The money or the holiday?

Welcome to the annual leave game show: The Australian Fair Work Commission has recently changed various modern awards to allow for the cashing in of annual leave under specific conditions. How would you feel if this trend extends to non-award employees in the future?

At first glance, the freedom to choose annual leave time or its monetary equivalent seems like a great win for employees. Who wouldn’t love the flexibility to select whichever option suits their personal situation? Unfortunately, there’s the potential that those who need a break most won’t take it.

Australia is recognised internationally as a hardworking nation. A global survey by online travel site Expedia, as reported by Moira Geddes for, reveals over 50% of Australians feel vacation deprived. In an interview with Geddes, George Rubensal, Managing Director of Expedia ANZ says Australians are not taking enough holidays, with 11% of us taking no vacation at all. Even though we have the right to time off, employees feel constrained by an obligation to work, with a staggering 17% of workers saying their bosses don’t allow them to take leave! reports that business leaders supported changes to allow for more flexible working arrangements, but unions are concerned about annual leave becoming a commodity, rather than an entitlement. Finding that you really need the respite afforded by taking annual leave when you’ve already cashed in your leave benefits puts additional pressure on employees to negotiate with their employers and compounds the problem. The same principle applies to those calls to allow low income workers to access their superannuation.

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver makes the point that employers should be encouraging a work environment where employees feel secure to take the leave they have earned. It’s also important to remember that more hours worked does not necessarily lead to greater productivity.

Here are some ways the scenario could play out:

  1. Employees perceive that they are indispensable to their job, so they don’t take leave and risk burnout in the process
  2. Employers try to achieve higher output by encouraging their employees to work rather than take leave
  3. Employees working under financial stress take the cash, even though they really need the break
  4. Employers who recognise that holidays contribute to increased productivity find it difficult to convince staff to take leave
  5. Employees spend more time at work and less time with family and friends, which also affects relationships with colleagues and business performance

In the always online, connected digital age, taking time out to allow our minds and bodies to recharge is more critical than ever. Our annual leave provisions allow us to do that.

Would you take the money or the holiday?

Roma Grant

Roma has over 15 years experience in recruitment across both technical and non-technical disciplines. With proven success in identifying strategic leaders and key talent for challenging niche positions, Roma places a strong emphasis on candidate management and partnering with clients. Placing a strong focus on candidate care and talent mapping, Roma feels that this focus helps her to deliver positive results, particularly for technical roles with a limited candidate pool that are difficult to source. Roma’s industry knowledge and executive search experience allows her to add value to her clients and proactively identify and engage ‘passive’, highly-sought candidates. She has cultivated extensive networks with key leaders.

Roma Grant
Senior Consultant, Technical & Operations
Slade Executive Recruitment
Level 7, 15 William Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: +61 3 9235 5100

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work
2 comments on “The money or the holiday?
  1. Chris greig says:

    I saw first hand this sort of dilemma play out in Europe.
    On one side the French entity had a “take it or lose it” approach to holiday. Result, people took regular leave and had strong health.
    In contrast the German entity allowed holiday to be accumulated to retire early. Result people left the workforce earlier but utterly burnt out.
    Hate the nanny state but when it comes to health you need oversight.

    • Roma Grant Roma Grant says:

      Thanks for commenting Chris and for providing two great contrasting examples. We all hate the idea of a nanny state but it’s often too easy to sacrifice health and well-being for financial gain; particularly for workaholics!

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