taking time off after you’ve already given notice

A reader writes:

I have a question about something that is going on at my current workplace, and I’m getting differing opinions from various people.

A colleague of mine made the decision to move on from her position, which is key for our organization. She gave six weeks’ notice, and has been working extremely hard to make the transition as smooth as possible — clearing up all her projects, communicating clearly with everyone she deals with, writing a policies and procedures manual, helping in the hiring process for her replacement (screening resumes, doing a first round of interviews, etc.), and in general being the very model of a responsible employee.

She recently requested time off for an unexpected appointment. She has plenty of time on the books, but was told that she was no longer allowed to take any time off because she gave her notice. She still has a few weeks left to go, and now the prospect of not being allowed to take any time at all, even in case of emergency, is looming over her.

I’ve been thinking there are two sides to this. On one hand, if an employee had a lot of work to finish before leaving, and none of it was getting done, a manager could justifiably point to the unfinished work and refuse a time off request. On the other hand, not accommodating employees who are clearly working so hard to do right by their jobs, even in their last weeks, would seem to encourage people to give short notice and in general be unhappy. One friend I asked about this says that when an employee has given their notice, the employer no longer needs to invest anything in that employee. Basically, they are written off as a resource when they turn their notice in.

What do you think? Have you seen this before, that people in their final weeks are denied time off?

Yes, although the way your company is using it is completely wrong.

In general, it’s not uncommon to have a rule that says employees can’t use vacation time during their final weeks after giving notice. The idea is that employers don’t want someone to give two weeks notice and then take most of that time off — they want them at work wrapping up their projects. And without a policy like this, some employees do abuse the situation: Some people will even give two weeks notice, announce that they’ll be taking the next two weeks as vacation, and then start their new job immediately (thus canceling out the purpose of a notice period … and getting paid double).

However, this is only a reasonable policy if you apply it to people giving a standard short notice period. In the case of your coworker, she’s done the company the favor of giving them six weeks, which she didn’t have to do. They should be working to accommodate her, not penalizing her for being generous with them.

And by treating her this way, they’re decreasing the chances that other employees will give generous notice periods in the future. Who wants to do their employer the favor of extra-long notice, only to be told that they won’t have their normal benefits during that period?

Now, regarding your friend who said that employers no longer have incentive to treat people well after they give notice, there are certainly some employers who think that way. But the good ones don’t — because in fact they do have incentive. They realize that their remaining employees will see how the departing person is treated (and will assume that they’ll be treated the same way some day), and they care about keeping a good relationship with the departing person — both because that person can continue to be a resource to them (by referring good job candidates, answering questions, etc.) and because that’s what normal, reasonable people do.

In any case, as for your coworker’s situation:   This is either a case of a policy being enforced blindly, when someone should be making an exception because of her unusually long notice period, or it’s a case of a really short-sighted company. Or both.

Ideally your coworker would talk with her manager and point out that the company isn’t returning the generosity she’s showing them, and that it’s disincentivizing people from giving them a lot of notice. That may or may not change things — but it’s worth her pointing out.

{ 50 comments… read them below }

  1. Hugo*

    2 weeks is not a law, it’s a courtesy. Depending on the workplace environment I can see situations where it’s justifiable to roll the notice and remaining vacation all into one. If you’ve already got a job lined up, who cares? If I were her I would just quit immediately and look forward to the new job in a few weeks.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Right, it’s not a law. Neither is paid vacation time, so it’s reasonable for a company to have a policy saying that you can’t take paid vacation time once you’ve given two weeks notice, because they want you at work wrapping up your projects. In most positions, it’s extremely disruptive if an employees leaves without notice, which is what it would be if people did what you’re suggesting. You’d also burn that bridge, get a bad reference from that job in the future, and harm your professional reputation. I don’t think you’ve thought this through. (You are, though, demonstrating why employers have this policy.)

