Will 'unlimited leave' become the new normal at Kiwi workplaces?

Many New Zealanders will be heading back to work after using up their annual leave over the summer break, but some Kiwi companies are giving their employees a bit of extra flexibility by offering unlimited holiday leave.

It’s a model becoming more popular overseas – especially among tech companies.

Netflix has been offering unlimited holidays to its staff for years, while Microsoft announced it would be following suit just last week.

Auckland-based software company Actionstep has been trying it out for the past year.

"We looked at quite a lot of different options for our staff and how we should be able to support them better and landed on unlimited leave," said Actionstep’s vice president of engineering, Stevie Mayhew.

And employees have been making the most of it.

"I took an extra week and a half for the Christmas break," said Actionstep software engineer Alex Fitzgerald.

Since the policy was introduced, he says he’s lost track of how many days he’s taken off.

"I haven’t even been keeping a tally," Fitzgerald said. "I think it would become very obvious very quickly if I was taking advantage of the system."

AUT professor of human resource management, Jarrod Haar, says there are only a handful of Kiwi companies with an unlimited leave policy.

"They’d all be professional services, they’ll all be high-paid, high talented, high productive people."

And while it sounds like an employee could skive off work indefinitely, employment lawyer Catherine Stewart says employers will still have clear expectations of employees.

"What we’ve seen so far is that the companies who do introduce it have stipulations around advance notice and consultation, and that would be really important for any employer."

But she has concerns more leave means more risk.

"They’ll be worried about this huge unidentifiable liability on their books that they can’t foresee," she said.

"It really comes down to the level of engagement and trust in that organisation as to whether it’s going to work."