negotiating more time off, sharing trip photos, and other questions about vacation

I was on the final episode of Marketplace Weekend this weekend talking about vacation time and how to get the time off you want. Some of the questions I answered include:

  • Can you negotiate more vacation time?
  • What if you’re not sure how long you’ll need to be gone?
  • Can you use sick days for vacation?
  • Should you be wary about sharing vacation photos if you’re connected to coworkers on social media?
  • What was up with the boss in this letter from someone who felt she couldn’t go on vacation because no temps could meet the boss’s expectations?
  • If you’re the boss, how do you make sure you have enough coverage during in-demand vacation period?

The segment is seven minutes and you can listen here:

{ 54 comments… read them below }

    1. Commentorfour*

      I’m really sad to see Marketplace Weekend go. They’ve done really great reporting over the last few years- their continued coverage of Puerto Rico has been outstanding.

        1. hayling*

          I am going to miss hearing you chat with Lizzie, I love her! Do you know where she is going next?

  1. LSP*

    I was able to negotiate more vacation time at my current job, because at a certain point in ones career, it’s pretty insulting to be offered only 2 weeks off. I was at a point where no fewer than three was reasonable, and I know there are people above me who started with 4-6 weeks due to their incredible experience and value they brought with them.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I am about 14 years into my career and definitely was able to easily get roughly the same amount of PTO I had at my last job (it’s structured a bit differently, but I got 3 weeks PTO, 2 personal days, and a floating holiday plus a week of sick time I can use for appointments – at my last job I had 18 days straight PTO plus 2 floating holidays, no sick time). I think 4 weeks is about max for this company, but yeah, it wasn’t hard to get more when I got the offer.

  2. Ralkana*

    I find the idea of negotiating for more vacation so fascinating. It’s like a unicorn in the wild. My company has an ironclad vacation policy: two weeks at one year, three weeks at ten years. That’s it. Even the guys who’ve been here forty years get three weeks.

    I think if you’ve given a quarter century of your life to this company, you should get a least four weeks!

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Same. Benefits are standardized, so you’ve got to negotiate salary, hours, or, if the position is eligible, telework.

      I get four weeks of vacation plus 12 days of sick/personal – and nearly zero chance to take it. I use most of the sick/personal for medical appointments, usually for a kid, and vacation days here or there for school closings or activity-related events. I have no idea how people take multiple weeks off at a time because, even when I’ve got the day off, the emails that require a response still come.

      1. Minocho*

        When I came to this job, I was going to negotiate for 3 weeks. I’ve been at 2 weeks my whole career, at with 15 years in, felt it was time for 3 weeks. I didn’t even need to ask, it was part of the offer – my company gave me 5 years of experience when they hired me in, which makes me eligible for the 3 weeks of vacation. My start date is listed as the day I actually started at the company, and my experience is listed as starting 5 years earlier.

      2. A Username*

        Yup that’s how the jobs I’ve had were too. In a bunch of them, salary wasn’t even negotiable.

        I need to start working for better employers.

  3. Akcipitrokulo*

    Current job started at 24 days + 8 bank holidays… I didn’t negotiate it and now have worked here a while it is pretty standard at all levels… same starting days, extra day at 2, 3 & 4 years (I think then at 5, 10 and 15)

    But in past did get one job to go from 23 to 25 :) I think agent negotiated on my behalf as I’d have been to scared to!

    Now… yeah, I’d ask for a day or two more if I were looking for new job. No-one’s going to give new person 30 + bank holidays, but with experience could talk them up if they were only offering 22 or something.

    1. alice*

      I’m assuming your not in the US with the words “bank holidays.” I think 20-24 is pretty standard, right? My boyfriend had 24 days at his previous job, and when he switched jobs last year, he was able to negotiate from 22 to 24 to match what he had previously. They also let him buy five extra days in January, so he’s getting 29 + bank holidays this year. (We’re in Ireland). It seems to be a very doable thing, especially knowing that there’s research behind the fact that you work better when you get more vacation days.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yeah, I’m in UK. Legal minimum is 28 days which can include bank holidays – so either 28 floating or 20 floating + 8 bank holidays is what you get guaranteed at entry level jobs. (pro-rata for part timers).

        Jobs I was applying for last time were mid-senior (not manager) IT, and were around the 23-25 + bank holidays mark which I think is pretty standard.

  4. Jady*

    I’ve been trying to figure out forever how much vacation (USA) is reasonable to ask for, and how to get as much as possible. I’d even be willing to take a lower salary for higher PTO. With almost 10 years experience in my field, I think I would only ask for 4+ weeks now – although I’m not sure I’d get that. But then is it reasonable to ask for more, and how much more? And how would I approach a salary/pto tradeoff during negotiations? I have no idea. It’s something I’ve been wondering about for a long time.

    Anyone have any success stories here?

    1. Jady*

      Note the 4 weeks is before holidays and sick leave.

      3 weeks is fairly standard minimum. But anything more than that varies a lot by companies. At my current job you have to be with the company for 10 years to get 4 – which seems insane to me as a millennial. Staying with one company for that long is becoming unheard of.