      1. Flynn*

        Right, it’s not a law. Neither is paid vacation time…

        Unhelpful overseas comparison: Paid vacation IS a law here, and if you have accrued leave when you resign, the company has to pay it out to you.

        So they really really hate us accruing too much – we get annual nags passed down to the people with more than three weeks leave left at the end of the year.

        1. mh_76*

          In a couple of US states, payout upon departure of accured vacation time is the law but it seems that those states are in the minority (according to discussion on a previous AAM post).

          (I don’t know of any state requiring employees to give 2-weeks notice)

          1. mh_76*

            (yikes, I really should look at syntax before posting…my first sentence is strange…d’oh!)

      2. Esra*

        Fun (??) fact, because you have to pay out vacation in Ontario, if you give 2 or more weeks notice, some places will make you use the vacation you’ve accrued and leave early to avoid having to pay it out.

  2. fposte*

    This sounds like it wasn’t even a day off but an early afternoon or a few hours out. Her workplace is crazy. I wouldn’t be surprised if she just moved her departure date up to get her to the appointment. Nice move, business.

    1. Joe*

      My thought was that she should just go to the appointment anyway. What are they going to do, fire her for it? Yeah, they might not pay her for that day, and they might even fire her, so if she really needs the paycheck for those couple of weeks, it could be a problem, but the company would be screwing themselves to spite her.

  3. Anonymous*

    “(thus canceling out the purpose of a notice period … and getting paid double)”

    Canceling the purpose of a notice period is bad. Including the “getting paid double” notation within the same parenthetical remark implies that concept is bad, too.

    Without regard to the length of notice given, an employee switching jobs can “get paid double” for the length of his/her vested PTO simply by starting a new job the next business day after leaving an old job. “Getting paid double” is not bad. It’s a matter of time management for the individual. Do they want time off between jobs and not “get paid double?” Do they want to get started on the next job ASAP and “get paid double?” Maybe they simply want the extra cash more than they want the time off and so they decide to begin the new job before the PTO is paid fully from the old job. Whatever the reason it should be of no concern to either employer.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I see why you thought that, but I didn’t mean to imply that getting paid double is inherently bad; it isn’t. I mentioned “getting paid double” to explain what someone’s motivation might be in doing it.

      Not every employer pays out accrued vacation time when an employee leaves. In some cases, you use it or lose it (aside from states like California that require pay-outs).

  4. Charles*

    Yes, they should treat her better.

    One place I worked at the “norm” became, go on vacation before giving notice. It sort of became a running joke with everyone, including managers – Are you coming back from vacation? Can we expect to see you again? Good luck at your new job!

    The reason for this was that this employer had a well-deserved reputation of trying to not pay for already earned vacation when folks left. And such a reputation is hard to fix, really hard.

    Ha! Many departing folks had the last laugh though; Go away on vacation and never come back.

    1. Anonymous*

      That’s funny. Make everyone all – OMG, where is Suzie going? Will she come back? – for a week!

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      This is exactly why I have waited to give notice until the day I return from a long vacation three times in my career (most recently, 10 days ago!). I learned that one the hard way after one employer refused to pay out comp time I had earned — it was clear that once I had resigned, I was of no further use to them.

      This was especially important to me at the job I just resigned. Technically the company has an “unlimited” vacation policy (with manager approval, which really means “three weeks if you play your cards right and have a nice boss”), so I KNEW that if I gave anyone a heads up before my vacation, I could kiss those paid days goodbye. Sorry, Charlie. I earned them!

      1. Michael*

        I made absolutely certain that it was my company’s policy to pay-out unused vacation before I gave my notice or I was going to enjoy the Caribbean for a few weeks before my notice. (In case you’re wondering – they paid-out)

        1. Jamie*

          IMO how accrued vacation is handled in the event of employee separation should be in the employee handbook.

          Everywhere I’ve worked there was a clause covering this – which still doesn’t make it a law but does give you legal protection if they decide to get cute about it.

