everything you need to know about time off when you start a new job

I get a lot of questions about time off when you’re starting a new job — when to mention pre-planned vacation time, how and whether to ask for time off soon after starting, and more. Here are answers to the most common questions I hear on this.

When you’re interviewing

“I’m interviewing for a job. When should I mention that I have a one-week vacation already planned and paid for that’s coming up three months from now?”

Don’t bring it up in the interview stage; it would be premature then. The time to raise it is once a company makes you an offer. At that point, it’s very, very normal to say something like, “I have a trip scheduled from April 15-27. I’m willing to take the time unpaid since I assume I won’t have accrued enough vacation time by then, but I want to make sure up-front that that’s okay.” It’s a lot better to mention this as part of the offer discussion, so that they don’t feel like you’re springing it on them later.

This happens all the time, and it’s totally normal to say this. It may, however, be an issue if you don’t bother to mention it until after you start. So make very sure that you mention it during the offer conversations.

When you’ve accepted a new job but haven’t started it yet

“I’m starting a new job soon. How do I tell them that I’ll need four days off for a trip?”

Ideally this is something that you should have talked about at the offer stage (see above!) but since that ship has sailed, send them an email right now that says something like this: “I realized that in my excitement about the job, I overlooked the fact that I have an out-of-state trip scheduled for (dates). I apologize for not getting this on your radar earlier! Will being away those dates cause any issues? (I assume I may need to take the time unpaid, which I’m of course willing to do.) Thank you, and I’m looking forward to starting work on the 12th!”

Soon after starting a new job

“I’ve only been at my new job for a month but I have the opportunity to go with my friends on the camping trip of a lifetime in two weeks. It would be Friday through Monday, so I’d need two days off. Is it too soon to ask?”

Maybe. Probably. For most people, yes. You’re still establishing a reputation at your new job and people don’t know your work ethic yet. Asking for a few days off after just a month is usually frowned upon, for two reasons: First, you’re still being trained, and your manager wants you focused on learning the job and getting up to speed as quickly as possible. Secondly, and more importantly, your manager doesn’t have a lot of data on you at this point. She’s still figuring you out. If you ask for a few days off a month into the job, she has no way of knowing that your attendance is generally awesome; she will wonder if this is an occasional thing (no big deal) or whether you are someone who’s always trying to get out of work (a big deal). And because there’s a convention around not asking for time off when you’re this new, that will be a data point that pushes her more toward worrying it’s the latter.

That said, there are some exceptions to this, like if you’re a senior-ish person with a stellar reputation, or if you’re in a workplace that’s exceptionally laid-back about this sort of thing (although it’s hard to know that when you’re so new).

Soon after starting a new job — asking for a week or more off

In general, asking for a week off soon after starting a job — any time in the first, say, four or five months — isn’t generally something you want to do. As with the answer above, your manager is too likely to think, “She just started, she’s still being trained, and she already wants a week off?” (To be clear, I’m taking about requests for a week in the near future. Asking in February for a week off in September is fine.)

However, this sometimes comes up because a close relative is seriously ill. In that case, the normal rules don’t apply. If a very close relative — parent, sibling, spouse, or child — is seriously ill and you need to go be with them, reasonable managers will understand. This becomes iffier when it’s a more distant relative; most employers aren’t going to be as understanding about taking a week off soon after starting to visit an ill grandparent or cousin. There are exceptions, of course … but a week is a long time to be gone when you’ve just started, and most people will expect you to use that only for very close relatives. (You can argue whether or not that’s reasonable; I’m just telling you what’s typical.)

(And just to be clear, we’re talking here about a need for time off that comes up after you already started the job. If it was pre-planned, then you negotiate it as part of the offer, and then the reason for it is irrelevant.)

Trips that someone else books for you without checking with you

This is a thing that happens more than I realized, based on my mail! Apparently people are booking and paying for trips for other people without clearing it with them first. (No one is doing this for me, but I would accept a free foreign trip if anyone wants to.) Here’s an example of a recent letter I got about it:

“I am beginning training for a new job in two days and have been surprised for my birthday with a prepaid trip out of the country six months from now, which is 3.5 months from my actual job start date. The trip is 12 days. When should I tell my employer and how?”

So, someone doing this to/for you is certainly generous, but they’re putting you in a tough position by making arrangements without checking with you. Your employer may or may not want to approve 12 days off so soon after you start, and even if they’re willing to, those particular dates may not be ones that you can easily take off. That’s why people generally get significant chunks of time off approved in advance.

But if you find yourself in this situation and you really want to go and can’t stomach turning it down, you can try talking to your new manager. Explain that someone surprised you with the gift of a trip on those dates, but — and this is the key part — be very, very clear that you understand that it might be too soon to take that much time 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 your side.” If she says yes and you don’t get the vibe that she’s really irked, then great, proceed with the trip. But if either of those isn’t the case, then you need to decide which you want more: the trip or the job.

Also, you can talk to your boss

With all of these, if you’re unsure how to handle your particular situation in your particular workplace, you can always talk to your boss about the situation and ask what might be feasible. If nothing else, you’ll get a sense of how your manager views this stuff, and you can decide how to proceed from there.

{ 165 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. UK HR bod

    I know that Alison aims primarily at the US market, but it may be worth saying that not all of these points count for UK (and probably European) employees. The first two are spot on, but it’s unlikely that any eyebrows would be raised asking for a long weekend after a month. The week off in the first few weeks is also fine, and the only issue with the prepaid holiday would be that most holiday policies stipulate agreement should be gained before booking – but in this situation, few reasonable managers would withhold agreement (unreasonable managers of course…). Holidays though are a legal requirement, and companies can theoretically get in trouble if people aren’t able to take at least a minimum number of days each year.

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    1. The Student Manager

      Yup, things are a lot simpler in the UK, when new staff ask me for time off, they key thing for me is “do I have cover?” and if the answer is yes it usually isn’t a problem.

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    2. Cristina in England

      Came here to say the same! If I ever move back to the US I will have some serious culture shock on reentry into the workforce. My most recent managers here have always encouraged me to take days off.

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      1. hamster

        I find it is also easier to find coverage for a new person (which doesn’t have much responsabilities yet) because anyway we didn’t have him a month ago , we-re used to deal without him/her than for an out-of-the-blue leave of an experienced worker.

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    3. Julie Noted

      Australian. Same here. If my staff feel that taking a week off on the first 5-6 months is frowned on (except maybe for a very sick relative IF they’re really close), I’m going to end up with an accrued leave liability on my books. I don’t want excess leave rolling over year after year because of a cultural requirement to sacrifice your life to your paid job.

      I’m in an industry where employees transfer leave when they move between employers. I’m taking 2 months’ leave starting 8 months into a new job. I have my boss 6 months notice. She didn’t bat an eyelid, although I’m relatively senior and someone will need to be found to fill my shoes while I’m away. It’s her job to manage that, just like it was my job to deal with the consequences of one of my staff taking off 3 weeks for his honeymoon in his first 6 months. Happy staff and no dramas.

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      1. Z

        Really? I’m also Australian and the last two jobs I had actually had a policy that you were supposed to not take annual leave until after 12 months had passed. Usually you were allowed to take a few days or something but attempting to take a week off in your first 6 months would be frowned upon and likely denied.

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      2. Koko

        FWIW at least here in the U.S. you can manage your leave liability by capping vacation rollover. It’s very common for an employer to reset your balance back to 2 or 3 years worth of accrual – so if you get 5 weeks a year, and at the end of December you have 11 weeks sitting unused, you would only be able to carry 10 weeks into the new year. Then you’d get your 5 for the year so you’d have 15, but if you didn’t use 5 that year you would once again only be able to start the following year with a max of 10 weeks.

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        1. Julie Noted

          I’d consider that stealing from my staff. Once annual leave has been earned it belongs to them. It’s on me to make sure my staff can take roughly the amount of leave each year that they accrue; if they refuse to and the liability is too high I can direct them to take leave but I can’t take back what they’ve earned.

