overly rigid vacation policies

A reader writes:

My wife works at a large hospital. She gets two weeks of vacation per year (after 16 years of working there, but that is a different story…..). The manager of her unit recently sent a note around saying:

1- You can only ask for vacation in 7 day blocks, Sunday to Saturday.

2- You have to get your own replacement if you were scheduled to work on one of the weekend days.

These are not the official hospital policies, but are made by the unit manager of this department. There are about 50 nurses in the department.

So, my wife put in for vacation in July (5 months from now) and the manager approves the vacation request, but puts a note on the approval saying that the employee needs to find her own replacement because she is scheduled to work one of those weekend days. How would you handle this?

This manager sucks. Surely the schedule isn’t already made for July, which is six months from now.

But I’d start by asking what the reason is for the change. It’s possible there’s actually an explanation that would make sense (although if there is, the manager should have communicated that along with the new policy).

Ideally, your wife and some of her coworkers should talk to the manager, point out that this policy makes it much harder for people to use the vacation time that they’re entitled to, ask what the reason is for it, and suggest alternatives to it.  If that doesn’t work, there’s probably not much else they can do … other than possibly to consult the hospital’s employee handbook and see if by chance the manager is actually violating the organization’s policies on benefits. (If she is, someone should point that out — to her if she’s reasonably rational and to HR if she’s not.)

And I know this isn’t your question, but I’m also wondering about the seven-day-block thing. Why can’t people take a day here and a day there as long as there’s sufficient advance notice?

{ 64 comments… read them below }

  1. Blue Dog*

    As for why you can’t take a day off here and there, hospitals might be a little different than other working environments as continuity of care is an important issue.

    1. Rana*

      Even so, requiring them to be all Sunday-Saturday blocks seems ridiculously inflexible (it’s not like all patients show up Sunday only).

      Let’s say the employee is scheduled to work Sunday the 8th, but hopes to take off time on Tuesday the 10th for her anniversary, child’s birthday, planned surgery, whatever. Under this plan, she either has to take off the 1st through the 7th (which won’t work) or find a replacement for the 8th (which might not be possible).

      If, on the other hand, she could do it from Monday through Sunday (9-15), or Tuesday through Monday (10-16), they’d still have continuity, but it would be a bit more flexible.

      This is, of course, if one accepts the seven-days-in-a-row-only thing, which strikes me as more for the convenience of scheduling on the manager’s part than anything else.

  2. GeekChic*

    I’ve seen the policy of only being permitted to take vacation in blocks of days (not single days or half-days) in a number of places and it is in force at my current place of work. The reasoning I have been given is that the company wants you to take a real break – and one day here and there is not a break (I’ve been told that a large number of people have taken their entire vacation allotment in one day increments in the past).

    That said, all of these places also have personal days that can be used for things like waiting for repairmen or standing in line at the DMV.

  3. Jennifer*

    Long blocks (5 or 7 days) are standard in some parts of banking, too. It makes it easier to catch internal crime/fraud/etc. The idea being that when someone else is covering your job, they’d notice the unusual activity. Wasn’t there an episode of House with a dishonest Pharmacist who got caught when someone else covered her shift? (or perhaps I watch too much tv.)

    But why Sunday-Saturday? Is Thursday-Wednesday really a disaster? Especially for things like weddings, often held on Saturdays and go into the wee hours of Sundays. This guy would want you to take two weeks just to have both days in a weekend off!

    1. Dawn*

      I work at a bank. For those people who get two weeks vacation, they are required to take at least one full week. There’s no Sunday-Saturday requirement. For those people who get more than two weeks, they are required to take two full weeks. The rest can be taken in half-day or one-day increments. The thought behind this is that it is easy to cover up any wrong-doing for a day or two, but would be harder to sustain over a full week or two weeks.

      1. Anonymous*

        Wow! I’m glad I’m not a banker. I would hate to be at a job where I couldn’t be trusted.

        Plus, I like being able to cover up my wrong-doing without too much fuss.

        1. SAN*

          The policy isn’t really a “trust” issue, more of an internal control issue- no different why the person who receives cash should never be the one to record it in the accounting system. One classic fraud risks is someone who never takes vacations as their scheme can’t survive them being away. Look at some of the massive bank blow-ups from rogue traders. Why would a well managed company not want to take reasonable precautions?