    3. Long Time Admin*

      I’ve known several girls who did that with their maternity leave. They’d come back for a week or two (or until all the bills were paid by the insurance) and then quit.

  5. Eric*

    She gave 6 weeks notice. Then wasn’t allowed a few hours for an appointment. I think I would have tried the “nice” thing and told them what Allison said, and if it still was not favorable, I would threaten to walk out right then. That is utterly ridiculous and employees should not have to allow themselves to be treated in such a manner due to a fear of a “bad reference”.

    1. Jamie*

      Agreed. She was going above and beyond to give a smooth transition and this is very shoddy thanks for that.

      The company is being so shortsighted by risking the loss of trust with their remaining employees over such a small thing.

      If I were leaving my job I would feel comfortable giving as much notice as possible, because I’ve seen, time after time, how they appreciate and respect the people who can do that. I’ve been at other places where you’d have been crazy to give notice a minute before you were ready to be walked out the door.

      Guess which types of places have smoother transitions?

  6. The Other Dawn*

    I think OP’s company is being unfair. The employee was more than generous by giving 6 weeks’ notice and is now being punished it seems. I could see them saying no if she was looking to take a few vacation days and only gave two weeks’ notice, but she gave six weeks and this was just an appointment that would probably take only a few hours.

    We had someone give notice recently. She gave her two weeks’ notice on June 25 (Monday) so her last day was July 6 (Friday). She took two days off the first week and then July 4 was a holiday. So really she only worked 7 out of 10 business days. It was a pain because it didn’t leave much time at all to wrap things up and she only had two days to train the person taking her place.

  7. Student*

    Well, she could (and in my opinion, should) insist on taking a day for FMLA in that case (if it applies to her situation and employer). Sure, it’ll probably be unpaid, and she might need to produce documentation, but it’d at least point out to the idiot boss that there are limits he probably shouldn’t push.

    1. Rachel - Former HR Blogger*

      Wouldn’t FMLA be difficult to claim in this point given that she is not currently on intermittent leave and in not unable to work for three or more days?

      1. Student*

        I’ve never heard of that being a requirement for FMLA – just that you have “a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job”. The Department of Labor summary of the act doesn’t seem to mention any such restrictions, and that isn’t how it’s implemented in my place of work. Of course, my place of work only has a passing acquaintance with laws and regulations, so we could just be doing it completely wrong.

        Anyway, it certainly depends on whether the appointment is health-related or not. I wouldn’t ask permission for a health emergency myself, but I know some people who do so.

    2. Kimberlee*

      And FMLA usually allows (if not requires) accrued paid vacation time to be used for such leave. So she could theoretically make an FMLA claim and actually some of the vacation time.

      Of course, if the worry is damaging relations with the current employer, unfortunately, this will also do it. You do have some legal protection against retaliation, but that doesn’t matter much when you’re already out the door. A glowing reference could turn into a “verify dates of employment only” reference and that would be totally legal (to my knowledge).

      1. mh_76*

        And FMLA usually allows (if not requires) accrued paid vacation time to be used for such leave.

        Sort-of an aside: the company can, if they want to, say that sick time also has to be used, in addition to vaca. time. I had major surgery (years ago) and was out for six weeks. The Department Administrator allowed me to keep my sick time because I pointed out that I would have a number of doctor’s appointments after returning [and my paycheck in that job was so far beyond pitiful that I needed every last penny…but I didn’t say that part] but that was an exception that he made to the policy. It was nice to get vacation pay for the first bit of the FMLA time.

  8. Mary Wright*

    I find it amazing that employers would squander such a precious opportunity to display well in front of the employees who stay. Building trust is nearly impossible when workers see vindictive or uncaring behavioepr and such a display can cause you to lose more than the person who gave notice.

    1. anon*

      So true! I guarantee everyone in the company is paying attention to this. It’s a clear signal to the employees that the company doesn’t really care about them. Dumb, lazy, mean move to treat the employee so ungraciously.