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          1. Kyrielle

            At $LastJob you got two weeks a year if you were new, up to four weeks a year for 10+ years with the company. But the most you could have stored was four weeks – you just stopped accruing whenever you hit 160 hours (240 for the California office, I believe!) and lost it. It was actually intended to force managers to let their employees take leave.

            I’ve heard of other companies that do what Koko said, and some of them pay out the money for that time at current wage, but some just take it off.

            And my current job solves it by not having you accrue leave at all. You can take off as much sick/vacation as you want and your job can handle, subject to your manager’s approval. Which is so far working really well for me – the managers here, including mine, seem to be great – but certainly with a manager who was stingy about it could result in basically no vacation for someone also.

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        2. Audrey

          Also Australia. My employer caps your leave balance at 40 days – two years’ worth. If you are over that balance on a particular date each year, you are automatically on leave until your balance is under 40 days. And if you insist on coming in anyway, even after hours, they have been known to deactivate your access card for the duration of your forced leave.

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  2. NK

    My husband is currently looking for a job and I’m 5 months pregnant. Would the same guidelines apply for him taking a week off for the birth? Obviously he’ll only be able to tell the employer the due date rather than pinpointing an exact date, but otherwise, are there any nuances to this that he should consider that are different than a vacation request upon receiving an offer?

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    1. jmm

      I think this goes along with the part about close relatives who are seriously ill/in the hospital. I would think a reasonable manager would allow (unpaid) time off for your husband when you deliver, and as you recover at home (first 3-5 days), especially since he’ll probably be able to give a general ballpark of when you are due….although babies come on their own schedule, not their parents’ schedules :)

      Reply
      1. misplacedmidwesterner

        No kidding. I was so sure my baby would come exactly on her due date that I scheduled interviews (I was in the middle of a hiring process) right up until the day before my due date. Naturally she came early.

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    2. MechE31

      I was in a similar situation at one time. I mentioned it during the interview phase and asked for a week off paid when the baby was born during the offer stage. My boss had no issues with it.

      Reply
  3. jmm

    Great information, Alison. My husband started a new job Jan. 4, and I was thinking we might take a trip out of town in June, but was worried about him asking for a week off in the first six months. I think we’ll put off the trip until he’s been there longer.

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    1. Sans

      Of course it depends on your husband’s company and his manager, but I wouldn’t think a week off six months into a job would be too quick. I think it would be worth looking into, anyway.

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      1. Jinx

        It depends on your company culture, too. At my job, new hires who start before August get the full year’s worth of PTO days for their level. I started in June; my manager made a point at a team meeting that we should all use our vacation, even the new hires. I am very fortunate to be on a team where vacation isn’t penalized as long as it’s approved.

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      2. it will happen

        At my company we start accruing PTO the day we start and get 1 week at 6 months – you can’t use any of it until you’ve hit the 6 month mark, but then use it! Including a full week if you would like.

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    2. ThatGirl

      I actually think that would be fine — six months away! Unless it’s known to be exceptionally busy.

      At my current job our PTO is use it or lose it, and I started in October with I think 3 PTO days to use before the end of the year – in that case I was encouraged to use them, though I arranged them around the holidays.

      But the point is your husband probably will have some PTO accrued by then, I don’t see a problem in using it. Two months is one thing, six is another.

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    3. NicoleK

      Really depends on the employer. At Old Job, new hires were taking time off a few weeks after they started. Had a new coworker who took more time off in her 6 month tenure than I did in my last 12 months at the company.
      At New Job, new hire needs to wait 90 days to use PTO.

      Reply
  4. Argh!

    Also, don’t assume that because you have x amount of hours of sick leave and vacation leave (or just generic PTO) that you can burn through them on unscheduled emergencies and get away with it. That is a disciplinary issue in some places.

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    1. Karowen

      Also make sure that you understand all of company’s your time off policies. Is sick time separate from vacation or all in one bucket? When, according to the policy, are you allowed to start taking the time? Do you get the time up front or do you accrue per pay period?

      Knowing the policy will help inform the conversation with your boss. If you know that your time accrues weekly and you’re not supposed to use it in the first 3 months, then you can be more understanding about how big an ask it is to take a day or two 2 months in when you may not have the time and certainly aren’t supposed to be using it.

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      1. INTJ

        This! My employer has a policy that you refrain from taking time off during the probationary period (3 months) and that you keep an earned time reserve of half a week’s hours. Good to know on day 1.

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  5. Ada M Key

    As a follow-up on the first point – if you pre-approve the time off with HR during negotiations, be sure to also discuss it with your hiring manager during the offer stage. I assumed I was good to go taking two unpaid weeks off in my first month for my wedding and honeymoon (they wanted to get me on board quickly for an annual conference). HR didn’t share this critical info with my new manager even though I confirmed with the rep that she would, and it was an uncomfortable first few weeks in my new job.

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  6. IT Kat

    Hi Alison, not sure if this was deliberate or not, but there doesn’t seem to be a question after the “Soon after starting a new job — asking for a week or more off” header… but the answer seems to be in response to a question? Could be wrong, but wanted to mention it!

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    1. ThursdaysGeek

      No, that looks to me to just be categories for when people ask for time off, and she has questions within some of the groups as examples.

      On the other hand, there is probably a word missing in “but I would a free foreign trip”.

      Reply
  7. Sans

    Interesting, any time I’ve been new at a job, I always felt I shouldn’t take a week off until at least three months into it. But waiting 4-5 months (or even 6 as another commenter mentioned) seems like a long time to go without a week off.

    Maybe I’ve been lucky with my employers. But that’s been experience with six different employers over more than 30 years.

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    1. jmm

      Thanks for sharing this — I think it really depends on the supervisor, the employee’s role/duties, and the corporate culture. There are people at my office who haven’t taken a week off in YEARS. The person who processes my timecard hasn’t taken more than two days in a row off in at least 3 years (and she can’t resist making ugly comments when I choose to take time off). Thank goodness my direct supervisor understands the value of time off.

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      1. LBK

        I’ve been working full-time jobs for 6 years now and just took my first ever full week off in December. And it was only because I had a ton of vacation time left that I needed to use or lose. I tend to only take vacations when I’m traveling and I tend to do my traveling around weekends, so I’d rather take a bunch of 3- or 4- day weekends throughout the year than burn 5 days of PTO at once.

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    2. LBK

      Are you in the US? Taking a full week off is pretty unusual in general here, in my experience. Doing 2-3 days around a weekend so you get 4-5 days off in total is normal, but requesting M-F is considered kind of a special request. Definitely would be a big ask after only 3 months.

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      1. Judy

        Everywhere I’ve worked (3 F50 companies and several smaller companies in the US midwest in an engineering role) pretty much everyone takes at least one week a year as a vacation. None of those companies offered roll over vacation, so there was no employee benefit to not taking it. I’ve even worked at a place where everyone (except the manufacturing engineering and maintenance teams) had to take the first two weeks of July off for model changeover and line maintenance.

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      2. ThatGirl

        I work for a big corp and we start with 18 PTO days (that includes sick time) which are use it or lose it. Taking a week off is no big deal, and in fact most people need to in order to use up their PTO. I actually have a ten day vacation coming up requiring 8 PTO days and this is my third year as a FT employee.

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      3. Sans

        Yes, I work on the East Coast. Everyone takes their time off in the places I’ve worked. Whether you’re an admin or a senior vice president, it’s totally normal to take a week off every so often. A SVP in my dept. is taking two weeks off this summer to go to Europe. I’m taking a week off in March. I took a week off in October as well. No big deal.

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      4. hermit crab

        I think that depends a lot on industry/company. It’s quite common for people to take full weeks off where I work — there are people who spend the same week at the beach every year, that sort of thing.

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      5. Rusty Shackelford

        You mean in general in the US? That hasn’t been my experience. Most people I’ve worked with (and my husband too for that matter) take an entire week off on a fairly regular basis. Maybe not every year, but often enough that it’s not even close to unusual.

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      6. Bwmn

        Maybe this is more industry relate, but where I’ve worked – taking off 5 days is entirely usual and there are staff I’ve worked with (as well as myself) that have occasionally arranged for 10 days off at a time.