          From a practical standpoint, why is it bad that you “must” take 2 straight weeks off once a year? Given the standard US vacation rates, sounds like a problem other people love to have.

      2. Anonymous*

        I work in a hospital where this policy is in place. The problem is that we can not take just a day off to go to an appointment like a Dr appointment or for outpatient surgery. You have to use your vacation a whole week when all you want is a day. This is a huge problem because it causes people to call out sick for these types of appointments. The other problem is that we have to get our own coverage as well, so whoever gets the one person who covers first gets the vacation.

  4. anon-2*

    A worse thing — ever been asked to CANCEL vacation plans?

    I was in one place, and had asked for a 2-week stretch in July, and it was approved. This was in April. I then booked my family’s flights, car rental, hotels — for a trip to England.

    Two weeks before they asked me to cancel my vacation. “Why?”

    “Well, we’re in a crisis.” (The crisis was ‘business as usual.’) The REAL crisis is that another staff member was supposed to train under me, to back me up, and did everything he could to avoid the duty, over my objections. “Game time” was approaching.

    I agreed to do it — PROVIDED —

    – OK, I had shelled out $4000. I wanted a payment of $6000, because the money I spent was post-tax, $6k would cover it nicely.
    If they were going to screw up my vacation, that’s one thing but I shouldn’t have to pay for it.

    -It will cost them an extra week, and would have to be before Labor Day as my daughter was in school.

    “Uh, uh, uh….” I replied “YOU SIGNED. If you had said no, I wouldn’t have done this.” “Uh, uh, uh….”

    Since their answer was a “NO” … they then asked me “can you file your itinerary with us?” I said I had none. We were renting a car, and other than the first two days and last two days we had no idea where we were going to be, nor did we make any plans.

    “You mean you’re NOT on a bus tour?” No, those are for old folks….

    Lesson is – if you’re a manager, make sure all your bases are covered before you say ‘yes’.

    1. Josh S*

      I’m glad you were able to push back, both that *you* were able to and that the company wasn’t an a** about the whole thing.

      Cuz it’s a totally lousy thing to have the company say, “Yeah, well, we know we said you could take the vacation, but now you can’t. You’re out the money? Tough. If you want to keep your job, them’s the rules.”

    2. Anonymous*

      I had to cancel when a project team was formed after I had scheduled vacation and they scheduled mandatory training on the week of my vacation. We didn’t have reservations (going camping/road tripping) thank goodness. But I always say specifically, “May I have these days off? Are you sure? I’m about to make reservations I can’t cancel.”

    3. Anonymous*

      Tangent – Don’t knock bus tours as “those are for old folks….” In many countries, you wouldn’t want to be on your own but rather on a tour where you have people who will back you up and protect you if you get into a bind, especially if you don’t speak the language and know the cultural customs. England, no, you don’t need a bus tour, but as a late 20 year old, I can say I love bus tours.

      *Steps off soapbox*

      But as for the whole “can you cancel your plans?”…. I like the idea you were going to make them reimburse you. I would have been extremely po-ed and would have had to excuse myself for a few minutes to gather my sanity after a question like that. I was thinking of a trip this year and the way my place has been, I would have been very afraid to have scheduled anything. But I’m also looking at next year, and I already planted the idea in my boss’s head about having to take a few weeks off next year. He has verbally said it was ok, but I fear the way things are going that I will really have to fight for it.

    4. C1ndyluhu*

      This is a perfect example of why you should always purchase travel insurance when you spend money in advance to travel! I was on a group cruise several years ago, and one of our travel companions got recalled to work the DAY BEFORE our cruise was set to depart. The cruise had been paid for months in advance. She was packed and ready to go. Luckily, her cruise insurance recompensated her for the sudden change in plans. In her case, it was a real emergency, but either way, you don’t want to plan a vacation and then lose thousands of $$$$ because your boss won’t let you go. I’m a travel agent, and I see it happen ALL THE TIME.

