Choosing holidays for your staff

Most people are off at Christmas. But what if your staff do not celebrate Christmas but the end of Ramadan Eid-al-fitr, or their wedding anniversary? Read how days off are arranged in the Netherlands, what is best for your employees and get inspired by a different approach.

Days off in the Netherlands

Days off can be divided into vacations and public holidays. According to Dutch law, your employees are entitled to vacations. On top of that, there are public holidays on which people are free. Nowhere in the law does it say that an official holiday (in Dutch) is also a day off. Whether you give time off on a holiday is stated in the collective labour agreement (CAO) or employment contract.

Swapping holidays

But are official holidays actually days that your staff wants to be off? Take Sinterklaas or the end of Ramadan: these are not official holidays in the Netherlands. But many people do want to be off then. Or think more broadly, about a non-public holiday such as a birthday, wedding anniversary or commemoration of the death anniversary of a loved one. Maybe your staff will want an (extra) day off then.

To make sure everyone is off on the holidays they really celebrate, you can let your staff choose their own holidays. This is becoming more common (in Dutch). It fits the trend of giving staff more freedom of choice and a more inclusive society. To this end, include in the secondary terms of employment which public holidays are standard in your company as well as the possibility for staff to exchange a public holiday.

Do consider the consequences for your staff planning. For example, will you suddenly have people working on Christmas? What does that mean for office costs or staffing? And if you give extra pay on holidays, how will you deal with that later?

Unlimited days off

"We believe that dealing well with staff involves a lot of freedom. Our employees do not request vacations from management. They are responsible for their own planning and assignments, in consultation with their team." Speaking is co-owner Tim Klein Robbenhaar of Enschede-based digital agency Nerds & Company. They offer employees an unlimited number of paid days off.

Really unlimited? "No, of course not because then we would be bankrupt within a year. Staff take vacations when they want and when they can. This is done in consultation with their team so that projects keep going and our customers remain satisfied," Klein Robbenhaar adds.

To make this work, he offers three tips:

  • Do a comprehensive recruitment and selection process. Ask about sense of responsibility and self-direction. Our personnel are highly educated and look beyond their daily tasks. They understand what customers find important. They also know their role in a project and when they are indispensable.
  • You are required as an employer to keep vacation records. If we see an employee not taking enough vacation time, we raise the alarm. Similarly, if we see structural outliers, we engage in the conversation.
  • Prevent (unintentional) abuse. With us, the team solves this itself. If that fails, the secondary terms of employment offer a solution. These state, for example, that a 3- to 4-week trip is a long time and should be well discussed. Vacations lasting more than 7 days must be arranged at least 1 month in advance. And that 24 vacation days are counted when leaving employment.

The number of vacation days taken by staff increased from 26 to 30 vacation days on full-time employment. "While it is not quite unlimited, it sends a different kind of message," Klein Robbenhaar looks back with satisfaction. "It gives a sense of freedom to be able to take a day off on short notice. And it gives you room to take a longer vacation one year. And then as an employee you understand that the following year you take a little less."