        When I lived overseas, I became a bit more comfortable with taking off 10 plus days – but part of that had to do with issues of visiting family and jet lag. But it definitely was an unusual experience at first and really highlighted my “American-ness” about time off. I also think that the assumption of M-F off being a standard full vacation in the US has to reflect certain expectations of how far people are able to travel. If any serious kind of time zone travel is involved, the 9 days of a work week and two weekends can easily be gobbled up traveling.

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        1. yasmara

          I feel super, super lucky that people *do* take their vacation where I work. It’s a major perk since we work pretty long hours. Your manager will even approach you to force you take your time if you haven’t by 4th quarter (because we have a use-it-or-lose-it policy). I took a new job within the same company last year and immediately after starting (like, the 2nd week) already had a 2-week vacation planned (road trip with my kids & my mom, everything booked, hard to reschedule). I told my new manager about it during the hiring/transfer process & she had no problem with it. It’s a bit different because it was an internal transfer so nothing really changed as far as HR/benefits were concerned (and my new manager already knew me, so I was in some ways a proven commodity to her).

          My husband is currently interviewing for a new job across the country from where we live now (sob!) and if he gets/takes the new job, his start date would probably end up being pretty close to our planned trip to Ireland with my entire family. Obviously, we aren’t changing that trip…but I’m hoping he will still go…and be paid by his new employer for that week. There *are* US companies willing to flex your vacation early even though you haven’t accrued it, but it’s definitely something to approach gently. (This company is actually HQ’d in Europe and offers extremely generous vacation by US standards…6 weeks PLUS holidays). Husband is the type of guy who wouldn’t take another vacation day until December and is hardly ever sick. Also, I really don’t want to move, so I’m hoping it’s part of some tough (but polite!) negotiations on his part…

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      7. Random Citizen

        In the industries I’m most familiar with (grocery and banking), taking a full week off is totally normal. At my current job, you earn vacation time more quickly the longer you’ve been there, and it has no expiration date (basically it all rolls over), and it’s really common for people to take a full week often. Managers with loads of vacation time often take at least a week each month during the summer.

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      8. T

        This idea always shocks me.

        I guess it comes from our employment laws here (Australia). I get 20 days paid annual leave and 20 days personal leave a year (somewhat generous but certainly not unheard of). Personal leave is for sickness and caring responsibilities etc and is not paid out when you leave, but employers have to pay out your annual leave. Most places strongly encourage (permanent) staff to take at least 1 full week annual leave a year because having it build up is a huge liability in their budget.

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      9. Koko

        I think seniority plays a bigger role in this in the US. Despite our abysmal national statistics on paid leave, most full-time professionals get it and most senior executives get a generous amount of it (whether they take it is a whole other story).

        If you only get 2 or 3 weeks vacation a year then you’re naturally going to hesitate to burn an entire week all on one vacation when you have to make that 3 weeks last all year. You’re going to be more inclined to take long weekends just so you can use less PTO.

        But if you’re getting 5-8 weeks vacation a year – which IME is a common range for senior-level professionals – then taking a week off is no big. You could take a week off every 2 months or so and not run out of PTO before the year ended. (The real issue is that you’re probably carrying such a massive workload that there’s no way you could take a week every 2 months.)

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      10. LBK

        Based on all these responses I guess I am the one who’s out of sync here!

        As someone mentioned, I think the seniority aspect is definitely part of it. For an entry-level job I think doing a week might be a bit much, but as you move up to positions that will likely be a lot more intense and require bigger time commitments, I agree with everyone else that it’s more standard to expect that you’ll want week-long cool offs.

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    3. Steve

      I take the bulk of my time off in week+ long chunks. Usually I fly somewhere (either to the other coast to visit family, or to a vacation destination). A long weekend, even 5 days long, isn’t long enough to do that.

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      1. Steve

        And since I do this two or three times in a year, the odds are that I’ll want to take a week within the first 4-5 months (depending on my start date).

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      2. Koko

        I usually like to take at least a Friday, a complete week, and the following Monday off. I get both of the weekends for free and can easily spend a week on my vacation and still have a day to decompress after I get back.

        I’m glad that I get enough PTO to do that these days. When I was entry-level and only got 2 weeks that would have been more than half my annual PTO on a single trip! I was forever landing at my home airport late late at night and going to work the next morning to maximize my vacation and minimize my PTO and it was exhausting. It’s such a worthwhile luxury if you can afford it to give yourself a buffer day to just unpack and get used to being home first.

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    4. Meg

      I agree, five months is too long, especially when you start right at the end of the year and you are at a relatively senior level. When I started my most recent job, I got 3 weeks of vacation (plus the week between Christmas and New Years). I like to take my vacation in week blocks where possible, and I took a week in the spring after I started. If I had waited until I had been there for six months before taking a week long vacation, I would have had to cram all three weeks into six months (which I think is much worse).

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    5. Rusty Shackelford

      Really? I earn plenty of vacation time, and have taken up to 2 weeks off without issue. But going 6 months without taking an entire week off isn’t unusual for me at all.

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    6. Ask a Manager Post author

      I think taking a full week off is pretty normal in the U.S., but that most people definitely wouldn’t consider 4-5 months to be a long time to go without a week off.

      Reply
    7. AnonasaurusRex

      Where I work we accrue vacation time every pay period. There’s no restriction on taking time off as long as you have the hours in your bank to cover it, though there are departmental requirements based on workload and schedules that you have to request time off a certain amount of time in advance. Some also grant requests based on seniority so a newer employee isn’t likely to even be able to take time or have the hours to do it until they’ve been there 3 or 4 months.

      I do sort of object to the idea that grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins are not close family relatives. Every family is different. When my grandfather died suddenly I was devastated as was my entire family. Even though it wasn’t the norm, my boss worked with HR to allow me the full week off for bereavement. My cousin is also probably my best friend. We were each others’ maid of honor, we’ve been together since we were 4. I think things like illness and death in the family really needs to be a case by case basis. A company that has strict policies on that isn’t one I’d ever want to work for.

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    8. Koko

      I think it also probably depends on what season you started in. If you start in October it doesn’t seem that egregious to take a week around Christmas, assuming that isn’t a busy week for your company. And if you start in June and want to take a week in the middle of August when business is dead at your company, also probably fine. But if you started in February and just wanted to take a random vacation in April during a normal or busy time, that would be a much bigger ask.

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  8. Anonnn

    I’m three months into a new job, and it’s one of those places that requires you to schedule your year’s whole time off at the beginning of the year, in its entirety, which for me is three weeks. I asked for a week in what would be Month 5, because, well, they told me I have to plan the whole year and that’s when there was something I wanted to do. I’m now retroactively afraid to that I violated some
    norm, because in general I’m having a hard time figuring out what’s normal at this place. Anyone ever run up against things like that?

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    1. BRR

      If you haven’t heard back you’re probably ok. If unsure, is there somebody you can ask?

      I’m in a similar position of being about 4 months into a job and my manager wants to know approximately when our team will be taking off for the rest of the year because we get a generous amount of PTO. She wants to make sure we remember to use some because while we can carry over all of it, we then have to use it by April 30th during the following year. While I will certainly take time off I have on plans on going anywhere and would much rather just be able to take time off depending on my work flow.

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  9. the_scientist

    In general at my workplace, the rule is no vacation during your first three months, which is how long it takes your benefits to kick in. Our actual “probationary period” is six months, and I didn’t ask for anything more than a day or two off at a time during those six months because I was nervous about the implications to my reputation……but then I had way too much vacation time to carry over at the end of the year! My boss would actually have preferred that I take the time even though I was technically “on probation”, so lesson learned for this year.

    That said, my boss was also fine with approving a month-long vacation for my coworker a month after she was hired, so my workplace definitely falls on the “exceptionally laid-back side”; we are constantly hiring and it’s pretty common for people to have trips booked and paid for before they’re offered a job (flights are really expensive in Canada, generally, so IME people either book really last minute or months in advance), so they do try very hard to be accommodating here. I work in the public sector, which may also be a factor in this leniency.