    5. Jaime*

      I used to have a couple of bosses who would be super passive agressive about wanting me to cancel approved vacation time. They wouldn’t ask me to do it, they wanted me to volunteer. If business ended up being busier than they thought they’d start constantly saying things like “man, you sure picked a good time to go on vacation” or “wow, we’re going to be reeeeaaaalllllyyyy busy while you’re gone” and then give me these expectant looks. Nope, not gonna volunteer. If I’m not taking off for a particular reason like a family vacation, then I’m often open to canceling the time if I’m needed but I’m sure not going to reward painfully obvious p/a behaviour.

      1. Lexy*

        Yeah that’s totally weak-sauce. If you’re going to ask me to cancel my vacation you have to stand up and do it. No dumb secret messages and hopeful looks. I hate those weasels you worked for and I don’t even know them. ugh.

        1. Jaime*

          Haha, thanks! In most other ways, one of them was a great boss. This was probably my biggest complaint. I don’t like guessing games, just tell me what you want and we’ll take it from there.

  5. Lexy*

    Not only is the seven day block weird, but why does it have to be Sunday-Saturday? So if you want to get a cheaper flight by Flying out Wednesday and coming home Tuesday you… have to take two weeks of vacation?

    I doubt it’s a (real) continuity of care issue… I have many friends who are nurses and doctors across several different local health systems and they take one or two day vacation increments all the time. Also, they have the schedule made like 3 months in advanced… not six (though weekends are on a pretty regular rotation so you can usually figure out what weekends you have off)

  6. Aaron*

    Blue Dog, good thought, but the fact the employee is already scheduled to work a Saturday five months from now makes me suspect this is shift work (my impression is she’s a nurse). Doctors, nurses, and other hospital employees who work shifts are very skilled at signing out patients to each other, so the continuity of care angle seems minimal to me unless this is an unusual setup.

    My guess is this is just manager trying to make scheduling vacation less of a hassle for herself. Manager is clearly a jerk or very clueless. If speaking to manager doesn’t help, try to find other advocates. E.g. think about informally talking to other managers, and asking them if they can intervene and give alternatives/put some peer pressure on this manager. Because this policy seems unneccessary given other departments do other things.

  7. Marla*

    What are the vacation policies for other units?

    In a hospital setting, I’d think Emergency and ICU would have the strictest vacation policies, yet I have friends that are “on-call” ICU nurses that fill-in for a day or two or a week or more – for just that reason.

    Maybe the hospital is trying to cut costs for fill-in nurses?

  8. OmarF*

    I can only guess there is a history of scheduling pain in this place. At least if it’s the same as my wife’s department in a hospital. Her boss can’t say no, but has delegated scheduling to my wife (one of the ones who knows all the rules, plus can be creative in trying to figure out a plan that works). My wife is constantly telling me about scheduling hassles trying to meet everyone’s needs and wants. She’ll get a working schedule, but someone will complain about a perceived slight, so she has to start over again. It can take hours to set up a four week schedule. Adding to the mix of issues is the part time staff and full time staff are working under slightly different rules and conventions.

    So, without knowing if the previous vacation policy environment really was like this, I can only guess the OP is part of a department that finally pushed the boss over the edge with all their demands and never being satisfied that things were fair.

    1. Long Time Admin*

      That’s the same kind of poor management we have in our company. A manager will not speak to someone who is abusing privileges or not adhering to policy, then in a couple of weeks the HR director changes the rule for everyone, or discontinues the priviledge. It frustrates the hell out of the other 349 employees.

  9. Lindsay H.*

    I’ve actually seen both points in action at two different jobs. The seven day block rule is something I’ve come across while working at a manufacturing plant that deals with a union. The replacement rule I’ve seen happen at Target. ETLs and team leaders needed to find a replacement to switch with them if they needed to take a scheduled weekend off.

    I’ve also heard of companies who require time off requests to be submitted by the first of the year. Not a great way to run a business but not completely out of left field.

  10. Anonymous*

    Actually, this is pretty typical in many hospitals. As a nurse, I’ve encountered vacation policies similar to this one.

    The rationale for the Sun-Sat block is because that is how the schedule is made. It makes it easier for the person doing the schedule.

