Speaking at the Qualtrics X4 Summit in Salt Lake City, Virgin Group founder, Sir Richard Branson said policies allowing employees to take unlimited paid time off, boil down to simply treating workers like adults. The unconventional entrepreneur told those gathered that the benefits of allowing unlimited paid vacation are more than returned in increased productivity and loyalty.
In a public forum at the Qualtrics X4 Summit in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Virgin Atlantic founder Sir Richard Branson offered a harsh critique of the way U.S. workers are treated. His comments came during an onstage interview at the symposium which also featured former U.S. President Barack Obama and actor Ashton Kutcher.
“The amount of holiday that people get when they work for American companies, I think, is something of a disgrace,” Branson said in remarks first reported by Quartz’s Lila MacLellan. “How are you going to find any real time with your children or your partner, real quality time if you have, really, no holiday time?”
The fiery business mogul told the nearly 10,000 business leaders gathered that all of Virgin Group’s more than 400 companies are encouraged to offer unlimited paid vacation time. He said that the benefits returned in employee loyalty and increased productivity far exceed the cost of allowing workers to simply take time off when needed.
Branson has a storied history of turning the unconventional and often controversial into wildly successful business practices. Last year, he announced that Virgin Atlantic would become the first U.K-based carrier to refuse to allow government officials to use the airline’s flights to deport detainees from the country. This summer, Virgin Atlantic will operate a first-of-its-kind “Pride Flight” (complete with an onboard drag performance, celebrity guests and an all LGBTQ crew) from London Heathrow Airport (LHR) to Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to celebrate pride day events in New York City. Branson made headlines after abruptly declining to do business with the current regime in Saudi Arabia following credible reports of the state-sanctioned torture and assassination of a Washington Post reporter. More recently, however, only after caving to public pressure did Virgin Atlantic finally agree to drop an anachronistic requirement that flight attendants wear full-face makeup while on duty.
Despite Branson’s endorsement, it doesn’t seem likely that unlimited paid vacation policies will become widely adopted as standard corporate policy any time in the near future. For those in the audience whose employers don’t have the same management style as the famously adventurous Branson, the business magnate had some advice.
“If you feel that your company is not behaving in a way I’ve spoken about, by all means quote this interview,” Branson offered. “But try to get change within your company and ask the company to experiment for a year and see how it goes.”
[Source: Flickr/Hardo Müller]