Open leave policy — is India ready?

If implemented with certain rules in place, the open-leave policy can work well in India too feel experts

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A great deal of thought goes into a leave requisition. After all, balance leaves have to be adjusted and one has to be prepared to justify the length of leave or holiday, in case one is asked for a reason. It is not just the number of days that requires consideration, but also the whole option of clubbing leaves or exhausting the paid ones. These are tricky calculations, because there are only so many days of leave available. What if employees are given the option to choose the number of leaves they want in a year? The ‘open leave policy’, as this concept is called, is gaining in popularity.


Adil Malia

“In India, one has a certain number of leaves and these can’t necessarily  be clubbed under the law. In other countries, leaves are defined but they are not categorised as sick, casual, or paid leaves.”


A few years ago, Netflix had introduced the No Vacation Policy, wherein the employees have the freedom to choose when to work and when to take a holiday. Reed Hastings, chairman and CEO, Netflix, asserted that in this digital age what a person does is more important than the actual number of hours clocked at work. However, many critics are of the opinion that this policy curbs the very freedom it is supposed to provide to the employees. They feel employees will end up working more so that they don’t lose their jobs.

Will such a policy work in the Indian context? The work-from-home arrangement that most employees have been following during the pandemic has already made people realise how unnecessary physical presence at the office is. However, India still has a few limitations in implementing such a leave policy.

Adil Malia, chief executive, The Firm, is surprised that people think it an open leave policy cannot be used in the Indian context. “The way it works in the industry right now is that, in a given year, people are allowed 30 days of privilege leave or other leaves clubbed together. The employee are told that there are X number of mandatory days which are anyway off for everybody. They themselves have to decide and plan a calendar. Within the policy network, some kind of management rules can be put in place. For instance, Diwali is not a mandatory holiday, but everyone takes two days off. There are about six days of holidays people take like that. In a few organisations it has been noticed that for around 10 days — starting from December 23 to January 2 — companies are dysfunctional as most people want to use their leaves. The organisations use these openly defined windows to say that everyone goes on leave during this period. I do not know why the same is not possible in a country like India. It is easy to allow the freedom to take holidays as and when desired, provided a mandatory period is defined when everyone is out. For the remaining period, the employees can decide when they wish to take leave.”

The only limitation in India, points out Malia is, “One has a certain number of leaves and one can’t necessarily club them under the law. In other countries, leaves are defined but they are not categorised as sick, casual, or paid leaves. After one has consumed those days, no matter how critical one’s requirement may be, the leaves are without pay. They have to be planned well so that work is not impacted.”


Praveer Priyadarshi

“The key to effective implementation of an open-leave policy is a robust goal-setting process. accountability for results should be ensured through regular interaction”

 


This is sound advice for every employee or organisation looking to implement the open leave policy. However, there has to be a way to put the same into action while ensuring there are no defaulters or people taking advantage of the organisation’s flexibility. Praveer Priyadarshi, senior HR consultant, explains, “The key to effective implementation of an open-leave policy is a robust goal-setting process. Preferably, quarterly objectives should be set, and accountability for results should be ensured through regular interaction, feedback, and a fair consequence-management process. Being an open-ended leave policy, there are no boundaries or quotas defined. However, some guiding principles will have to be laid down to ensure that the risk of inter-linkages and dependencies are mitigated in case there is an attempt to game the open-leave policy.” He is confident that going forward more organisations will prefer the open-leave policy as it will be a valued proposition for attracting new talent.

Open-leave policy, can be a resounding reality in India, but it will definitely need proper implementation and appropriate rules that are favourable to everyone in the organisation.