Personal Finance

1 in 3 workers would take a pay cut for unlimited time off: survey

Key Points
  • The average worker willing to take a lower salary for unlimited time off is happy to part with 26% of their pay, according to a survey from Allianz Global Assistance.
  • This work perk may not be worthwhile for all employees. In fact, workers may be reluctant to take time off.
Couple in loungers on a tropical beach at Maldives
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Salary matters, but a third of workers would be happy to lose some pay in exchange for unlimited vacation time.

That's according to the 2019 Vacation Confidence Index released Allianz Global Assistance, which surveyed 1,005 workers online.

Among those who would give up some of their pay, the average worker is willing to part with 26% of their salary in order to get that unlimited time off.

But unlimited vacation may not be as good as it sounds for employees, said Jeff Zinser, principal and founder of Right Recruiting

"It's a phantom gift," he said. "If your workload requires you to work 52 weeks a year, you have unlimited vacation but your workload doesn't allow you to use it."

Defining time off

Why Kevin O'Leary expects all of his employees to work on vacation
Why Kevin O'Leary expects all of his employees to work on vacation

The problem with unlimited time off is that the policy itself can be ambiguous for employees.

For starters, they might be more reluctant to leave the office.

Workers at companies that offer unlimited time off take an average of 13 days on vacation, according to an analysis by Namely, a payroll provider.

Meanwhile, employees at companies that offer traditional paid time off spent 15 days out of the office on average.

Further, employers who offer unlimited vacation might be more encouraging of working vacations, which Zinser described as "a euphemism for 'work from home.'"

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"You've got a pile of work to get done and you don't have to come in to do it — you can do it on the beach, or you can do it at home," he said. "I don't know that I would call that a vacation."

Further, certain industries — particularly tech companies — are better suited for a flexible approach toward work and time off, Zinser said.

"For example, we need to have these lines of code written within six months," he said. "You can see that the code will be written in time and you don't care if they get it all done in one month versus five months."

Get into the details

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It's important to sit down with your manager and talk through the specifics of what "unlimited vacation" means.

Set boundaries. "If I decide to take a month off and not answer emails or phone calls or texts, is that okay?" Zinser said. "If it's not, what does the vacation then mean?"

He said to nail down details, including how long can a vacation be and whether your employer is allowed to call you if something important comes up.

Respect the policy: Matthew Ross, co-owner of mattress review site The Slumber Yard, used to offer an unlimited vacation policy.

One worker took off six weeks in a four-month period while another sprung a two-week trip on his colleagues five days before he was scheduled to leave.

Be reasonable and give your boss plenty of advanced notice before you duck out of the office.

Get it in writing. Understand your company's time-off policy and get everything in writing.

"Traditionally when we think of vacation, we think of you not being obligated to think about work," Zinser said.

"If that's not what employers mean and if you as an employee think they mean that, then you are putting yourself in a dangerous situation."