CAE Reading and Use of English Part 5
You are going to read an internet article about a work policy of unlimited leave time. For questions 31-36 choose the answer (A, B, C or D) which you think fits best according to the text.
Unlimited Time Off Work
Barnaby Spence considers a new idea from the world of big business
The founder of a multinational corporation recently announced that his company would no longer be keeping track of its employees’ paid holiday time. The move was apparently inspired by an internet company which has instigated a similar policy. According to the founder of the multinational corporation, the idea came to him via a cheery email (reproduced in many newspapers) from his daughter. In it she sounds suspiciously like a copywriter from her father’s media team. Setting aside the fact that the means by which the announcement was made seems like a hollow attempt at ‘humanising’ what may turn out to be a less than generous policy decision, let us ask: is the idea practical?
The internet company and the multinational corporation are fundamentally distinct – the former has 2,000 employees and provides a single service, while the latter has 50,000 employees with dozens of subsidiary companies providing services as diverse as financial services, transport, and healthcare. The approach of ‘take as much time off as you want as long as you’re sure it won’t damage the business’ seems better suited to a smaller company where employees have a better idea of each other’s workloads and schedules, and so may be more comfortable in assessing whether their absence would harm the business – in any case a problematically abstract notion.
The founder of the multinational has stated that his employees may take as much leave as they want, as long as they ‘feel a hundred percent comfortable that they and their team are up to date on every project and that their absence will not in any way damage the business – or, for that matter, their careers.’ Is it possible to be that sure? No matter how many loose ends you manage to tie up in advance of a holiday, there is always a mountain of work to come back to. That is simply the nature of leave; you put your work on hold, but its accumulation is inevitable and beyond your control. Someone who follows these guidelines would likely not go at all, or, at the very least, would feel overly guilty about going. Increased levels of guilt lead to stress and this, together with workers not taking sufficient leave, would lead to a decrease in productivity in the long run.
The situation could be compounded by pressure from colleagues and office gossip concerning who was off when, and for how long. Such pressure already affects decisions such as when to start and end the working day. Particularly in the corporate sector, there is a culture of working late, and it is easy to see how this could translate into a ‘no holiday’ culture in a company with unlimited leave, where workers compete for promotion. Similarly, if the feelings of safety and entitlement that statutory leave provides are removed, people may feel unable to take the leave they require for fear of appearing lazy. Essentially, they would no longer have their legal entitlement to fall back on. Perhaps then, the policy would result in a sort of paralysis, where workers did not feel able to take their entitled leave, or, they might continue to use their statutory rights as a guideline, leaving the policy obsolete.
Modern technology, which allows us to receive work messages whenever and wherever we are, has blurred the distinction between work and leisure time. The internet company apparently began their unlimited leave policy when their employees asked how this new way of working could be reconciled with the company’s old-fashioned time-off policy. That is to say, if their employer was no longer able to accurately track employees’ total time on the job, why should it apply a different and outmoded standard to their time away from it? However, a potentially problematic corollary of having no set working hours is that all hours are feasibly working hours. Employees can never be sure whether or not their working hours are being monitored by their employer, causing them to internalise this scrutiny and become self-disciplining, with possibly destructive effects. Employment law exists for a reason. Workers are entitled to a minimum amount of statutory paid annual leave because periods of rest and leisure are critical to their mental and physical health. The increased morale, creativity and productivity which are cited as the desired results of the unlimited leave policy can all exist independently of worker well-being. I remain doubtful, therefore, as to whether being ‘able to take as much holiday as they want’ is either the true intention or the probable outcome of this policy.
31 What does the writer imply about the founder of the multinational corporation?
He is unwise to employ his daughter in his company.
He is dishonestly copying an idea from another company.
He is using his daughter to make a planned change appear more acceptable.
He is merely trying to increase his personal popularity.
33 The writer compares the multinational corporation and the internet company in order to demonstrate that
unlimited leave is more likely to work in a more diverse company.
employees in a smaller company have more loyalty to each other.
it is difficult for workers to assess what is best for their company.
what works in one company may be unsuitable for another.
34 What does the writer state about the unlimited leave policy in the third paragraph?
It increases the employees’ workloads.
It sets unreasonable criteria to consider before leave can be taken.
It could harm the employees’ careers in the long term.
It makes them feel under an obligation to take leave at inappropriate times.
35 What generalisation does the writer make about office workers in the fourth paragraph?
They can often be unaware of their legal rights.
They can have a strong influence on each other’s behaviour.
They tend to be more productive when there is a promotion on offer.
They prefer to have fixed guidelines regarding terms and conditions.
36 In the last paragraph, the writer questions whether
it was really the staff at the internet company who had the idea for an unlimited leave policy.
employees can be trusted to keep track of their working hours.
abolishing a fixed work timetable actually gives workers more freedom.
it is time to update the employment laws relating to paid leave.