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  10. MechE31

    Specific question. I got a job offer in December 2015 for a job starting in March 2016. I had a 1 week trip planned for Labor day week 2016, so 1 of those days will be a holiday and I believe that it will fall on an off Friday for a 9/80 schedule, meaning I would only take 3 days. Should I have brought it up in December even though it was 9 months out?

    My thought process was it’s too far out at that point to worry about and requesting it 5 months out was ok. I was also going to go in understanding that they may deny it and I would eat the ~$500 cancellation fee. I would have enough time as I would accrue 12 hours/month. This is a senior level position if it makes a difference.

    Reply
    1. BRR

      I think you should have asked in December, try the “When you’ve accepted a new job but haven’t started it yet” script. It sounds like it should be fine.

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  11. pieces of flair

    I can’ t thank you enough for posting this today! I am starting a new job in 2 weeks and totally forgot at the offer stage to mention that I need time off in June for my brother’s wedding. I just sent an email with your suggested language for #2 and I hope it goes over OK. (I’m kinda screwed if they’re not OK with it since there’s no way I’m missing my brother’s wedding…)

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  12. Bowserkitty

    Apparently people are booking and paying for trips for other people without clearing it with them first. (No one is doing this for me, but I would accept a free foreign trip if anyone wants to.)

    This has never happened to me….clearly, I need a new set of friends.

    Reply
    1. Cupcake Girl

      @Bowserkitty: I was just thinking the same thing! Where are all these great people who are just offering to pay for your vacation and want to surprise you with a nice trip?

      Does anyone have parents that are looking to adopt a fully grown adult? Or someone need a new friend that they’d love to treat to an all expense paid vacation? I’m available!

      Reply
      1. neverjaunty

        Not me. The people who give you surprise gifts that you can’t easily use and which can’t be returned are not all that thoughtful, and IME, have a tendency to throw a snit fit when you’re not “properly” grateful or, God forbid, can’t use the gift.

        Reply
        1. Megs

          Agreed. I’m a big Grinch when it comes to surprises, especially major ones, which long vacations definitely count as. (My engagement story: we discussed it multiple times over the course of several months and agreed to announce it over Christmas when I visited his grandparents for the first time. Surprise!) I’m a Grinch when it comes to gifts too – just give me a freaking Amazon gift certificate and be done with it. I’d be horrified if someone surprised me with a pre-planned vacation. Surprise me with a check and/or an offer to discuss planning a vacation, thanks.

          Reply
          1. Glenn

            Yes, thank you, 150% this. A gift that represents an unalterable surprise obligation is not a gift at all, from one adult to another. (If your parents are getting you gifts like that, as in the previous post, then you’re not an adult, at least in their eyes.)

            Reply
    2. LBK

      I did it for my boyfriend and it bit me in the ass because the weekend I chose ended up being the one weekend per year he has a non-negotiable work commitment. Learned my lesson on that one (to the tune of a few hundred dollars in change fees).

      Reply
        1. Partly Cloudy

          Ditto.

          And my knee-jerk reaction was the same as Bowserkitty’s, but when I think about it I’m really in neverjaunty’s and Megs’s camp.

          Having said that….

          I did once surprise a boyfriend with a long weekend out of town, but I cleared it with his boss first.

          Reply
        2. fposte

          I think it’s mostly parents, especially parents with offspring not long in the workforce. I don’t think it’s quite so often the surprise tickets from a glamorous stranger that it sounds. And that I will now yearn for.

          Reply
          1. Treena

            I was actually going to say it’s the other way around as well. I saw a lot of viral videos this Christmas of adult children gifting their parents a cruise or some other pre-packaged holiday. I always wonder about how they manage the dates. I’ve been scheming with my Mom to surprise my Dad with a trip for months, and it’s so difficult, I stopped trying! I decided to make the gift “Surprise, I’m *going* to book you a trip, let’s plan it together!”

            Reply
    3. The IT Manager

      My parents have paid for plane tickets and lodging for vacations for me and brothers. There was much discussion in advance planning when we could take these family vacations. They would never just spring it on us. They do occasionally announce trips with a Christmas present surprising their grandchildren, but never surprising their parents the adults who have already agreed to the dates in advance.

      It really seems to be overstepping boundaries to buy tickets (that it will cost to change) without confirming with someone that they can actually take that time off. It seems like a recurring theme in these tales a high likelihood that the gifter will be upset if the recipient says “no” because it’s a rejection of their oh, so thoughtful gift.

      Reply
    4. Elle the new Fed

      My parents have always given me travel as a gift, but NOT surprise travel. they tell me they’re doing it, I look at ideas and time off, pick a place, and they reimburse me for airfare, hotel, etc.

      Reply
    5. AnotherHRPro

      I’ve seen this happen from time to time. In the situations I’m aware of, it has generally been younger employees and their parents planned the vacations (as in surprise family vacation to Jamaica/Europe/etc.). This might be a generational thing…

      No one has ever sent me on a vacation and I really can’t image that ever happening.

      Reply
    6. Elle

      The spouse of an employee contacted me (HR) directly to coordinate a surprise vacation for her husband. I let his direct supervisor know, and it all worked out. He was very happy when he found out, but I can definitely see how it could backfire in some situations!

      Reply
    7. Stranger than fiction

      Ha, I was thinking this is something my mom would pull but she’s one person I’d never want to vacation with.

      Reply
    8. Marketeer

      My coworkers’s dad just did this. He booked a trip for her and her mom and her sister without telling them the dates first. She was worried about telling our boss that she would need to take 4 days off less than 2 months away.

      Reply
    9. Poppop

      This just happened with my sister-in-law last year. She was chatting online with two of her close friends about how they all should take a trip to Las Vegas someday, how fun that would be, what they would do. Two hours later she gets an email from one of the friends who said, “Okay, I just booked the flight for all three of us in early May! Get ready for Vegas!!!”

      My sister-in-law was not pleased, because she didn’t really have the money for the trip, but because the other two were SO EXCITED, she didn’t want to back out and ruin the Three Musketeers trip.

      Reply
    10. baseballfan

      This happened to me, as the manager of someone who had a surprise trip planned for them. In this case it was the person helping me with a highly urgent client matter. Her husband booked a trip a week in advance without telling her. And it was to last a week!

      I was livid, frankly, because if I had been her, I would simply not have been able to ask for a week off during that critical of a time. She should have told her husband, “sorry, but I simply can’t take off work at this time and you should have known better than to do this.” But, there wasn’t a lot I could do. To her credit, she was upset and recognized the impact it would have on the team – but yet she still went on the trip. I managed things, but it was a hellish week.

      It’s worth noting that when our team had to lay off two people a year or two later, she was one of them. Her performance wasn’t stellar even with this incident aside.

      Reply
  13. Master Bean Counter

    One of the reasons I love my new job is because I got paid for two PTO days in my first two weeks. I actually tried to put off starting until after my pre-planned long weekend. But they wanted me sooner. So I went in with the agreement that I’d have those days off. Never did I dream, nor ask did I ask for it, that they would pay me for those days.
    Now I’m debating about asking to move a meeting because it falls on a Friday after my anniversary and we were hoping to have a long weekend that involves a beach, a foreign country, and margaritas. But first I will see how important it is to have that meeting on a Friday rather than the following Monday. On the good side next year I will be setting the schedule for the meetings.

    Reply
  14. Gandalf the Nude

    As kind of an inversion of the surprise trip as gift thing, my mother, who I love, I swear, came down last weekend for a surprise visit, which wouldn’t normally be an issue, but it was also the one weekend that I volunteered and committed to about 12 hours of overtime. I would have really struggled with how to handle that if I hadn’t seen these types of issues discussed here, especially that LW whose mom and sister wanted to crash her conference. So, thank you for that, Alison and company!

    Reply
    1. Jinx

      My parents used to pull nonsense like this when I was in college – my Dad operated under the assumption that classes / job shifts /etc were completely optional and could be blown off at a moment’s notice if he decided I should visit. Now that I live across the country I have a convenient excuse for advance notice.