    In many hospitals, nurses have to work every other weekend. Since the schedule is made Sun-Sat, your weekend is split between two different “schedule weeks.” That is why they are saying that they can tell now, in Jan, that she will be working part of that weekend at the time of her vacation request. If you are taking a full week, then more than likely one of the days you are requesting will be on your designated weekend to work. It is usually pretty set as to which weekend it is (pay day weekend or non-payday weekend), so it is fairly easy to tell in advance which day you’ll need to get coverage for.

    I’ve worked places where all vacation requests for the year had to be entered by the end of January (seriously).

    I’ve worked places where your vacation couldn’t cross ANY holiday.

    I’m not saying I agree with any of the above policies, but they aren’t all that unusual.

    1. Catherine*

      When my father worked for the U.S. postal service, he had to put in for his vacation time preferences for the upcoming year by a certain date. The slots were then assigned by seniority. It had to do with maintaining staff coverage at all times, as well as giving the preference to more senior workers (they are unionized). Changing later could only be done by finding someone willing to trade. The postal service is one of the largest employers in the U.S., so I agree that this set-up must not be very unusual in terms of numbers of positions in the workforce. The upside to it is that you actually *get* to take your vacation in a block.

    2. Q*

      Yes, this is the challenge of planning vacations around hospital shift work. As a scheduler for a hospital unit, we usually staff down to minimal need on weekends, this allows us to spread out our nurses to work every third weekend rather than every other weekend. If someone is allowed to just take their weekend off for vacation, it is likely that there will not be enough nurses to work that weekend when it comes. During the week, you can move people around much easier (move a nurse from a Mon to a Tues), there really isn’t that much push back for those, however, if I have to take a nurse off of a Wednesday and put her on an extra Sat or Sun, all hell breaks loose!!
      Since everyone knows what weekend they will work for the entire year, it is easiest to schedule a vacation on one of your weekends off, if that is not possible, then you can trade a weekend with someone to get it off.
      The manager is not a jerk, but is responsible to ensure that there is enough staff available 7 days a week. If the staff don’t cover their own weekends, and no one happens to pick up an extra weekend, the unit will be short staffed, which puts patient safety at risk.
      How would you like to be the patient in the bed who is getting less than adequate care because there isn’t enough nurses available!!!

    1. fposte*

      I had the same thought. On the other hand, not all hospitals are unionized, so maybe that’s why there was no mention of a union in the OP’s letter.

  11. Harry*

    I’ve done something similar but I ask them to find who their backup person will be. That way I will know who will be taking over their tasks whether they are gone for 1 day or 3 weeks. It also assures that not everyone will take that time off at the same time. Works great during holidays. What you don’t want is for people to get approved vacations then have employees make late requests but are more *important*.

    The likelihood for hospitals is they need to be minimally staffed.

  12. JT*

    How do people under these kind of strictures go to the doctor or have a medical procedure while not sick? How can they close on a house or visit an attorney? If they have four weeks of vacation in four blocks, I don’t see how they can get the business of living done unless everything happens to fall at exactly the same time, which is very very hard to do.

    1. Tim C.*

      They call in. Overly strict policy creates this. I call in maybe once a year for really being sick. But I do not bother planning for a one day off 8 weeks from now.

    2. Anonymous*

      Well, if you’re talking about hospitals and shift workers, you have days off during the week to compensate for working the weekends. Schedules usually come out 4 wks in advance.

      Plus, single days off aren’t usually treated this strictly. You can usually request one day of PTO without much issue. It is when you are trying to get a block of days off that it can be difficult.

  13. anonymous*

    My husband is an engineering professional with 16 years of experience–basically a highly-paid professional–and his workplace has a similar, stupid policy. He has to schedule 2 of his weeks off at the beginning of the year. This year, they denied the first week we asked for and we had to reschedule. He only gets 3 weeks total off, and they aren’t all ‘vacation.’ Those are his sick days, too. Basically, it’s because his company won’t hire enough people so they have to know when all the managers are going to be around. I don’t get this. They pay him well, give him a good 401k match, etc. when what he would really like is a bit less pay so they could hire more people, more time off, more flexibility and not having to worry about getting sick towards the end of the year when all his days are gone. Of course, you can’t carry them over until the following year, and they frown upon everyone trying to take them in December. Well, duh. What else are they supposed to do? The guys try to ‘bank’ some in case they get sick, but if you don’t use them or get sick until December, you lose them. It’s a short-sighted policy. Why are companies so clueless?