    2. EM*

      I gave two weeks notice at my last place of employment and my boss called me in to his office 3 days after I gave notice to inform me that the company would be accepting my resignation effective immediately. I was actually overjoyed because I had been regretting not taking a week of between jobs. It was a bit of a bummer because all my stuff wasn’t packed up as I had been working in the field until that point. I had to cram everything into my small hatchback. lol

      It sort of came back on the company because my former coworkers were all stunned and horrified as well as the client of the big project I had been working on (I had let them know I would be leaving in a couple of weeks and then I had to go back to them and say that I was asked to leave sooner). Everyone thought it was very strange and it made the company look really bad.

      I’m sure they did it for budetary and staffing reasons as we were all chronically underworked and the budgets for the projects were shot, but that kind of mercenary short-sightedness leaves a very unfavorable impression.

    3. Kimberlee*

      This. And the trust is INCREDIBLY hard to win back. My employer has a reputation for kicking people out after they resign and not paying vacation after, like, a couple instances. (And those were generally misinterpreted, from what I understand.)

      The last few people leaving gave notice, and my boss was careful to make it clear to the entire staff how much that notice was appreciated, how smooth the transition was made, etc, and there are still employees I hear talking about how they don’t care about giving notice because they’ll just be fired anyway. Once you have a reputation as an employer, it’s really, really hard to overcome.

  9. Al*

    Holy molasses. Watching some of my co-workers leave, being treated poorly and having final paychecks with-held has made me 1) start looking for new jobs (can’t fathom the idea of working for a company that believes in bad employee-relations practices) and 2) deeply worry about what will happen if/when I leave. Sorry this person’s friend is going through this – it seems absurd.

  10. Daisy*

    The other incentive they should have to continue to treat her well even though she is leaving (besides all the problems associated with morale and other people watching her experience) is that she might stop going above and beyond in her remaing time at the office. Not to the point where it would burn bridges, but that detailed manual she was planning to leave? If I were her I’d spend much less time on it than I otherwise was going to (quick outline rather than fully detailed instructions) and I would care much less about selecting a great replacement.

    If I were her, I would seriously just schedule the appointment and come in late or leave early one day toward the end of the notice period with no explanation, consequences be d@mned.

  11. Vicki*

    Given that I was laid off back in November, with no notice and a requirement to “log off now and have no more contact with anyone in the company regarding any projects you were working on” I find the whole 2-weeks-notice thing to be sadly one-sided and hypocritical. I was working from home the day I was laid off and was “allowed” to come in later in the week to pack my things, under supervision. Some laid-off people have their things packed for them, or are given 1 hour to get out. I’ve seen this at other companies as well.

    It’s pathetic to realize that many companies don’t care what bridges they burn or what morale-reducing effects they place on the remaining employees.

    I think it’s time for OP’s friend to simply take the time off that she needs. After all, what can the company do? Fire her?

    1. Jefe*

      If I can be escorted out the door during a layoff with 30 minutes notice (and I have been), 2 week notice be damned unless it suits my plans.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s fine, as long as you understand that you will burn a bridge and harm your reputation in ways that have potential to harm you years later.

        1. Matt*

          “That’s fine, as long as you understand that you will burn a bridge and harm your reputation in ways that have potential to harm you years later.”

          Are you willing to acknowledge that the behavior on the part of companies who behave this way damages the company’s reputation and has the potential to cause them harm, too?

  12. Elizabeth West*

    This sucks. She’s trying to make sure they don’t suffer from the transition, and they’re just being jerks about it.

    I’ve seen companies take someone’s two week notice as an excuse to walk them out the door right then. If I’m working at a place like that and I plan to leave, I would know better than to give ANY notice. And if asked about it, I would say “This company does not allow notice, and I wanted to make sure my clients were taken care of / work was caught up, etc., before I left.”