      Reply
  15. LBK

    On the surprise trip one, I’m mostly shocked that someone would assume a person with a new job would have enough PTO available right off the bat to take a 12-day vacation. Plenty of people start off only having 2 weeks and/or they start with 0 and have to accumulate it throughout the year. I wouldn’t be thrilled if I found out my SO had just forced me to eat my entire bank of vacation time for the year.

    Reply
    1. Anxa

      Another thing I think people don’t understand is how you can’t take trips just because you have a lot of time off.

      I work part-time, hourly. There is no PTO. My schedule changes every semester, but I’m lucky enough to know my weekly schedule and have a lot of input in deciding what it will be. I have pretty long weekends since I don’t work Fridays. I also have days off near holidays and breaks.

      Those breaks and holidays and Fridays off mean less hours worked and smaller pay checks. My best weeks for traveling are at the times money is of course tightest (ideally I’d be able to save and budget for these things, but they just aren’t a priority).

      Family assume I’ll be happy to come along on a trip since I have so much time off and most of the expenses are covered, but even taking one day off is a big expense. I also work in a position where I have to be physically present to do my job, so even though we can take off pretty much whenever if we’re sick, I wouldn’t take a personal day because I can’t just have someone cover my work easily. They just don’t understand that while of course I can take a day off after 2 years, it’s still costly. And that

      Reply
      1. Xarcady

        I’m paid hourly as well. People (read, my family) simply don’t get that not only is there the cost of the vacation/dinner out/other fun thing to do, but there is the cost of not working.

        So, sure, I can probably get Saturday afternoon off. But I’ll have to give up the hours I’m scheduled for that day, because although technically we can switch hours with other employees, the fact is that most people want more hours, not to switch hours.

        So that birthday dinner on Saturday? I’ll be out the cost of my dinner, my share of the birthday person’s dinner, and probably 7-9 hours of work–because I have to give up my whole shift, not just a few hours. You’re looking at $80-$90 in lost wages, plus another $50 or so for the dinner.

        And the reason I tried to pin people down to a date a month ago? Because I can request a day off, but it has to be in advance, at least three weeks in advance. But everyone keeps telling me that a month ahead is “too early to plan,” and then they get upset when they announce a date a week ahead of time and I tell them I can’t go.

        Reply
    2. Kristine

      >I’m mostly shocked that someone would assume a person with a new job would have enough PTO available right off the bat to take a 12-day vacation.

      I think this might be an age/generational gap thing. My husband and I were talking to his grandmother about potentially taking a vacation this fall (we haven’t taken one in 2.5 years) and she suggested going on a month-long tour of Europe. When we told her we both had max 15 days off a year, which has to account for sick days and visiting cross-country family such as herself, she was convinced that we could just ask our bosses nicely for the extra time off. She also couldn’t believe we only had 15 days off and thought that was stingy (in our experience, it’s pretty generous).

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        Things used to be a lot different for some folks. I remember my grandmother had full insurance after my grandfather died. It even paid in full for her nursing home care. Try finding that now! ha! The downside was in those days you wouldn’t put someone you did not like in a nursing home- they were horrible.

        Reply
    3. Stranger than fiction

      Maybe it was booked way in advance when the gift receiver was still at their old job? But I agree with others this is not the sort of thing you should just surprise someone with unless you’re 11% certain they can go.

      Reply
      1. Kristine

        I’m going to use 11% as my new metric of certainty.

        “I’m 11% certain traffic will be horrible tonight. Better go to Chipotle.”

        Reply
  16. justcourt

    What about taking off an afternoon off for a doctor’s appointment within a month or two of starting? Objectively, this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but in reality, I always feel weird asking.

    Reply
    1. adonday veeah

      If it was me, I’d reschedule for later if it were for something like an annual exam or dental cleaning. I might schedule it for an early morning or late afternoon if it couldn’t be postponed.

      Reply
      1. Megs

        I could understand an individual not wanting to take an afternoon off for a medical appointment fairly early in a new job, but I really have a hard time imagining any reasonable employer having an issue with it. Some people might consider regular medical/dental care optional, but for many people it’s not and I guess I have a hard time imagining a situation where a new employee working a standard work-week couldn’t be missed for a few hours.

        Reply
        1. Stranger than fiction

          I agree. Some doctors, like specialists book months in advance. And I have to schedule my dentist appointments 6 months in advance if I want first appointment or last appointment of the day.

          Reply
        2. Silver Radicand

          If one of my new employees needed time off during their probationary period for a doctor visit, I would just ask that they give me as much heads-up as possible to ensure coverage.

          Reply
      2. Partly Cloudy

        My annual exams are a huge PITA to schedule, because the doctor’s time books up quickly and then you have to wait until the office’s schedule gets planned further in advance. Plus, it’s a timing issue with insurance. Just saying that rescheduling can be kind of an issue.

        Reply
      3. Elle the new Fed

        I do this the minute the health insurance kicks in. I generally schedule it really late, really early, or at lunch, and just make it clear I’ll get my hours in that day (get my work done, whatever). It’s been fine.

        Reply
    2. Megs

      Any employer who wouldn’t allow an afternoon off for the doctor or dentist or similar would be nutball banana pants, especially if you asked with enough time to reschedule if necessary (assuming that’s possible).

      Reply
      1. Partly Cloudy

        Yeah, this. Doctor’s appointments are part of life (for most people).

        You could offer to make up the time and/or make sure someone can cover the hours/workload for you, depending on the situation.

        Reply
    3. Terra

      Generally health stuff is different. If you can schedule it to minimize lost time (early morning, late afternoon, over lunch) then go ahead and do that but most places understand that some stuff just happens/has to be done and will be reasonable about it. Especially if you’re either salaried or willing to use PTO/come in extra hours to cover it.

      Reply
    4. AnotherHRPro

      If possible, schedule these appointments first thing in the am, during lunch or towards the end of the day to minimize the disruption. But generally managers understand that we all need to go to the doctor. If they are going to turn into multiple appointments (an appointment every few weeks) then you need to really discuss it with your manager.

      Reply
    5. Meg

      It is not unusual for new employees to set up doctors appointments shortly after starting. Often, especially if people have been out of work, they are waiting for their new insurance to kick in before they schedule doctors appointments.

      Reply
      1. Megs

        I still remember how excited I was to go to the dentist after getting my first job with insurance. Ah, the joys of being a grownup.

        Reply
  17. Jubilance

    I’ve gone through interviewing processes where the recruiter or hiring manager have asked if I have any travel planned in the future, that may conflict with start date or just require I’d be gone. In situations where they don’t ask, I agree with Alison that bringing up at the offer stage is a good point.

    Reply
  18. Xarcady

    At OldJob, we hired someone who told us, after we made the offer, that she had plans for a once-in-a-lifetime trip, with her whole family, back to the country they had emigrated from. The dates were right after she’d start working for us, when new hires didn’t get any paid time off. The owner of the company was understanding, and the new hire was allowed to take those two weeks off, without pay, and with the understanding that those two weeks would not count towards the three month probation.

    She went on the trip and everything was fine. But then, a few weeks after her return from the vacation, she asked for a Friday and Monday off–for a weekend that would have been two weeks before the end of her probation if she had not taken the vacation, but 4 weeks before her actual probation would end. And she said she knew she didn’t have any vacation yet, but “it was only two weeks until she did.”

    The two week vacation was not a problem. But asking for more time off, before the end of her probation, and “forgetting” that her probationary period had been extended by two weeks to account for her vacation–that was a problem.

    The owner of the company was not pleased. The employee was not happy that her request was denied. It was an uncomfortable situation, one that could have been avoided if the employee realized that one special request was fine, but that expecting further favors, in a short period of time, was not. (The requested time off was so that she could travel with her boyfriend’s band to an out-of-state gig, not a family emergency or anything like that. )

    Reply
    1. nofelix

      Poor decision to share the reason for the weekend time off. Makes the blunder twice as bad when it starts to paint a picture that she’s more interested in fun trips than work.

      The owner sounds needlessly precious about dates of probation though. A request is either unreasonable or not. It doesn’t become extra unreasonable because one has a rule against unreasonable requests.

