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Employee Benefits

Some Employers Offering Unlimited Vacation Days

New policies enable employees to decide how much leave to take.

It sounds like heaven (or maybe Europe). But at a growing number of companies in the U.S., employees can take off as much time as they want, as long as they get their work done.

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The trend is far from widespread. Unlimited vacation policies existed at just 1% of companies surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2012 and 2013. For now, general paid time off (PTO) plans, which combine personal, sick and recreation leave into one pool, are more common. Such plans often provide employees with anywhere from 15 to 25 days off. “I do think [unlimited vacation] is the next evolution of paid time off,” says the Society’s Bruce Elliott. “Employers clearly see the benefit of vacation.”

An open-ended vacation allowance won’t give you carte blanche to spend summer at the beach. Employees should behave as they would with a traditional plan, says Alison Green, of Be accountable, discuss expectations, clarify how plugged-in you’ll be, and schedule getaways well in advance, skirting critical periods.

Flexibility works well for Cindy Galiano, director of investments for the Investment Management group at Morningstar, the investing-research giant. She averages two to three weeks of vacation per year, timing them with lulls in her schedule. And she appreciates the freedom to stay home when her kids get sick. It’s not an issue, she says, as long as “you get your work done, do it on time, and provide high-quality service to clients.”