Sunday, April 29, 2007

Time off for bad behaviour

You know what happens when a lawyer skips holidays? It builds up. First the little pressures - he starts hoarding paperclips, or building a tower out of used ring binders. Then he stops bathing regularly, maybe forgets to change his suit. He starts putting typos into documents he's asking people to read, you know, just for fun. 

Then he finally snaps. In this country, we're generally spared the sight of fat, sweaty couldn't-make-partner seniors stalking the corridors of our firms with loaded semiautomatics, but you can always tell when they've reached the same mental state as would cause a U.S. postman to reach for the gun cupboard. It's in their eyes, in the glazed response to questions, the tick-tock drumming of their pen on the desk, the growing pile of unlooked-at papers - and it always ends in tears, usually those of the secretary who has to keep up appearances and sweep away the debris.

Can't stress enough - taking holidays is really, really important. So why don't we do it?

It's certainly not that we aren't entitled. Yes, in the UK we have a miserly eight public holidays a year. Our more religious neighbours enjoy the benefit of Saints' festivals and such to bolster this number: Italy currently leads the field, the perk of Roman citizenship in the twenty-first century being sixteen days that can cheerfully be given over to church, family, the consumption of Frascati and the other delights of the peninsular. Even the famously put-upon Americans get ten, if they take them. 

But in the City, our masters tend to allow us a relatively generous 20-30 days' holiday, which then accumulates at the glacial rate of one a year. So if you stay with the firm you trained with, by senior associate level you have about a month and a half every year to spend in the rehabilitation clinic of your choice. 

That said, who takes their full holiday entitlement? I guess it depends on the firm's culture - but based on a careful study* carried out a few weeks ago, most people end up with five days to a week untaken by the end of the year. And this is at London firms, where people are at least encouraged to take their holidays. The worst stories emanate from across the Atlantic, where a quarter of all workers are reported to take no holiday at all each year. 

So the fightback starts here. Take some time off. Go spend it with your family, your dog, whoever. Sit in a basement writing blog posts. Tear up unstamped share transfer forms while squatting naked in front of a log fire. Whatever floats your boat. 

But take your holidays. Or one day your colleagues will regret it.

*(at a party, asking a bunch of drunken friends from a cross-section of firms)

No comments:

Post a Comment