  13. Nick*

    What is up with all this corporate loyalty BS. Slavery ended a long time ago – if she needs a day off she should take it, end of story. She should not hesitate for a second, turnovers happen all the time and it is one of the many risks of operating a ‘business’ – clearly this workplace is riddled with ‘single-points of failures’, and that’s management’s issue. This ‘two week’ notice curtsey is a relic of the past. Always remember; the company wouldn’t give you ‘two-weeks’ notice before laying you off. I’m a 25 year old working professional (auditing) – and welcome to the new generation of workers. BOO YA

  14. Guayana*

    I still have to work in my 8 weeks of termination and even worse I do have to do my own letter due my boss does not know how ???

  15. BostonBatt*

    I have run into a problem, I gave my two weeks Fri before the two weeks notice clock would start, the same date my aunt passed away, which ment that I would take a 3 days for the funeral plus we had NYE holiday off as well. So that left my current employer w/ 6 business days of time for the transition. Not until the day before I came back did the current employer ask that I give them 10 working days. Plus before the offer was accepted or the death, I was already approved for two days PTO that week. I dont want to leave on bad terms but I also don’t want to ask the new employer for a few more days and start off in a new job with “issues”. So many ways to go about this; work a crazy amount of hrs for the current employer, ask new employer for more time, say sorry to the current employer but that’s the way it has to be. Having a hard time figuring out the best course of action. Please help, Thanks!

  16. Matt*

    Whether or not one “burns a bridge” with a previous employer appears to be completely subjective to the temperament/attitude/personality of the manager with whom the employee is resigning.

    It could be argued that the act of resigning and moving to another job in and of itself is “burning the bridge”. After all, the employee had to interview incognito.

    So, if you’ve already potentially burned the bridge just by leaving, why be overly concerned with pleasing the boss you’re leaving by acquiescing to his lame duck commands?

    1. cvmurrieta*

      Agreed. In fact, one can argue that some employers have initiated the bridge-burning with their former employees, thus providing an incentive for such employees to seek better opportunities somewhere else. I, for one, do not allow myself to live such a fear-based life as I know that those who torment will eventually die someday. The way I look at it is this: who will care about it 100 years from now? If I need to, I can always take a job with lesser pay but more emotionally rewarding because I live within my means. I think it helps me to recall all the positive experiences that I have set out to have in life and remind myself that those who badmouth me are very unhappy people no matter how more money or “power” they have than I do.

  17. Silvia*

    This situation applies to the Uk where we get to leave one month notice period and have 23/25 working days. If i have holidays booked in jan for the whole of march and i resign on the 28th of february, my notice period being the whole of march, which covers for my holiday vacation is that wrong? putting into consideration i would not get paid that month as the days taken is 2014 leave if i took 5 days off it would be prorated. basically its like resigning immediately but leaving notice on paper. ofcourse i would have handed over projects etc because everyone knows i should be on holidays that month anyway and i wouldnt get paid. please advise

  18. Crossroads*

    Hi, i’m hoping someone can help me. it’s urgent. im planning on quitting but have vacation coming up.

    I work at a mine, week on, week off. Each week on is 77 hours of work. I was offered another job recently and have decided to accept. They are having me start on June 18th.

    Normally, I would work May 27 to June 3rd, then again on June 10 to June 17, and again on June 24 to July 1 and so on.

    However, I have vacation booked for my next shift of work, June 10 to 17 and will be out of town from June 7 to June 14 for this.

    So I will be finished this week of work on June 3rd. My last actual physical day on the job would be June 3rd.

    My question is, if I give notice on June 3, for my last day to be on June 23rd, and take my vacation anyways, how will that affect HR’s opinion of me – will this be considered to be a no show? Technically, it’s three calender weeks and my vacation for my actual shift (77 hours) has been approved. Does it make a difference how long ago the vacation was approved?

    Can you please advise me on this?

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