Is KaFe Rocks’ unlimited paid holiday policy a success and will other iGaming firms follow suit?

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The introduction of an unlimited vacation policy at the start of 2022 has been a success for Malta-based affiliate KaFe Rocks.

“Employees responded positively and we haven’t received any unreasonable requests for time off thus far,” Jessica Farrugia, KaFe Rocks’ people experience manager, told iGaming NEXT eight months into the pilot project.

When KaFe Rocks’ staff expressed their desire for a more flexible leave policy in an employee benefit survey last year, the firm decided to investigate.

“We thought that this can work,” said Farrugia. “We trust our people. We don’t check on the hours they work per day, we don’t check when they start in the morning, so we asked ourselves why are we limiting how many days they are taking off?”

Unlimited vacation leave is not an entirely new trend and has been adopted by many tech companies the world over.

KaFe Rocks’ Jessica Farrugia: “We trust our people. We don’t check on the hours they work per day, we don’t check when they start in the morning, so why are we limiting how many days they are taking off?”

However, a potential downside of this policy is that employees do not have a guidance over how much leave is actually acceptable, whereas some might hesitate to take time off at all.

“We definitely want to avoid this situation,” said Farrugia. “The policy applies in addition to local legislation and offers unlimited leave days on top of regular national and bank holidays and minimum leave entitlement.”

A comparison of the total vacation days taken by KaFe Rocks employees in Q1 2021 and Q1 2022 shows an increase of just over 66%. This figure climbs to 74% for Q2.

“As an HR team, we are keeping an eye on people’s vacation. We regularly remind people to actually take time off. But the unlimited vacation policy has also been a great success in other ways as it offers us great insight,” she said.

“For example, if we notice that there’s one team which does not take time off, it might be a sign that this team is overworked and might need more resources,” she added.

To manage this process, KaFe Rocks has kept its existing notice periods for leave.

“We still need to ensure that there’s enough time for a proper handover and that other members of the team can keep up with the workload while a co-worker is on holiday,” Farrugia explained.

“We ask employees to give us at least a week’s notice for one or two days of leave and two weeks notice in case of three or more days.”

Unlimited paid time off policies are currently fashionable and widely discussed by HR professionals across the sector.

While they can help organisations to attract top talent, especially among candidates looking for remote work and flexibility, not all employees – and indeed employers – view unlimited vacation as a positive.

With KaFe Rocks becoming a pioneer in Malta, iGaming NEXT asked several HR managers if they think unlimited paid time is a good idea and could be beneficial for the bottom line.

“Giving people an unlimited amount of vacation will initially be well received and celebrated, but in practice it can be overwhelming and result in people taking less leave,” said Emily Micallef, head of people strategy & operations at HappyHour.

“We’ve found that people feel guilty, and need a set entitlement to understand their own parameters and limitations to keep the leave request process inclusive and fair for all employees,” she added.

She said she would rather put more effort in training managers to better understand team leave distribution, as well as planning leave in advance.

HappyHour’s Emily Micallef: “We’ve found that people feel guilty, and need a set entitlement to understand their own parameters and limitations to keep the leave request process inclusive and fair for all employees.”

Meanwhile, Avril Morin, director of people operations at GiG, highlighted that the iGaming industry has a reputation of challenging the status quo of more traditional business operating models.

She believes it is of paramount importance to think beyond ordinary perks and benefits. However, she also feels there are still a number of unanswered questions about unlimited paid leave.

“You do not want to sell something that is not realistic and would actually add more pressure on teams and individuals, such as adding extra workload on team members to cover extra vacation or still having partners or suppliers who expect a full service as per normal working hours,” Morin said.

“We prefer and find it more meaningful to offer a day off here and there, when an employee needs it the most or to say thank you for a special milestone,” she added.

Elsewhere, Shirley Borg, head of HR at Energy Casino, has called on local governments to meet employers halfway with regards to employee welfare.

She said: “In our company we put an emphasis on work-life balance. For example, we are very happy to see Malta starting to amend its laws to accommodate parental leave better; however, we are a long shot from being ‘accommodating’.”

“Our company is doing its utmost to help and allow flexible benefits to make people’s lives better; however it is difficult with limited government aid,” she added.

Experience from early adopters shows that unlimited vacation works best in companies that make a more fundamental shift from managing people to managing workloads.

One conclusion suggests that encouraging people to take unlimited leave “as long as their work is done” is highly counterproductive, because work as a concept can never be “completed”.

Finally, much also depends on how senior managers and HR staff enforce an unlimited vacation policy, with regards to whether they take unlimited time off themselves or whether it’s clear internally that taking time off is genuinely encouraged.

Are you an employee at an iGaming company offering unlimited paid leave? Get in touch at news@igamingnext.com to share your experiences. 

About the author

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Sonja Lindenberg

Sonja Lindenberg is an experienced editor and journalist, with a strong focus on business, finance, trade and investment. She holds a degree in business journalism and throughout the past two decades has covered companies and industries in various markets and for different media, including newspapers, news agencies, inflight magazines, country reports and trade publications. Sonja joined iGaming NEXT in June 2022.

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