News added on 02.08.2019

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Time off work

Should you offer your staff “life leave”?

Molson Coors Brewing Company has hit the news headlines by announcing that it’s offering its staff an additional two weeks’ paid annual “life leave” on top of their existing holiday entitlement. What’s this all about and is it something you should consider implementing for your employees?

Molson Coors employees already receive 31 days’ paid annual leave (which includes bank holidays) but, in a bid to improve their work-life balance, they’re now being offered an additional two weeks’ paid annual “life leave”, which they can use for their own personal significant planned or unplanned life events, such as moving house, studying for exams or preparing for a wedding. The aim of the policy is that employees can then use their paid annual leave entitlement entirely to rest. The new life leave is also additional to Molson Coors’ other leave policies, which cover such matters as sickness absence and compassionate leave.

Other companies have already made similar moves in relation to time off for life events. For example, Centrica now offers ten days’ paid leave to staff with caring responsibilities and Vodafone offers ten days’ paid leave to employees who experience domestic abuse.

Offering additional leave such as this, whether it’s paid or unpaid, is entirely your decision. You only have to grant time off work either where you have a statutory requirement to do so, e.g. workers must be given at least 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave under the Working Time Regulations 1998, or where you’ve provided a contractual right to time off in either employment contracts or the contractual part of a staff handbook. Whilst larger organisations might well be able to absorb the added cost and business disruption of granting extra time off, small organisations are generally not in the same position. Therefore, we don’t recommend creating any contractual right to life leave or other similar time off rights. That doesn’t mean though that you can’t exercise your discretion to grant extra paid or unpaid time off on an ad hoc basis, e.g. an extra day off when an employee is getting married. If you do want to do this, you just need to be clear about the precise circumstances in which you’re prepared to exercise your discretion and then you need to ensure it’s exercised fairly and in good faith and that it’s not exercised arbitrarily, capriciously or in a discriminatory manner, e.g. if you decide to grant an extra day off for marriage, this should also include same-sex marriages and civil partnerships and you can’t just pick and choose to whom you wish to grant it.

The extra two weeks’ life leave is intended to cover significant life events, such as moving house or getting married, so that employees can then use their paid annual leave to rest. We don’t recommend implementing any contractual rights for staff to additional non-statutory time off, but you can still grant occasional paid or unpaid time off on a discretionary basis should you wish to do so. You just need to ensure you exercise your discretion fairly and in a non-discriminatory manner.

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