    1. The gold digger*

      hey pay him well, give him a good 401k match, etc. when what he would really like is a bit less pay so they could hire more people, more time off,

      I think our husbands work for the same company. Half the engineers they had five years ago but just as much work.

  14. Anonymous*

    The 7 day block isn’t unusual. I don’t know how usual it is, but I have to abide by the same rules in retail.

    All vacations must be Sunday to Saturday. I think the reason for that is we are paid Sunday to Saturday every week. I guess it wouldn’t fit into those perfectly. If you need to take off from Wednesday to Tuesday, say the 10th to the 16th, then you can either take off the 7th through the 13th for vacation pay and just take the 14th thru the 16th off without pay.

    I don’t particularly care for it, but at least I know I’m legitimately getting a week.

    1. fposte*

      Jeez, even I can do the math to pay people for 2/5ths and 3/5ths of a week. That’s really dumb.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’m not going to fight the higher ups – people I have never seen or even know the name of in a cooperate office an hour’s drive away. I guess if it was absolutely necessary, I could ask what the policies were and if it could be bent for one time.

        I do know you can ask for your vacation pay ahead of time; at least one coworker was allowed. But I do not know if it’s a policy “use it or lose it.”

  15. helen*

    Speaking of odd policies, I once worked somewhere where they told us that people without children *could not* take holiday during school holidays (and I’m in the UK, with 23 days annual leave). Not that preference would be given to parents wanting days off around school breaks – and since fares go up, who would want to travel then if they didn’t have to – but that non-parents *could not*.

    This was in force for all of half an hour, until our department manager, who had no children but whose fiance was a school teacher, went to HR and asked whether they were going to help her find a new spouse , since she felt that never being able to holiday with her husband would do their relationship no good.

    1. KellyK*

      Your department manager is awesome.

      I’m glad that she was able to talk some sense into them. I understand giving some priority to people whose schedules are more constrained, but a blanket restriction is nuts.

      I also wouldn’t think you’d have to have a blanket policy so much as a general idea that, all things being equal, if two people ask for the same vacation and you can only give it to one of them, the preference goes to the person who couldn’t change their plans.

      1. The gold digger*

        if two people ask for the same vacation and you can only give it to one of them, the preference goes to the person who couldn’t change their plans.

        But would that mean you would buy your tickets before requesting vacation so you could claim you had unchangeable plans?

        1. Jamie*

          If someone bought tickets before time was approved I would consider it their problem, but if two people wanted the same time and one wanted the time to go to a wedding, or something like that, I would give that preference.

          1. jmkenrick*

            Definitely. This is also something that you wouldn’t want to make an official policy, but use your judgement for each situation.

          2. Anonymous*

            I used to work with that girl. She always had an important event to go to. I was more…honest. I worked, she went to Thailand for a “wedding”, which apparently is the new euphemism for getting blasted with girlfriends.

          3. Anonymous*

            If two people wanted the same week off – one for vacation and one for a wedding – I would ask for proof on both. But really, where I work, it would go to whomever asked for the week first. Although, I have had two coworkers (out of 4) be granted the same week off. No. I was one of the ones didn’t get the vacation.

            1. Anonymous*

              Where I worked, it was whoever was willing to throw a hissy fit. So, I worked, while Princess went to Thailand. I knew the score beforehand, so it was in no way a surprise or a disappointment.

        2. helen*

          I would think more along the lines of days off for weddings/baptisms/graduations being unchangeable, ordinary days not.

      2. Jaime*

        I think this is why a lot of companies approve competing time off requests based on seniority or first come first serve. It’s really only fair. Just because Fiance Frank wants time off for a wedding, doesn’t mean Single Sam’s time off is any less important to him. Or worse, Always a Bridesmaid Amy might have 6 weddings one year, why is that more important than Sitting on a Beach Sipping a Cocktail Sandy’s vacation plans? Junior’s C-average Finally Pays off with a Degree after 8 years Jim may be hella excited about Graduation day, but if he waits until the end of April to ask off, why is his kid’s day more important than Eight Kids in a Car for 12 hours to Visit Grandma’s House Edward’s family vacation?

