From unlimited leave to four-day weeks, some companies adopt more flexible leave policies

SINGAPORE: From June to August, senior application consultant Heemank Verma enjoys a long weekend every week.

Mr Verma, who works in the Singapore office of fintech firm Mambu, uses his Fridays off to hike one of Singapore’s nature trails and practice a new language – Mandarin.

Mambu, a Berlin-based startup, has a four-day summer work week policy for its offices around the world. From June to August – the European summer months – the 40 or so employees employed in Singapore also get one extra day off per week. In addition to this, Mr. Verma is granted 25 days of annual leave.

This is a big difference from a more conventional multinational company where he previously worked, which was also in Singapore, he said.

Companies in Singapore typically offer 14 to 21 days of annual leave as well as a mix of other types of leave such as compassionate care leave, child care leave, and marriage leave.

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“To be honest, we still look forward to the three months. Even when we are working in January or February, we are excited, ”Verma said.

“Our company does not (tolerate) micromanagement, people take ownership of their work. I have the impression that this is a fundamental basis of the four day work week.

Mambu said their assumption was that people will be motivated to “work smarter, and be more productive and efficient” during the days they are at work.

“At Mambu, we prefer to focus on productivity, production and results rather than time spent working,” said APAC Managing Director Myles Bertrand.

He is one of a number of companies in Singapore that have adopted more flexible time and time off policies in recent years, a trend that started in Silicon Valley.


Netflix launched a “no vacation policy” in 2003 and other tech companies have followed suit. Rather than counting the number of days off workers are entitled to, companies let them decide.

In Singapore, Deloitte is a company that has taken it over. Instead of different types of leave, the professional services firm integrates family leave, compassionate care leave, marriage leave, volunteer leave and statutory holidays in a “flexible leave” policy.

Indeed, employees decide the number of holidays they take each year as part of the policy launched in July 2019.

Mr Melvin Wong, senior account manager at Deloitte Singapore, said he took 18 days off in the last fiscal year, slightly less than the 20 days he normally planned.

“Before the pandemic, I would plan an annual family vacation trip that would take around 10 to 12 days, while the remaining eight to 10 days are scattered throughout the year for birthdays, local stays, and errands. foot, ”he said.

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He clarifies that he works with his supervisors to determine the schedule of events at the start of each fiscal year, which allows him to plan his time off while ensuring that the days off do not conflict with a client activity. important.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, he adjusted his work hours so he could help his family get through home learning flares and recharge mentally and physically, he said.

Deloitte’s flexible leave policy is part of a larger work-life integration program that also includes flexible working – where workers have the flexibility to customize their working arrangements.

They can choose to work from home when circumstances permit and adjust their work start and end times to suit their family or personal needs, said Ms Ong Siok Peng, Talent Manager at Deloitte Singapore.


“It took a little while for our employees to get used to this change … It also requires a huge shift in mindset for the team leaders – we briefed them on the details of the new policy and communicated continuously. that the focus should be on whether the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) are achieved and on the quality and speed of the work, and not on the where and how, ”Ms. Ong said.

She said under the new policy, they found that Deloitte employees typically take an average of 20 days off per person.

“It’s interesting that this number is about the same as the leave entitlement we had in the past. Obviously, some employees took more time off, while others took less, ”she said.

“We find that our employees have been responsible for this flexibility and have not encountered any misuse issues. “

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, an added benefit was that no administrative work was required to remind employees to erase leaves, postpone leaves and extend them.

“Even though we cannot all travel at the moment, employees are still encouraged to take time off to avoid burnouts,” she added.

Ms Deanna Lim, human resources and business support consultant at recruitment agency Robert Walters Singapore, said she had seen unusual leave policies in job postings in recent years. Some have offered unlimited annual leave, particularly in the financial services and e-commerce industries.

“Others are showing more support to their employees by granting extended maternity and adoption leave – beyond the 16 weeks of maternity leave mandated by the government,” she said.

“Other recent trends that we have seen include anniversary holidays, flexible work schedules, and study or exam leave that are available to employed students. “

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At Facebook Singapore, for example, employees get two days of choice in addition to 20 days of annual leave.

They can take the time to volunteer, celebrate a faith, community or cultural event on their birthday, or just use it as a day off to do something they love.

The company had special days off in 2020 to support people during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this year the Singapore office is giving workers three extra days off across the company to give people time. to rest and recharge your batteries.


Ms Lim said that in the future more companies should adopt more flexible leave policies.

“It allows them to remain competitive within their industry. Increasingly, we are also seeing more and more companies adopting different initiatives and revising their existing benefits so that they can support the formation of family units, ”she said.

Dr Rashimah Rajah, senior lecturer in the Department of Management and Organization at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School, called this a “gradual movement” away from documented leave.

For example, more and more companies no longer require employees to produce medical certificates if sick leave is only a day or two, she said.

“From a management and organizational perspective, these policies bring increased confidence,” said Dr Rashimah.

“Cultivating a culture of trust and also respecting the personal space of others when they are on leave allows for better collaboration and engagement among employees.

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She noted that the dominant culture of the organization is an important factor in determining the success of such policies.

“If the culture of trust and respect has been around for some time, these policies can improve productivity.

“However, if the culture included things like micromanagement, giving employees ‘sudden freedom’ could lead to potential abuse of the system, as employees could use it as a way to release frustrations with the organization.” , she said.

“What is important is to align expectations through communication, to define common goals and objectives and to understand that there may be a non-negotiable goal, but the way to achieve the goal can be flexible. “

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