Paid leave - any good examples of it working at a startup?


We are a fast-growing startup in supply chain & hiring lots of ML engineers. We've been talking about leave policy & how to do it at this stage. Everyone is on deadline (implementing at customer) & we are under resourced. We know paid leave - especially the idea of unlimited - is appealing. What types of leave policy have you seen work & not work?

I'm confused -- does your company currently not give any vacation or sick time at all?I've never worked anywhere that didn't give at least two weeks, no matter how small the place was. The company I'm at now has unlimited PTO, and a culture of making sure people actually take time off.
Hi, thanks for your reply. It was only the founder for a few years. Once the first paid deal was signed, I came on as the first employee four months ago. We are now adding more employees so wanted to research what's out there & what's working and what's not. Trying to understand the practical implications or maybe I'm overthinking it? How does unlimited paid time off work with you guys? At what stage of maturity was unlimited PTO implemented. What if someone didn't take any time off and says they don't want to? Or someone wants to take off four months at a time?
Ah, I see. I don't know when they put this into place, but it's been at least a few years now (before I got here). It's working fine as far as I know. Your manager is supposed to make sure that you're taking time off--the guideline is one week/quarter, and this is discussed during hiring. A few days either side of that target won't raise any eyebrows. If someone claims that they don't want to take any time off work, they probably won't be a good cultural fit here. Everyone has a life and needs outside of the office, and neglecting those just burns people out. I don't think anyone has ever asked to take four months off for just any old thing--maybe for maternity leave, though. The company is generally flexible and human when people have emergencies or whatever.
This is super helpful. Thank you
Happy to help. We are hiring, by the way. :D
Hi Amanda!I am in Canada, and my current company offers the following (on top of government-supported programs):Vacation:We work hard, but we play hard too. Riipen offers 4 weeks of vacation to every new Riipeneer! Paid Parental Leave: Being a new parent it hard enough without having to worry about your income. Riipen offers all new parents two weeks of fully paid leave as they begin their journey and 12 weeks of top-up pay so they can forget about work and focus on their new family.I am not a parent, and not currently planning a family, so I don’t know extensive details, but I do know this applies to all new parents (all genders) including both birth or adoption situations.
Hi Amanda!The fact is, everyone will always be on deadline and have work to do but not implementing leave and figure out how to cover for each other will result in high attrition rates. At Hatch, we've instituted an unlimited PTO policy and we encourage people to take at least 1 week a quarter off and we have a holiday shut down during the last two weeks of the year. With Unlimited PTO, it can be tricky because some companies say they have it but never actually allow people to use it because "there's too much work" so you will lose people that way too. You have to implement a culture where people can actually take a break if they need to. For Parental leave, we have 12 weeks off for both parents.
This is great. Yes, we want people to stick around as we are all older and want to help train a new generation. I think the one week off per quarter at a minimum. We had already discuss pre-emptively saying we are closed from this date to this date over Thanksgiving & specific public holidays that often only schools or government take but companies don't. We all have school aged kids so might as well be proactive about it. You & @RebeccaStevenson both talked about encouraging to take off one week/quarter. What does "encouraging" look like in terms of implementation?
I think the replies on this thread have been great. But as many of the replies have subtly mentioned, that unlimited paid leave is often times not the best policy. Many companies out there are offering unlimited paid leave, but because there are no other specific policies around it people are afraid to take actual unlimited paid time off, and actually end up taking less time off than the average company would, which is two weeks. Personally, the best paid leave policy I’ve heard is unlimited paid time off with X number of weeks being enforced. For example, a company can they have unlimited time off, with employees required to take a minimum of 2 weeks.
Yes, I'd read the Netflix book that mentioned it had been hard to enforce/model & I have friends there who say it doesn't work in that culture. I think particularly in remote & potential endless communication options, being clear especially as you grow beyond initial team (who tend to share a brain) is key. Thank you
I have a weekly one-on-one with my nominal manager (we are roughly the same age and experience level, but he's been with the company longer, so he got to become a manager when they hired me :D ), and one of the things we discuss is upcoming vacation time -- both for departmental planning stuff, and to make sure that I'm not overworked.
That's helpful. TY
Unlimited paid time off with an enforced minimum of at least 3-4 weeks annually (I favour a 1 week quarterly minimum to avoid that end-of-year slump) is what is best for the health and well-being of your employees. Of course it only works if people’s workloads are properly managed and there are clear expectations of what tasks are required to be finished, with clear handover procedures and an open and collaborative team environment.Also, ask your employees how they’d like to work. This is a step that is too often missed in these discussions and quite often that is where the answers are.
Hi, can you expand on "ask your employees how they’d like to work" please? Thank you.
@Camille do you want to work for Amanda or have some insights for her of what you'd like to see as mother in the workplace?
I work for a startup with about 70 employees. We have unlimited PTO and it works quite well. It isn't abused and we meet our deadlines.
Hi @AmandaWangValentine !I've worked at two early stage companies (like single digit employees), both with unlimited leave.At one, we were discouraged from taking time off, and it was treated as a nuisance and was very nerve-wracking to ask for PTO. We were still expected to be responsive on vacation.At the other, we were encouraged to take PTO, our management celebrated our vacations, and would discourage us from checking in while we were away.I'd say people were much more productive at the second company, and happier because they felt supported as humans. The first place just led to burnout and resentment. I think people who join early stage startups self-select and understand the workload. I've never seen anyone abuse the policy!
Oh I love the idea of celebrating vacation. That's such a good idea.