      Reply
  19. Poppop

    What happens if *all* of your relatives are close? My parents divorced when I was a little kid, so I spent most of my time with my mother’s side of the family. She died when I was in college, and my aunt and uncle sort of became surrogate parents to me, and my cousins are like siblings. If one of them got seriously ill when I had just started a new job, I’m taking time off to go be with them.

    Reply
    1. Turanga Leela

      If that happens, you go but explain the closeness. “My aunt, who helped raise me, is seriously ill.” “My cousin, who is like a brother to me, is getting married.” Etc. It doesn’t sound like you’d be taking off time for an unusual number of relatives, just different relatives than many U.S. employers would expect.

      For what it’s worth, this is pretty common. Check your employee manual, though; some jobs limit family or bereavement leave to a specific set of close relatives, so in that case you’d need to either (a) seek special permission to go, or (b) not tell anyone your relationship to the person, and just figure you’re within the spirit of the law.

      Reply
  20. Alicia

    I would love your thoughts on negotiating paid time off during the offer process? I am completing my MBA, my Capstone is a 2 week International abroad option in Cuba. My current employer was allowing me to do this with paid time. Is this something you would inquire about or let go?

    What are your thoughts on negotiating a higher level of PTO within the offer process? I have been at my current employer for over 10 years….the one thing that makes my stomach churn is loosing my PTO accrual rate (I currently get 36 days).

    Thanks!

    Reply
    1. nofelix

      36 days is quite a lot. You may not be able to increase their offer to match that, depending on your seniority. But even if they only increase their offer by a few days a year – this would still be more time off in the long run. If you can eat the loss in earnings from two weeks unpaid then lead with the annual leave rate. Personally, I think it makes more sense to be asking them to match the benefits from your last position.

      Reply
  21. YogiJosephina

    I’m a little surprised by the answer for the camping trip one. I absolutely understand not taking a weeklong vacation or anything the first 3 or so months in a new gig, but I think tsking at a long weekend is pretty obnoxious. (I understand Alison wasn’t, I’m referring to managers who would). Making a negative judgment about a new employee for a long weekend seems a little…I don’t know, extreme? Especially if it were framed the way it is here: this is a really awesome, not-likely-to-happen-again opportunity, and it’s only 2 days.

    Life doesn’t stop just because you’re new at a job. Opportunities and things come up, and accomodating a long weekend, even for someone new, hardly seems worthy of raised eyebrows. It’s such a small, small amount of time (2 days!) that to deny someone that, and what’s worse, judge them as somehow being a slacker/likely to have attendance issues seems off to me. I understand Alison’s point that they don’t know you yet so they have no way of knowing if this red flag is valid, but honestly, it shouldn’t even really be a red flag. 2 days!

    It just reads a little bit like HOW DARE YOU HAVE INTERESTS OR THINGS YOU CARE ABOUT OUTSIDE THIS NEW JOB?! Are we really going to ask employees to not take advantage of a great opportunity because we’re unfairly judging them based on their request for (a very, very reasonable amount) of time off? To not let her do it, or worse, hold it against her, seems like a pretty crappy move on the employer’s part.

    Again, this is strictly my reaction based on that it’s not really a vacation – it’s two days. A long weekend. I personally wouldn’t want to work for an employer who would scrutinize me for that. That’s such a minor break that you can give your employee, even a new one, the benefit of the doubt.

    Reply
    1. Rhiannon

      Depends on where you work. Current company won’t let you take more than 3 days off at a time. So 2 days when you’re new is a huge deal. But if you can take 5 or 10 at a time normally then probably not.

      Reply
    2. fposte

      It’s fine to have interests outside of your job. If you’re having to take days off from the job, though, it’s not outside the job any more. When you’ve only been in the position for 20 days, that’s early to be convinced your job is inappropriately interfering with your personal life by expecting you to come in.

      Reply
      1. YogiJosephina

        But why? I’m sincerely asking. If we really, really think about it, why is it so wrong for someone, even a new someone, to ask for a long weekend for a really great opportunity? I can’t think of a single reason that doesn’t involve the employer making a pretty unfair judgment on the person. Them missing two days (in most sectors at least) isn’t going to cause a huge impact on the team. The sole reason is that “it’ll look bad.” Not because the employee is doing anything wrong, but because of the expectations that WORK IS EVERYTHING! and that it should always be your #1 concern. It’ll look bad because the expectation is unfair/off, not because the employee is wrong to do so.

        I guess now that I really think about it, the whole “don’t ask for time off at all in the first few months of a job” thing has never sat well with me. It’s something that seems to be extremely embedded in (at least US) culture, the idea that your job should always be #1 and work should always come first and we should live to work and prioritize that over everything else. I just profoundly disagree with that on a philosophical level. Nationally speaking, our work-life balance is a joke, and I’m kind of tired of always seeing work win over the rest of your life.

        In other words, I don’t think someone wanting (reasonable, of course) accommodations for time off should ever be looked at negatively or scrutinized, new or not. I think it says a lot about our culture that we fixate on people who take time off and judge how/when they do it, rather than doing something about the (IMHO) unhealthy attitude we have towards work here in the US. It’s not really the employee wanting time off that’s the problem; it’s the unrealistic expectations we have about what’s “professional,” and what role work should have in your life in general.

        But this is a systemic thing, so it’s obviously bigger than OP’s issue.

        Reply
        1. Megs

          I agree that USicans can have a pretty distorted view of the importance of work. That said, I disagree that there is no good reason for wanting an employee not to take personal time off early in a new job (how early is early varies, of course). Almost any job is going to involve a period of adjustment to the work responsibilities, people, culture, etc. Keeping one’s head in the game early on can make a big difference in how well that goes because it’s all about building up a new routine. Once you’ve moved past that adjustment period, time off should absolutely be encouraged.

          Reply
        2. fposte

          I think we agree that somebody wanting reasonable accommodations for time off shouldn’t be penalized–we just disagree on what constitutes reasonable. Is there any point at which it would be unreasonable for a new hire in your eyes? I’m not being snarky here; I think you probably have a concept of some request that would be unreasonable too, so this is likely to be more about where you put the watershed than a different take on work-life balance.

          Reply
          1. YogiJosephina

            fposte, sorry, I forgot to answer your question in my response. I’d say for a new hire, anything longer than 5 days would probably make me go “hmmm.” That’s where you start to get into territory where you not being here would have potentially a negative impact on the team. But, I’d open a discussion about it, and I’d be very okay with you taking it as long as it’s not something that would cause a problem in the unit. You are entitled to your vacation time, and until you show me you’re a shitty worker who can’t be depended on, I will trust that you are an adult who can manage your time off in accordance with the benefits you’ve been given.

            I guess I come from a place of “wait until they show you they can’t be trusted,” rather than “wait until they’ve developed a reputation of a solid worker.” I tend to lean towards starting off giving folks the benefit of the doubt in these situations.

            Reply
        3. Stranger than fiction

          I agree with a lot of your sentiment, but it really depends on what kind of job. Some have very in depth training that is scheduled out for weeks and if they have to go back and adjust the schedule for you that could be a pain in the butt. My work is pretty good about this but you’re technically in training the first 90 days. The first two weeks is very structured where you meet with different departments and people all day, so if someone needed off during that it would be a pain to remake th schedule. They’d still do it but that’s like one example of where it could be an issue.

          Reply
          1. Stranger than fiction

            And let me just add I’ve heard of even more structured and even rigid training schedules at other places where if you missed its either be an isolate/mark against you so to speak, or it just made you behind because you couldn’t make up that training. The only big Corp I ever worked at had group training for several hires once a quarter. Very formal with sessions throughout the day , guest speakers, lunch etc. I remember I missed an important session because my boss pulled me away for something so I went the following quarter.

            Reply
          2. doreen

            Or the training could be even more structured – at both my current and last employer there was a 2-3 month classroom training programs. It might have been acceptable to miss a day or two because you were sick (and even that might depend on which day) , but you absolutely would not be able to take any other time off paid or unpaid during the training. Wouldn’t have mattered whether it was two weeks for a wedding and honeymoon or two days for camping, or even whether you tried to negotiate the time before you were hired. Best case scenario for pre-planned time off was that they would put you in the next class- whenever that might be.