      1. Faith*

        My company uses your overall work experience to calculate the 10 years, not just your tenure with them. So, if you’ve worked for another employer for 5 years and then came on board, they will give you the same amount of vacation as someone who has worked for them for 5 years.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          Every place I’ve worked for grants vacation based on time worked there (not total experience).

          I wonder if any companies do hybrid approaches.

          Like looking at total work experience and total experience at that particular company and then giving slightly more weight to experience at that particular company to reward people who’ve stayed a long time but not completely penalize people who have valid experience elsewhere.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I’m actually more surprised to hear that there are companies who only give you “new hire” vacation, independent of your job level and past experience. My company and competitors in our field account for past experience, although it’s not always a one-for-one thing as the total benefits offered vary.

            Are you talking about education? I’m curious which fields are like that. I could see it in fields that typically have lower entry barriers, like retail or maybe call centers, but we couldn’t get senior people in the door if we did that here.

          2. hermit crab*

            I’ve seen it both ways. I just got a verbal offer from a place that is offering me five weeks plus holidays and I am flabbergasted (in a good way, of course). I was ready to negotiate because I spent the past 10 years crawling up to 4 weeks at my current organization and didn’t want to go back down to 2 weeks, but it turns out my offer package is based on total experience. They’re also offering to pay me what I am worth (rather than what I got up to after 10 years of small raises) but that is less relevant to the current discussion. :)

        2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          My current employer does this too (counts overall experience rather than tenure at the organization to calculate vacation time), and it’s life-changing. I can’t imagine going back to the crappy amounts of vacation nearly every other organization expects you to start with.

          1. the gold digger*

            I was kind of insulted to get my formal offer letter for my current job. I have 20? (need to count) years of experience and they gave me the same offer letter they would give to a new hire just graduating from college.

            I told the hiring manager (who is now my boss) that I wanted four weeks, double what the company offers new hires. I got three weeks of vacation and five personal days (everyone gets five personal days), so I considered us even.

            For my new co-worker, who is also an experienced hire, I convinced him to give her the three weeks as well, even though she hadn’t asked. Although he is a great boss in almost every other way, he is a little bit too company man-ish with some things. He said people need to earn vacation. I replied that if he wants to attract and keep good people, he needs to act like he is happy to have them.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I didn’t get my extra week when I started at my current company. I had just hit 5 yrs and was due to bump from 2 weeks to 3 weeks at FirstJob. The new company only gave me 2 weeks, even though I asked.

      I would ask for what you would be getting if you had been at the NewJob for your entire career, but I guess I would not think they are being unreasonable if they started you at their 5 yr level if you’re barely at 10 yrs. I consider some of that just the price of changing jobs. I wouldn’t trade it for salary myself, unless the company paid you unused PTO at the end of the year. 4 weeks + sick + holidays is a lot of time off, and it may be hard to get it approved. (I’d still try to negotiate the PTO I wanted, but I’d want salary and PTO.)

    1. gecko*

      Check out the link in the audio player! It takes you to a summary, which is a transcript with minor edits to the answers, and shortened questions.

  5. Bookworm*

    I had a situation that somewhat combined the last two situations: boss never wanted me to take time off around Christmas. First year I could somewhat understand since I waited a little later (trying to make sure plane tickets were set plus schedule change due to a relative finishing school) to confirm so I offered a trade-off where I’d work part of the time and boss could finish up (and given the time of the year and the schedule it was very light work for him). The following year I made sure to take less time off and to let them know much sooner. Boss still wasn’t happy about it (he said it was because he wasn’t sure if he could get coverage, ie he didn’t want to cover) and looped in his boss on a CC’ed email.

    I was glad to find the Higher Boss okay’ed it, and it probably helped that I was one of the first, if not THE first person to request the time around Christmas off that year. It was a little annoying because I had been consistent otherwise: I never took any other holiday off except maybe the occasional hour or two for appointments and such because our system was X amount of hours worked = 1 hour of vacation.

    I liked my supervisor otherwise and this resolved itself when the client ended their contract and I no longer worked with that particular supervisor anyway.

  6. Getting out ASAP*

    My current Hell Job has a lot of problems (obviously), but one thing they do right is a reasonable step-up in PTO. Starting employees get the annual equivalent of two weeks (accruing a little bit every pay period), but after you’ve been here four years, that accrual amounts to four weeks a year. This includes sick leave and personal time, not just vacation, but it’s still pretty generous and the senior management very much has a “this is something we provide to keep you mentally and physically healthy, so take it if you need it” philosophy.

    It’s not enough to make me want to stay, given all the OTHER ways they nickel and dime the employees and the overall shitty treatment of everyone but a few special pet employees, but it’s kept me here longer than I would have stayed otherwise.

