Innovation consultancy Inventium celebrates two years of unlimited paid leave scheme

21 July 2018 Authored by Consultancy.com.au

Inventium, a Sydney-based innovation strategy and management consultancy which applies psychology, neuroscience and management science to fuel their offerings has implemented an unlimited paid leave scheme. 

The consulting firm introduced the concept over two years ago as a result of Inventium founder Amantha Imber’s dismay with the Australian employment law’s four weeks of entitled annual leave. 

Australia is currently twentieth on the list of the worlds annual vacation rankings, with the country receiving a minimum of 20 paid vacation days with the addition of 8 days of public paid holidays. 

Whilst this is much better than the United States – where paid annual leave is not enshrined in law and paid leave is left to the employer’s discretion – Australians are on par with the Chile and Saudi Arabia in their entitlements.

For Imber, the cap on annual leave does not fairly equate to the unlimited working hours which employees are subjected to. “It is not uncommon for staff to work 50+ hour weeks and travel interstate or overseas relatively frequently. So while annual leave is capped, working hours are not.”

To rectify this imbalance, Imber took a shot at implementing the innovative strategy herself, dubbing it Rebalance Leave. The idea behind the scheme was not to offer more leave for the sake of it but to ensure that Inventium employees had the ability to lead a balanced lifestyle. 

The innovation consulting firm has found the results had been overwhelmingly positive and that Rebalance Leave did just that, rebalance Inventium staff. Imber measured this success in the average amount of days which her staff took off each year and compared it to the amount of sick days.

At Inventium before the policy was instated the average annual sick leave taken by employees was at 2.45 days. A relatively low number compared to the average in the public sector which is roughly nine days a year. Two years after Rebalance Leave was introduced, that number is down to 1.4 days a year which according to Imber “is almost unheard of in Australia.”

Before unlimited paid leave was introduced, employees at the firm also used up 19 of their 20 days of annual leave, now that number is sitting at a comfy 27 days a year. Imber says that the results have taught her three valuable lessons; four weeks is not enough, model it from the top and sides and it’s about the intent, not the instruction.

Australian innovation consultancy Inventium gives employees unlimited paid leave

“One year after launch, the average amount of leave taken was 24 days, and two years on, it is up to 27 days. As a business owner, I see this as a huge success. It means staff are taking what they need (which was clearly more than four weeks) but by the same token, the policy is not being abused.”

“Five and a half weeks is about what I now take,” she said,  reflecting on how similar attempts to implement leave failed and citing one example of employees being to scared to take the extra time off.  “I think that it’s no coincidence that my own leave amount mirrors what staff now take.”

“I wanted to be careful to avoid the trap of the amount of leave being taken decreasing rather than increasing.” To make this happen, Imber ensured that her management team led by example and pushed employees who looked like they need a break to use the Rebalance Leave. The power of peers should never be underestimated in making a policy like this successful.

When contemplating how she could avoid overcomplicating the program, Imber said that it was all about building mutual trust. One of the key ingredients in this equation was that leave did not have to be approved by management. “Laying out a set of instructions seemed like a patronising thing to do, given one of the points of the policy was about treating people like adults and empowering them to make decisions for themselves.”

“So instead of creating a set of instructions, I launched it with a clear intent. The intent was about using the additional leave to achieve balance in one’s life. Hence the name: Rebalance Leave. I made it clear that it was not to replace other kinds of leave that have specific purposes, such as Parental Leave, Sick Leave, Carer’s Leave and so on.” she said. 

“One of the key ingredients that I believe made unlimited leave successful at Inventium is a high amount of trust between everyone on the team. In addition, because leave doesn’t have to be “approved”, it takes a respectful and thoughtful team to not end up with everyone on leave all at once and create issues for our clients and the work that needs to be done,” she concluded.

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