            Reply
        4. Colette

          Let’s say you hire someone to walk your dog. You fully understand that they have a life, so you make arrangements for them to have 15 days off a year.

          They ask for the second Friday off to go to the beach.

          How would you feel? Would you think “well, they’re entitled to the time off”, or would you wonder how often they’re going to ask for time off.

          What about the second time, two weeks later, when they ask instead of tell because you’ve made it clear you support vacation?

          Reply
          1. YogiJosephina

            Honestly? I’d feel that that was totally acceptable, and that they were entitled to the time off. We agreed on 15 days off a year, and I don’t get to judge when/how they use it. I would not see that as a red flag that I needed to be worried about their attendance.

            And yes, I do support vacation. As long as they are aware they only get 15 days, I do not care when/how they use it, so long as they’re communicating clearly and we’re all on the same page.

            Reply
          2. YogiJosephina

            If it’s only 6 months in and they’ve used 10 of their 15 days, THEN I sit down with them and have a talk about how they only have 5 days left, so they need to be careful. But I don’t START from the place of being wary or suspicious. Time off is so precious and important, I’m not going to police how they use it as long as it falls within the parameters of our agreement. If they start getting slacky and pushing back on that, then I’ll deal with that and make changes as needed. But I just don’t operate in starting from that place of “you need to show me I can trust you.” Time off of work is too important to me do that.

            And this is coming from someone who almost never, EVER takes time off, and has only called out about 3-5 times in 5 years of employment with my company. So trust me, this isn’t coming from someone who wants to slack off. :)

            Reply
      2. Sunshine

        Exactly. New hires at my job don’t get any vacation time till the 1-year mark. Asking for one pre-arranged vacation or long weekend in the first year would probably be fine. More than that would he pushing it.

        Reply
      3. Colette

        Especially if you expect it to not be a big deal. Two days is two days … until it’s two days in February, then a day in March, plus two days at the beginning of April and a day mid-month, ….

        If it’s something important/unusual (e.g. My sister is leaving for far-away-country and this is my last chance to see her for a year), then you explain the situation and ask – not expect – for the time, but the company does not have to accommodate your life outside of work, even if they normally try to.

        Reply
        1. YogiJosephina

          But see, that’s just what I’m saying: why would you automatically assume that just because this person asked for a long weekend in this circumstance (the camping one), that means that they’re going to ask you for two days a month/always be asking for time off work? Why would you automatically expect bad attendance from this employee, rather than just taking it for what it is? She was offered the opportunity to go on a great trip, it’s a one-time thing, it’s just two days for a long weekend, she’s entitled to the time, it’s fine?

          I’m not trying to be snarky here, just to clarify my tone. I legitimately am curious as to why this would be a red flag. To question her commitment over this just seems so odd to me. If it becomes a pattern, sure, THEN question her commitment. But to immediately be suspicious that someone who would do this will turn out to have bad attendance/commitment issues is a symptom of what I think is wrong with our attitude towards work in our society. A new employee wanting time off =/= not committed. That really does play into that ideology that we should be living to work and nothing else could or should possibly be as important as our jobs. I really wish we could get away from that line of thinking.

          Reply
          1. Colette

            Here’s the thing – in most jobs, taking a vacation involves inconveniencing someone. It might be a coworker who has to cover for you, or a client who has to wait longer for a response, or your manager who has to shift priorities around to make it work. Even when you’re new, someone was doing the job before you got there (usually on top of their normal job) and will have to cover for you for the two days you’ve been off.

            When you ask for time off immediately, you’re burning goodwill you haven’t earned yet. When it’s for a good reason, people will give you the benefit of the doubt, but when it’s not, you’re harming your reputation. Personally, I’d side-eye the idea of a “camping trip of a lifetime” happening in two days. That reads to me like “I’m happy to work here unless there’s something I’d rather do”.

            Reply
            1. YogiJosephina

              Ahhh, I see. This is where I think we disagree: I think of these things more in terms of goodwill being something you start out with and are subject to lose, rather than something that needs to be earned/gained. Kind of like lives in a video game: you start out with a full bar and the more you screw up, the lower the bar gets.

              I would think that when we hire, we’d hire people who we feel we can trust. So I actually do wonder why the mentality isn’t more “start off by giving the benefit of the doubt” in the workplace rather than “you need to earn trust.”

              But that’s just sort of a waxing poetic, rhetorical question.

              Reply
    3. nofelix

      From a UK perspective, my experience is no-one would bat an eye at a request for a long weekend after the first month. Before then, the concern would mostly be how it would interfere with training rather than ‘appearances’.

      Reply
  22. dragonzflame

    In February last year, I started a new job. Almost exactly a month later my grandmother in England died, and my mum and aunty decided to have a large-scale memorial at the end of July. I went to my boss and told her what had happened and that I was hoping to be able to arrange to take a few weeks off to go. All she said was, ‘of course. A job’s a job, but family’s family’. She just thanked me for giving them plenty of warning.

    Now, I live in New Zealand, where we get four weeks’ paid annual leave as a matter of course, but having only been there a month I wasn’t entitled to it as you accrue it over your first year. I took three weeks’ leave without pay and got told to have a wonderful time. I think if you can give your employer enough notice so they can organise cover etc., most will be fine. And for a couple of days? They’d be dicks not to let you.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      I think this may be like the way different countries have different conventions of acceptable personal space. I’m kind of curious about the limits in other places. If you asked the Monday you started if you could take Friday and Monday off to go camping with friends, would they be dicks not to let you? What if you asked the Monday you started about taking that Wednesday and Thursday off to go camping?

      I don’t know where the edge is in U.S. working culture, but I’d say that for unforeseen entertainment opportunities, time out probably needs to be less than 10% of time worked.

      Reply
      1. dragonzflame

        Hmmm, good point, and maybe I was a bit flippant there. I think in general you’d probably want to hold off on spur-of-the-moment trips away for your first couple of months at least, not least because you won’t learn the job if you’re not there! It probably depends a lot on the type of role – if it’s a backroom-type job where everyone comes and goes it might be less of an issue than if it’s a rostered customer-facing role where you need to be on the floor, or whatever.

        I think for unforeseen entertainment opportunities, 10% is a good rule of thumb!

        Reply
  23. Artemesia

    I would suspect that surprise gifts are likely to be travel arranged by parents still treating one as their dependent child. So the ‘surprise’ is more than double edged — it is a shot at one’s grown up status as well as remarkably inconsiderate. And then if you are upset it invites family pouting and drama.

    Unless it is incredibly one off e.g. your mother won a trip for 4 or something, there might be some virtue in turning it down because ‘I am starting a new job and can’t get that time cleared so soon. You need to talk with me about my availability before making plans that include me.’

    Say yes to Mom and she will do it again. Say no and she might call your boss, because the kind of person who makes arrangements for an adult child has no boundaries — so be sure you warn the boss if you think this may happen.

    Reply
    1. Megs

      I think you make a great point here. Transitioning to an adult relationship with one’s parents can be tricky and take time but I think it’s absolutely vital. Setting boundaries around managing your own time can be a huge part of that. I remember a friend in college who really struggled with this – she was expected to go home every weekend, answer the phone whenever her parents called, and be available to do work for them (she basically ran her dad’s job search) at the drop of a hat. She felt this was perfectly normal, but complained all the time about not having time for her classwork or friends.

      Reply
  24. Amber Rose

    Yep, we did just this. Been planning a 2 week trip in June since last August. Husband was offered a new job in January and in his acceptance asked about the time for the trip. No issues. He won’t get it paid but his boss said “I believe that starting a new job shouldn’t disrupt your life and plans” making her one of the most reasonable people I’ve heard of.

    Reply
  25. Bellflower

    As a cautionary tale–sometimes, even if you clear time off during the offer phase, there is no obligation on the part of the employer to actually honor that time off.

