimited leave can also have some negatives. Staff can be too scared to use it, they might feel that it does not reflect well on their commitment to the business and if you’re in line for a promotion as if you’re going to pick up and head to a beach in Hawaii for 2 weeks? Businesses need to have a strong culture around leave, upper management needs to show encouragement by talking leave themselves.

Unlimited leave sounds like a dream, and if implemented properly it can be! So if asked again how much annual leave is enough? Would your answer still be that there is no limit?



Melanie Buddhipala

Melanie is Hassl's lead UX designer. Mel combines her love for people-centric design and sustainability to create the most efficient, effective and intuitive user experiences.

  • It's 100% free.

    Work collaboratively and get more done.