        Most important events – weddings, graduations, etc – can be planned far enough in advance that if someone is being diligent they shouldn’t hit too many conflicts. If you’re planning things at the last minute, then I say you get what you deserve if someone was a better planner than you.

  16. LCL*

    The manager is making them find their own relief? She is making a big mistake. If you leave it up to shiftworkers to schedule their relief, I guarantee you will have holes in your coverage, and someone will schedule themself or their buddies for 20+ hours on the clock, or less than 8 hours off between shifts. I am sure the manager is sick of everybody’s last minute vacation demands, they are incredibly annoying, but that is her job.

    I wouldn’t fight hard against this. Just ask her if she thinks all of her employees are capable of arranging their reliefs to work in a manner that isn’t in violation of any laws regarding labor laws or patient coverage or hospital polices regarding overtime. Then ask what she will do when she gets the call that nobody showed up for that Sunday shift that starts at 2230 (10:30PM).

    1. Natalie*

      “I am sure the manager is sick of everybody’s last minute vacation demands, they are incredibly annoying, but that is her job.”

      And really, if the problem is things being last minute it would make more sense to require that people put their vacation requests in before some reasonable deadline.

  17. Joey*

    I think finding your own backup is sensible, but the manager should step in if no one wants to backup. And the manager needs to make sure the backup is held accountable. The 7 day block thing is lazy management. Like some others have pouted out it creates more problems than solutions.

  18. Anonymous*

    I hate the system where you have to find your own coverage. Takes a lot away from the idea of “vacation.”

    When it comes to leave, my current employer is downright *awesome.* In addition to holidays, I get 25 paid days off. I get to use them however I want, no exceptions, no rules. In fact, I’m taking all 25 of my days this year all at once, and there’s really no issue.

  19. Anonymous*

    At a previous employer, I had a boss who could be a real douche. He was nice and I generally liked him, but leave was a pain.

    We worked in the corporate jet business, and every quarter there were these business meetings that would draw in a ton of Fortune 500 CEOs. Sometimes this would really drive up our traffic count, and he didn’t want to approve vacation. Ok fine.

    But one month, they changed the meeting week and he didn’t get the FYI. From then on, he wouldn’t approve vacation for the scheduled meeting week, or one week +/- just in case the meeting week changed. So every three months, there was pretty much one month that made getting time off a real pain. Thanks.

    Oh, and this same company would actually hold it against you at your performance review if you actually used a single paid sick day. At least the aformentioned boss didn’t enforce that.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, and this same company would actually hold it against you at your performance review if you actually used a single paid sick day.

      I’m curious about the legality of that in the two jurisdictions (D.C. and San Francisco) that now require paid sick leave to be offered.

  20. Gene*

    There are times when I’m glad I am employed at a municipality, and reading this thread is one of them. I get a reasonable amount of vacation time (by US standards) and can use them pretty much any way I want to, in 1 hr increments. When we got the Seattle Snopocalypse a couple of weeks ago, I just scheduled the rest of the week off and didn’t have to fight the snow and idiot drivers – this office can function without one person for a few days. If I want to go to something I schedule the time off. When I wanted to go to Australia for a month a few years ago, I didn’t use any time for a LONG time and took the month off.

    There are times I don’t much like it too. I could make 30-50% more in private industry in what I do. I could get more employer-paid continuing education, I’d get a match on my 401k, people wouldn’t automatically assume I’m a lazy, inefficient drone bureaucrat. So working for the government (like anywhere else) has plusses and minuses.

  21. JT*

    To follow up on what Gene said, vacation time that is easily taken in a flexible way for the employee is hugely more valuable than vacation time that has be booked far ahead in large block. If I had to book 4 or 7 days off at a time when I really needed only one or two days off, the value would be far less than the whole time off when I wanted it.

    I take time off to do things around the house or even when I don’t feel well but am not sick. I don’t need four days or a week for that.

  22. Flynn*

    I realise the US has sucky job policies, but I’m still in shock at them only getting two weeks. Four weeks is the legal limit here and where I work, I get six.

