9 Ways to Reward Staff - For Free - by Giving Time Off

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“Failure to attract and retain top talent” was the number-one issue in the Conference Board’s survey of global CEOs.

With this issue at the forefront of business leaders’ thoughts, companies are introducing wild and wacky benefits to help them attract and retain the best talent.

Every day we hear about startup companies introducing new benefits to entice talent to join. Perks such as pool tables in the office, computer games, bean bags in meeting rooms, free food or drinks (even alcoholic), free child care, bring your pets to work and gym memberships may sound great but do they actually influence candidate’s decisions or employee satisfaction?

To answer this, the Glassdoor Economic Research correlated the results of two questions from their survey:

1. How important a particular benefit is to them.

2. How satisfied they are with their overall benefits package.

Comparing the results from nearly half a million responses, they were able to identify the most important benefits for driving employee satisfaction.

So what were the results?

The most important benefit to drive satisfaction was Health Insurance.

This makes a lot of sense as the survey was run in the U.S. where the importance of health insurance is high due to lower coverage of public health care. So if you’re going to reward staff with one perk, this is where you need to focus. Allowing pets in the office may improve your employee satisfaction a notch, but it cannot match the peace of mind given to an employee knowing they are covered in case of poor health.

In second place was Vacation and Paid Time Off. This is more of a surprise, particularly given that, according to U.S. Travel Association,

“each year, more than half of Americans leave vacation time on the table”.

So why is Vacation and Paid Time Off so important to employees and what are some of the ways in which companies can maximise their employee satisfaction with this benefit?

We are all very busy

Work is busy, life outside work is busy, and we get busier every year. People are working longer hours, commuting further, looking after families or pets and pursuing more hobbies and interests than ever before.

Time is precious, and we want to do it all.

Days off from work gives us some time back, but few of us can afford to take unpaid leave so we rely on paid time off, also referred to as annual leave.

Rewarding staff with an extra day off work has far more value to the average employee than the monetary value of that paid day.

Ways to reward staff employees with time off

So as an employer, maybe consider offering additional leave within a suite of staff rewards, of course, this time off should be over the legal minimum. A time off in lieu policy could also provide an attractive alternative to paid overtime.

You could also consider one of these interesting staff rewards:

1. Give an extra paid day off for a birthday

It’s just one extra day, and somehow this perk leaves your staff feeling that the company cares about their overall health and happiness.

The company also benefits from this as it means leave is spaced out evenly through the year, rather than everyone taking the same time off during the holiday period, or rushing to use up remaining leave at the end of the leave year. No matter how busy you are, no-one is going to be missed for one day.

The cakes will need to wait!

2. Give extra paid leave for employees with caring responsibilities

At the beginning of this month, Centrica has rolled out a new Paid Carers Leave policy to all of their 30,000 employees. This policy rewards staff who are registered as carers with an additional 10 days of paid leave to care for their loved ones.

Centrica is also working with Carers UK to lobby the UK Government to introduce 5 to 10 days of mandatory paid carers leave for all employers.

Centrica estimates show that UK companies could save up to £4.8 billion a year in unplanned absences and a further £3.4 billion in improved employee retention by adopting flexible working policies to support those with caring responsibilities.

3. Option to purchase extra leave (or sell it)

Giving your staff the option to purchase additional days off for the year gives them control over their work-life balance. If they value time-off more than salary, or maybe have a special event planned, then they can choose to purchase additional days.

By asking employees to make this decision before the leave year starts, you can plan resourcing levels and payroll for the year ahead, making the administration easier.

Some staff may also value the option to sell back unused leave to the company. If you plan to offer this option you need to consider the overall well-being of your staff who capitalise on it, whilst also ensuring you are adhering to the minimum amount of time-off required by law. By incentivising staff to take fewer days off you are risking increased absenteeism in the longer term.

4. Give an extra day off for hitting performance goals

How SMART are your goals, and do you offer rewards for staff who meet or exceed them? Offering an extra day of leave for exceeding goals could help boost employee performance as long as your goals are strong enough to be measured against fairly.

