Alternative leave arrangements can help shape workplace culture

Organisations continue to seek creative ways to support their workforce, especially when it comes to fine-tuning the balance between an employee’s home and working life, recognising the commitments that employees may have outside of work, and the potential impact these could have in the workplace.

In February 2017, for example, social media organisation Facebook introduced a suite of alternative leave arrangements to provide staff with greater flexibility to manage these commitments. This includes a paid bereavement leave policy that enables employees to take up to 20 days of leave to grieve for an immediate family member, and up to 10 days of leave to grieve for an extended family member.

In addition, Facebook has launched a new paid family sick time benefit, giving employees three days of leave in order to care for a family member with a short-term illness, such as a child with the flu. Staff can also take up to six weeks of paid leave to care for a sick relative.

On a lighter note, craft beer organisation BrewDog introduced paid puppy leave for all UK and US employees in February 2017. This allows staff to take a week of paid leave to help them settle either a puppy or an older rescue dog into their new home.

While the immediate function of these policies clearly varies, alternative leave arrangements can have a wider effect on employee engagement and wellbeing.

These kinds of alternative leave arrangements not only respond to an organisation’s current workplace culture, supporting the values and atmosphere that the employer wishes to promote, but they also help to shape the culture an organisation may be striving for, said Ksenia Zheltoukhova, research adviser at the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD). For example, puppy leave could be utilised to create a more informal working environment.

“This provides an opportunity for an organisation to have a more tailored [connection] with its workforce, to have something that people can really relate to in terms of what matters to them, not just in their work life but in their domestic life,” added Zheltoukhova. “[The] introduction of these leave arrangements is a true testament to how employers start treating people as [a] whole.”

Employers looking to implement an alternative leave arrangement should consider what market practice is in their sector; the type of individual they are aiming to recruit and the type of flexibility they are likely to require; what the current culture of the organisation is or the culture that the organisation wants to achieve, said Michael Rose, director at Rewards Consulting.

However, with more personalised leave policies, such as puppy leave, employers should be mindful about whether the leave policy will appeal to the majority of the workforce, added Rose. If the arrangement is not universally appreciated or used, it could lead to potential claims of unfairness.