    I had an unusual situation about ten years ago where I was working a contract job and scheduled a bunch of travel–two weeks in Country #1 closely followed by three weeks in Country #2–that was *supposed* to have fallen in the three months I’d planned to have off between contracts. The Country #2 trip was my belated honeymoon, since I’d gotten married the year before and, working contracts, I had zero time off.

    The company I was contracting for decided to hire me full-time at the end of my contract, which made me happy, since I had a 10-minute commute and the benefits were reasonable. At the time of the offer, my manager told me it shouldn’t be a problem for me to take off an unpaid 5 weeks. I was very up-front about this, and told my manager that I’d been planning on having time between contracts which was why all the travel was planned for this time period. I even told him that if he wanted to let my contract expire and then bring me back on another contract rather than hire me full-time, I was okay with it, but he really wanted to get me on full-time.

    I asked to get the time off approval in writing as part of the offer, and he wouldn’t do it, which in retrospect should have been a bigger red flag than it was–I thought that he was just being a little lazy, since he’d have had to go back to HR to get the offer letter revised.

    The Country #1 trip was fine. Unfortunately, when I went back to my manager and said “okay, the time I have off for the Country #2 trip is coming up, we need to arrange coverage” my manager said “no, you can’t be off that long.” Nothing I said to him would budge him, and he had conveniently “forgotten” our discussion at the offer. I offered to work remotely for part of the time I was gone, and the answer was still no.

    I very nearly quit over that, but decided not to burn my bridges. My partner never forgave the company (or me, really) for it–and we never did end up going on our honeymoon. I was able to eventually exchange the airline tickets, but I lost all of the deposits I’d paid.

    The lesson I learned? Get everything in writing. And I probably should said “thanks but no thanks, I have plans for after this contract” rather than accept the full-time offer. The job changed significantly once I went full-time, and I spent the next two years trying desperately to look like I knew what I was doing.

    Reply
  26. LSP

    This whole conversation makes me a little sad.

    I really get the whole new job/no vacation thing, but the fact that I’ll be judged by someone (regardless of most reasons) is annoying. Imagine your boss knows a trip was pre planned and she is cool with it, but your cube neighbor notices your absence. “Must be nice!” What? MYOB.

    Or the fact that someone wants to take a long weekend 2 months in (let’s assume the person found out a week into their new job that they won a trip for 2 to Hawaii on a radio show…IDK, use your imagination) and their commitment will be questioned? Their reputation will be at stake? The sad thing is, even if I apply this to myself in my job I would still totally judge myself! Tisk tisk. Why?!?! It is a very cultural/company thing and I can’t wrap my brain around it because as chill and lenient I would like my hypothetical situations to be, I still get sucked back into thinking, “well that’s just not right!”

    Wasn’t there an article about a company with unlimited vacation and most ppl ended up taking even less vacation? Was it because we are conditioned to feel bad about it?

    Reply
    1. YogiJosephina

      EXACTLY. We really, REALLY need to move away from this workaholic nonsense we’ve cultivated as a society in the US. Questioning someone’s commitment, and making passive aggressive comments about “must be nice!” is a far more obnoxious act than someone having THE AUDACITY! to ask for 2 days off.

      It’s like…c’mon. We’re all adults. If a bad pattern develops, you deal with it like you would any other performance issue. But to jump in head first with the attitude, right off the bat, that anyone who wants to use their time off while they’re new MUST be a problem employee and will undoubtedly prove to be a slacker/not committed is, well…inaccurate at best (since I really don’t think the majority of people who would ask for a long weekend under special circumstances are slackers) and insulting at worst. And shows just how weird our thinking is in our society.

      Your life is not your job. We REALLY need to stop treating it as though it is. Employees wanting time off, no matter how new, are not the ones at fault here. It’s the shitty system we have in the US that tells people that your work defines you as a person, and that anyone who doesn’t make their job their world and always put it first is a lazy slacker who can’t be trusted to be committed. Please. That’s just flat out not true.

      Reply
      1. nofelix

        There seems to be a stronger focus on commitment rather than results in the US. Perhaps caused by weak labour laws: an employee that has shown capable of intense commitment can be exploited with threats of termination. With stronger labour protections, the employee could resist the threats more easily, knowing they couldn’t be fired without cause.

        Reply
        1. YogiJosephina

          Precisely. Beautifully put. That’s why more and more people are talking about Results Only Workplaces, and honestly, if the sector can work with that and it’s not a job that requires you be there all the time, that should be encouraged. Results are what matter. Enough with the obsession with facetime. This is one of those situations where sorry, but the employer/system is the problem, not the employee.

          Reply
  27. insert pun here

    This might be an edge case, but I think if you’ve relocated for a job, it’s okay to ask for a day (or half day) off to deal with, like, personal admin tasks, like registering your car and switching over your license, or being at home to receive delivery of your belongings if you moved long distance, etc.

    Reply
  28. Doriana Gray

    I’m off all next week from a job I just started a little over a month ago. My situation’s a little different because a) I’m now a Senior Teapot Analyst and b) I was an internal transfer from another division. I had a little over two weeks of unused vacation time from last year that rolled over and once I hit a certain number of hours banked, I’ll stop accruing time (I started off with three weeks of PTO and could bank up to seven weeks in a year). Since our PTO is both vacation and sick time, and I have a chronic illness that may necessitate taking time off to recoup, I need accrue all the time I can. So I’m using one of my weeks to not hit the ceiling too early in the year. My manager was cool with it, and so I’m not really concerned what anyone else in the division thinks about it. I haven’t had a real vacation in my entire working career – people will deal.

    Reply
  29. V dubs

    I think it’s also important to mention pre-job acceptance if you have religious holidays that you’ll need off every year. For example, I take off for most of the Jewish holidays (2 days Rosh Hashanah, 1 day Yom Kippur, 4 days sukkos- and that’s just the fall). Fall is one of of our two major busy seasons at my job, with mandatory OT, so for me to miss up to 7 days has a big impact. I mentioned this when I interviewed.

    Reply
  30. ASJ

    I started as a temp at my current job in May, and temps don’t get vacation. I was shocked when my supervisor told me they’d be bringing in a summer student in the event I got sick or wanted to take vacation. I actually did end up taking two days in July for a family reunion, and then another two days in September (both times, 1 day unpaid and the other day paid – which REALLY shocked me). It was a pleasure to have the time, but I wouldn’t have brought it up myself. I was fully prepared to work the summer/into the fall without taking any vacation at all.

    Reply
  31. JC

    Even within the US, some of these guidelines are employer-specific. Where I work, we are lucky enough to get three weeks of vacation a year in your first year, which accrue incrementally per biweekly pay period. We also get one personal day per year that is available right off the bat. I am a manager and would not blink an eye if a new employee wanted to take two days off once they accrued the days, which would happen right around one month. Our work is very individual and project-based and we generally have no problems with people using the vacation they have earned, when they want to use it.

    That said, obviously from reading the comments this is not the case in many workplaces, and it can be hard to read what kind of place you are at after only a month.

    Reply
  32. Laura

    So much of this has to do with your manager, too. I am new at my job and came down with strep at the end of my second week. Initially I was terrified about missing two days of work– at one of my previous jobs, I would have been immediately terminated for this. But my new manager is a mom and went full mom on me, insisting that I stay home as long as necessary, and even reminding me to drink water “even though you probably don’t want to.”

    She also didn’t require me to report the time off, so I didn’t have to use up the meager sick time allowance I started with. I am eternally grateful!

    Reply
  33. DMented Kitty

    It really depends but it does help if you give them a heads-up if you are taking any trips by the time you start the job.

    I had an out-of-country trip scheduled shortly before I applied to my now company. It was to visit my family in my birth country. Got an offer months later and I mentioned this piece early on. My hiring manager was OK with it, and my vacation was when I’ll be 3-4 months in. I was lucky that the trip was at the start of the year where only 40 hours of PTO will be rolled over from last year’s balance. So I had at least 40 hours, and then I could get another week’s worth of advance PTO, which will display negative in my PTO bank and will automatically deduct from my regular PTO hour allocation per paycheck. Two weeks was perfect for the trip, and I didn’t have to get unpaid PTO.

    Reply

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