Sandwich leave – Is it justifiable?

The sandwich leave policy was introduced at factories where productivity was determined by the number of hours put in by workers

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Ratan, who works in the assembly line of an automobile manufacturing company in Manesar, plans to visit his family in Arwal, a small district in Bihar, to celebrate Diwali. Ratan has recently joined his organisation and gets a total of 10 casual leaves in a year. He plans the visit to Arwal in such a way that he is able to take a leave on a Friday and a Monday and gain a long weekend, since Saturday and Sunday are anyway off. He hopes this would also give him some time to recover from the long journey to his hometown.

However, when Ratan resumes duty on Tuesday after a memorable Diwali at home, he discovers that the HR has deducted four casual leaves from his bucket of leaves for the year, instead of two.

On clarifying with the plant HR manager, he comes to know that the company still follows the sandwich leave concept. That is, when a holiday falls between two availed leaves, they are merged together and considered as sandwich leaves.

“Why would one do such a thing? One is simply depriving someone of his leaves and making him unhappy”

Ajay Tiwari, VP-HR, Lupin

In Ratan’s case, he took only two leaves (Friday and Monday) but his company deducted four leaves from his annual leaves bucket counting Saturday and Sunday as well. Sounds unfair, right?

The concept of sandwich leave has been in existence ever since factories came into being. Shop floor HR managers introduced this concept to control man hours in the factories, where productivity is heavily dependent on the number of hours a person puts in.

With this practice, it was ensured that at no given time, higher than average number of workers applied for leave simultaneously. This helped maintain productivity. With time, the progressive companies discarded the policy, but some still follow the same.

Talking to HRKatha, Ajay Tiwari, VP-HR, Lupin, says that he is totally against this concept and considers this a wrong practice. “Why would one do such a thing? One is simply depriving someone of his leaves and making him unhappy,” states Tiwari.

Kavita Dasan, head – people practices, ABP Network, adds, “I never really understood this concept. It does no good to either the company or the employee.”

Though many HR heads are against the sandwich leave policy, there still exist some employers, even in this day and age, who have such a policy in place reveals Mangesh Bhide, head-HR, technology & FTTx business, Reliance Jio Infocomm. Without naming the companies, Bhide says that he is aware of organisations in the manufacturing and IT sectors that still follow such a policy.

Why did companies have the sandwich leave policy at all in the first place?

The concept of sandwich leave policy originated in the factories era. Companies followed it because at the shop floor, the number of man hours were directly linked to the overall productivity of the manufacturing unit.

“Many companies copied sandwich leave concept from the West and the IT giants also copied it blindly. But we should learn to modify some policies as per the needs of the employees”

Mangesh Bhide, head-HR, technology & FTTx business, Reliance Jio Infocomm

Some companies are still not ready to discard this policy for fear of the consequences of low productivity during peak seasons.

“Such outdated organisations do not have any trust on their employees,” says Tiwari.

But many people taking offs around the weekend is a genuine problem. After all, who wouldn’t love a long weekend? So, how can we get rid off the sandwich leave policy without hampering the overall productivity?

Bhide says it is quite easy to do. The bench concept has been popular and has been around for some time now. If there are people sitting on the bench for backup during such times, productivity can be managed.

Another solution to this problem can be training the existing workforce to multi-task. If one employee can multi-task and cover up for the other, the productivity will not go for a toss, if one person takes an off.

“Many companies aped this concept from the West and the IT giants also copied it blindly. But we should learn to modify some policies as per the needs of the employees,” advises Bhide.

Dasan explains that companies cannot really afford to adopt a sandwich leave policy, especially in today’s times when many youngsters have entered the workforce. For them, work-life balance is top priority.

She draws attention to the fact that post the COVID-19 pandemic, many things have changed, including people’s mindsets. With so many options in the market to choose from, employees are not bound to one job. If they feel things are not going their way, they simply choose to leave the job, even without having another one in hand.

“With a sandwich leave policy, companies face the danger of losing the best of talent or are left with mediocre talent in the workforce”

Kavita Dasan, head – people practices, ABP Network

“With a sandwich leave policy, companies face the danger of losing the best of talent or are left with mediocre talent in the workforce,” points out Dasan.

Dasan reveals that since the pandemic, ABP has adopted a policy of giving long weekends to people, whenever possible. The team leaders manage their teams in such a way that employees are able to enjoy long weekends without affecting the business.

The new generation entering the workplace will never tolerate a sandwich leave policy. With the job market becoming a buyer’s market now, companies cannot afford to have such outdated policies if they hope to attract and retain the best talent.

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