Skip to main content
EmploymentHuman ResourcesRecruitment

Why All Recruiters Should Have Unlimited Annual Leave

By February 16, 20173 Comments

Why is it that we tell recruitment consultants how much annual leave they can have in a year? Why do we limit their annual leave, as is the norm in New Zealand, to four weeks? Especially when we also tell them that they’ll probably have to take half of it off between late December and early January.

I’ve been pondering this question, and grappling with the unavoidable conclusion, for quite a few weeks now. Certainly well before reading an article earlier this week revealing the kiwi CEO of a Dunedin-based gaming company who provides his own staff with unlimited annual leave.

On the global scene this concept is nothing new, of course, particularly in the free-thinking tech sector. Netflix have had an unlimited annual leave policy running since 2004, in which time they’ve grown their market cap to over US$50 billion.

Ultimately it comes down to a simple question: What do you want from your recruitment consultants? Of course there’s all the feel-good stuff that sounds nice in RFI pitches and on company websites, like caring for the candidates, truly consulting with clients, strategic thinking and suchlike. But the reality, sadly, is much simpler than that – it’s all about the results. In all my years recruiting for recruitment agencies I have never seen one candidate consistently billing over $500k per year that was asked to leave, no matter how toxic, or lacking in team ethic, their behaviours might be.

I’ve even seen instances of the real gun billers out there, the wildly driven, single-minded, sociopathic million-dollar billers literally put into dark corners of agency sales floors and told to just keep away from everyone else and just keep billing, like some kind of lovable but sinister gimp kept as a pet.


So why, then, do we also tell these people when they can and can’t take leave? If you take a moment to think about it, it really is nonsensical. Telling them what kind of results you expect them to produce and how you would like them to behave makes sense. Telling a consultant when they should and shouldn’t be doing that is pointless, especially when there’s no real way of tracking all of the times spent emailing and calling outside of regular office hours nowadays anyway.


There are risks in adopting such a policy, naturally. But human nature is a funny thing and the number of your consultants likely to abuse this policy and take too much leave will be a very small percentage, I assure you. If that happens, and the consultant’s performance drops as a result, and they fail to reach target or exceed budget, then it becomes a performance management conversation like in any other instance. As long as you’re clear that their annual leave must not be detrimental to the business as a whole, or put extra pressure on other team members, then let them have it.

It’s just another step towards treating your consultants like adults and letting them be in charge of what they produce rather than being told when to produce.

As for the unavoidable conclusion that I’ve been grappling with, well here it is:  As of today Rice Consulting and virtualRPO fee billing consultants all have unlimited annual leave. It’s not even for publicity’s sake either. I’d rather talk to my guys about results and how to improve rather than having to deal with all the annual leave paperwork.


Give it a go. You might like it.

Jonathan Rice

MD at New Zealand rec-to-rec firm Rice Consulting and co-founder of on-demand recruiter offering Joyn. Recruitment agitator and frustrated idealist, father of two, husband of one, and lover of all things Arsenal and crafty beer.


  • David says:

    Hi Jonathan – I’m keen to hear how this has been going so far, how did your employees react to this decision – any positive / negative feedback on this so far ? Or are you currently on annual leave and don’t have time to respond 😉

    For some (not all) industries this is something that could certainly work & keen to hear how its going for your business so far. Thanks.

    • Jonathan Rice says:

      Hi David we’re only one week in so I’ll do a follow up piece in about 6 months time or so! It was well-received, of course, but we already operated a pretty flexible culture anyway so it’s not as great a leap for my guys as it might be for others. Thanks for your interest.