An alternative is to reward all employees based on company performance. One local council in the UK awarded all of its staff an extra day of holiday for winning the ‘Council of the Year Award’. I’m sure that team really felt like they earned that day, and are inspired to do it again next year.

5. Extra leave to reward loyalty

Do your loyal employees get more time off than your new starters? Does someone who has worked for you for 5 years deserve more time off than someone who recently joined? If loyalty is important to you then this could be a valuable benefit to reward staff with.

In Australia and New Zealand, it is an employee entitlement to receive additional ‘Long Service Leave’ based on your years of service with the employer.

The Reserve Bank of Australia has taken this a step further and now offers an extra 5 days of paid holiday in the form of “Loyalty Leave” for all employees with over 3 years service.

6. Give staff unpaid leave during the school holidays

School holidays are always a problem for working parents, and whilst you may not think it is your problem (as an employer), it will become your problem if your staff are struggling to cope.

Offering flexible working policies during school holidays could be one way to ensure your staff are kept focused on their job, rather than stressing about how they will manage.

Ernst & Young have led this initiative by offering ‘term time working’ so staff can work five days a week during the school term and take the school holidays off as unpaid leave.

7. Give generous paid parental leave

Having a baby is one of the most special times in a parent’s life, but it is also a life changing experience as you adjust to an extra person in your family, particularly one who is so demanding! So why not give your staff some extra time to adjust and enjoy the experience.

Netflix is leading the way by offering full-time employees an entire year of full pay parental leave for either birth or adoption.

Under their ‘Leave Share’ scheme, Amazon also allows employees to share their paid leave with their partner if their partner is not entitled to paid leave.

8. Wedding Leave

We’ve mentioned birthdays and births, so it would be rude not to mention weddings too. Yes, that’s right, some companies also offer Wedding Leave for their staff. Although uncommon in the UK, in Spain and France the governments mandate that employers must give time off for weddings. In Spain, you are entitled to 15 calendar days off when you tie the knot.

Will this become more prevalent in the UK? I wouldn’t be surprised!

9. The 4-day week

We’re currently seeing the 4-day week movement growing in popularity across the UK, with dozens of companies moving to fewer working hours. The business case for a 4-day week is strong, and many companies have seen positive impacts on talent acquisition and retention, as well as staff productivity.

An alternative to this is a nine-day fortnight where staff work their normal contracted hours over a shorter number of days. Employees work the equivalent of 10 days of contracted hours over 9 days, therefore receiving the 10th day off.

... and one for luck - Extra time off for travelling 'clean'

Organisations who sign up to Climate Perks are offering their employees extra paid time off when travelling by cleaner modes of transport such as buses, trains and boats. By choosing these options, instead of planes, staff get additional paid leave from work to cover the extra journey time. Climate Perks is designed for people who love to travel and want to take action on climate change. Sounds like a great idea to us. ?


Would you consider implementing one or more of these benefits in your company? Maybe you have worked in a company which offers one of these, or something similar? We’d love to hear your thoughts on which benefits you have experienced and whether you appreciated them. Maybe you have already implemented them and are seeing the benefits? Contact us on LinkedIn to start the conversation.


Discuss this with your boss

There is a supporting presentation deck which can be downloaded for free from Slideshare, check it out at https://www.slideshare.net/leavedates/9-ways-to-reward-staff-with-time-off-153125208


If you need a flexible and simple way to keep track of staff leave, then take a look at Leave Dates. The ability to see everyone’s availability in one place, in a clear and visual way, makes business planning much less stressful. Leave Dates removes the effort of manually managing leave and absence, giving you more time to get on with more important things, like running your business! The app is free for small teams and works on laptops, tablets and mobile phones.



Our co-founder, Phil, loves people, problem-solving and making life easier for small businesses. If you book a Leave Dates demo, he will give you a warm welcome and show you everything that you need to know.