    [/random comment]

  23. Anonymous*

    My employer has the most unusual vacation setup I have encountered. Vacation can be taken any time during the fiscal year (which is not the calendar year), but it is only officially granted on two dates, March 1 and August 1, half on each date. September is the last month of the fiscal year, and employees are discouraged from taking vacation then. If you take vacation before the grant dates, you have to pay it back if you leave the company.

    So a lot of people don’t take vacation from October 1 through February, and in March people seem to be gone in droves. It’s even worse in August when people try to get the rest of their annual vacation in after it is granted but before the last month of the fiscal year. Oh, and any vacation and sick leave not used is gone, because the company is paranoid about carrying over any fiscal obligation from one year to the next (generally accepted accounting rules and paranoid accountants seem to rule out HR department).

    New employees don’t understand this system at all, and I don’t blame them. Also, if you get hired March 2, there’s no time off earned until after the beginning of the new fiscal year or after August 1 or something. Basically, you can work months before you earn any time off. Employees who have earned two weeks off also cannot give notice and then take vacation and just ask to get paid for those two weeks. Once you give notice, you can only get vacation that’s been approved, and they routinely deny some or all of that time off. So some employees have started taking a week of vacation, then putting in their notice, but sometimes the new employer isn’t happy with the delay. You may have “earned” the time, but because the policies say it has to be approved, you can’t be assured of getting paid for earned paid vacation if you are leaving the company or if you have had to postpone vacation (at your supervisor’s request) into the last month of the fiscal year and the supervisor won’t approve all of the resubmitted vacation request because of staffing problems during the final month.

    My husband’s employer is unusual but easier to understand. All vacation, sick leave years and seniority etc. begins and ends based on the employment anniversary, although the vacation and sick leave amounts are accrued bit by bit during the year and some can be carried over. Nothing is based on the calendar year or fiscal year.

    How the managers keep track of that, I don’t know. But they don’t seem to have a lot of people taking time off at the same time, although the people with kids do follow a school-year pattern of vacation-taking. And the constant accrual is nice for people who haven’t been there long, because they have a little time off before they’ve worked a full year.

    In addition, someone can be entitled to 3 weeks of vacation a year and carry a week over for a special trip in the following year, but I think anyone who gets up to five weeks has to use it or lose the excess over five weeks. That limits the long-term carryover costs of benefits that annoy some accountants.

  24. Georgia*

    Okay, months after the post – but reading these at least makes me feel I’m not alone. My employer implemented a new policy after laying people off and making staffing too lean, thinking this new policy would help the managers (not the employees, of course – managers take off whenever they want).

    Vacation must be used up by the end of the year, and must be requested for the WHOLE year no earlier than January 1, and no later than the 14th. We must do it with the online scheduler. We cannot do it on work time. It is impossible when you have children to know that far ahead what might be coming up in regard to school schedules and sports, summer jobs, etc.. It has become a nightmare.

    If people request the same dates, the person who input it earliest by the time posted on the schedulizer gets the dates. If someone asks for a block of time – say, a week – the manager can approve a few days and refuse one or two in the middle. They blame all refusals on “coverage” – meaning the one department that is permitted substitutes gets any dates they want, and our department which is not permitted subs gets refused many dates.

    What this has caused is everyone sitting at their home computers on New Years Eve waiting for the ball to drop so that at 12:00 am they can frantically input their vacation dates, hoping to beat everyone else by one second. (no New Year’s Eve frolicking anymore – have to input that vacation!). The employees who do not have home computers (a few still don’t) and those who have a slow connection because of our rural area end up being the last ones and ultimately have most of their requests denied for the year. One of my coworkers, who had a family illness and couldn’t be sitting at her keyboard at the stroke of midnight on Jan 1, was denied almost ALL of her vacation requests for the whole year because she was last inputting it on the 1st. The few days she had approved were one or two days in the middle of a week she had requested. When she complained, she was accused of being insubordinate. It is now July, and the manager still has denied almost all of her days through the end of the year. They are trying to force her to take one days at a time because she asked questions about the policy.

    And management continues to act confused as to why morale is low???

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