A reader writes:
My mom recently surprised me with a two week trip around Europe, paid by her. Our tickets have been purchased and I am scheduled to leave in two months. My worry lies in my alloted vacation days. I have 10 days for each year, but have only been working here for less than 6 months. My question is whether I can take the full two weeks of vacation or am I only entitled to half of that at this point?
Also, how much notice is appropriate to give for such a long vacation? I work in a professional 24/7 call center environment in which our schedule is posted at least 6 weeks in advance. I am scared of my boss on a good day and terrified I will lose my job for asking for this much time off so early in my employment.
That was really nice of your mom. But I’m going to take a guess here that you’re relatively young and she isn’t yet used to the fact that you now have a real job, where you can’t just take off two weeks without working it out with your boss in advance. Because she really shouldn’t have made these arrangements without checking with you, and by doing so, she’s put you in a tough position.
On the question of whether you even have 10 days to take after working less than six months: I don’t know. Check your employee manual and see how vacation time accrues. Generally you accrue a certain amount per pay period, which means that after working half a year, you’d have accrued half of your annual leave (five days). Of course, the trip is two months away, so you’ll have accrued a bit more by then — but not the whole amount.
Now, at some workplaces, when you need time off but don’t have enough accrued leave, they’re willing to advance you some leave or let you take those days unpaid. But usually that’s done when there’s a compelling reason — you’re getting married, or you’re having surgery, or you had a pre-planned vacation that you talked to them about pre-hire. “My mom surprised me with a trip” may or may not qualify, depending on the norms and culture at your workplace. (And some workplaces, you’d risk coming across as a little naive and less than professional, because you should be the one controlling your work life and schedule, not your mother.)
But it’s not just a question of whether you have the accrued vacation time or whether you can take two weeks off at once; it’s also a question of whether those particular days are ones you can take off. Your mother has no way of knowing whether the big conference you’re working on falls during those dates, or whether your coworker will already be out then and you’re needed to cover for her, etc. And that’s why people generally need to get time-off (especially significant time off, like two weeks) approved in advance, before doing things like purchasing tickets. (Although at a call center, I think there’s a pretty decent chance that none of these things will end up posing obstacles.)
So your mother overstepped here, and no matter how you handle it, I strongly recommend that you find a way to make that clear to her so that she doesn’t do it again. She needs to realize that by taking a full-time job, you basically agreed not to make two-week-long plans without first checking with your manager.
In any case, as for how to handle it now, my advice is this: Tell your boss that you have the chance to take a great trip on those dates, and be very, very clear that you understand that it might be too soon to take two weeks off. Say something like, “I completely realize that the timing just might not be right, and I’m prepared to hear that. But I wanted to check with you in case it’s actually workable without hardship on Acme’s side.” If he says yes, and you’re not getting the vibe that he’s really irked, then great.
If he says no, or if he says yes but you’re getting the vibe that it’s going to Cause Problems (yes, capitalized), then you should tell your mom that while you really appreciate her gift, which is unquestionably generous, your work obligations prevent you from being able to go. How well she takes this will depend on her — but please know that your stance here would be reasonable (and would be a healthy boundary for an adult to enforce with a parent). Good luck!