  7. Earthwalker*

    It was so great to hear Alison’s voice on the radio while driving home this weekend! I had two questions though, if anyone knows. 1) How does it work when a stellar job candidate negotiates a week more vacation than the norm? I am imagining the office drama when others find out that Stella gets four weeks while the rest get three, even if the rest are a bunch of lazy know-nothings. 2) How do you deal with asking well in advance to schedule a week of your due vacation in the sort of office where it’s common for employees to say loudly in the boss’s hearing, “You’re getting vacation? Must be nice! I haven’t had a real vacation in years! I lost three weeks of vacation last year!” because they believe (maybe with some justification) that people who take vacation are the first to go in a corporate downsizing?

    1. ZuZus Petals*

      I find that just being really unapologetic and matter of fact about it helps. “You have more vacation time then us!” “I don’t know about other people’s PTO packages, but I negotiated my time off when I got my job offer.” Same thing for people who give you a hard time “Must be nice!” “Yes, I’m really looking forward to it, I’ve always wanted to go to Timbuktu.” Being honest but disengaged from the drama makes life a lot easier!

  8. Valegro*

    I’m negotiating a job offer as an experienced professional with almost 10 years in the field. Vacation time tends to be stingy, but the new job told me their policy was none the first year and one week the second. I’m the first professional of my level that they’ve hired as it’s a very small business. I had to make it clear that I would not accept a position with no vacation. I got one week which is still ridiculous, but my current job is hell and this comes with a raise and fewer hours.

  9. Allison*

    I’m really glad to be at a company where the vacation packages get bigger the longer you’re here. I only get two weeks now, and it’s fair but a bit of a squeeze, but after two years it goes up to three weeks, which I’m looking forward to, and I think some people get four but that might just be for executives. It’s a nice incentive to stick around, even though I know some places offer three weeks up front.

    Now, I’m about to go away for a week, but I told my boss that if some major project pops up and she needs me to do stuff in the beginning of the week, I’m fine sticking around Monday and possibly Tuesday to make sure I don’t come back to everything on fire. I’ll also have my laptop to check emails. Does anyone have advice for enforcing that boundary though? I want people to really understand that my flexibility is for emergencies, like “this executive really needs this thing ASAP and we can’t make him wait until next week!” not “hey uh I could use some help if you have time” requests.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I highly, highly recommend that you do not take your laptop with you. Did they ask you to? Not that it would be ok if they asked, but if you’re not expected to work on vacation, don’t even make it a possibility that you could do work on vacation.

    2. alice*

      Unless you work at a hospital, there are no emergencies. My current boss maintains this sentiment. If something goes horribly wrong, at the end of the day, no one has died. They can live without you for a week.

    3. Birch*

      You have to set the boundary on your end. Email is like snail mail these days–it is sent according to the convenience of the sender, not the receiver. So if you say “I’ll be able to be contacted for emergencies,” then only answer the emails that are actual emergencies.

      Of course, that’s totally voluntary anyway and there’s a case to be made about being unreachable.

  10. BlueWolf*

    I previously worked in a small business as an hourly employee with no paid time off. However, I also had some schedule flexibility so I would tend to work extra hours before and/or after time off to make up for it. Now at my new (much larger) company, we have pretty generous standard benefits. Our leave is all in one bucket, but we get 22 days, a floating holiday, and most of the major national holidays. It’s not ideal for people who may be sick a lot, but I guess if you don’t get sick it is pretty good. I didn’t even use all my leave last year, so some of it rolled over to this year. I figure I’ll keep saving a bit each year to save up for a longer vacation if I want.

  11. Lia*

    My only caveat is if you settle for more leave rather than more salary, ensure you can take it. My ex took a lower-paying job that gave him 4 weeks of annual leave rather than the standard 2 as a way to entice him, and he never did get to take the full amount annually. As they did not roll leave over, he lost out on a substantial amount of time during his tenure.

  12. ZuZus Petals*

    I’ve successfully negotiated vacation time twice. I was laid off from a company where I had 3 weeks vacation. When I received a new job offer, it was for 2 weeks vacation and a starting salary that was $7k less then my last job. They wouldn’t budge on the salary, but gave me the extra week vacation no problem. My boss constantly gave me a hard time because I had negotiated that extra week with HR. When I left that company (see: awful boss) my next job offered me their standard 2 weeks. I asked for three, and we ended up doing a crazy deal where I got, I think, 11.5 days the first year, 13 the second, and then I was on the company schedule of three years vacation time after 2 years of tenure (Plus 5 days PTO).

    On the plus side, I just started a new job that has standard 23 PTO days right away, plus you can carry over 40 hours, which none of my past jobs have allowed. I don’t even know what to do with all this time!

  13. Nacho*

    PTO is one of the reasons I’m hesitant to leave my current job. It’s got a lot of problems, but we get 20 days PTO a year plus 7 bank holidays (which we can choose to take 8 hours extra pay or 8 hours extra PTO if we have to work during), which certainly helps.

  14. Vacay Yay*

    I find it fascinating how often jobs want your years of experience, then start you out on year 1 for PTO. I was pursued by another hospital that was not flexible at all – and it would have been 2 weeks LESS vacation, with me having to work 10 years to get up to what I had now. When I declined based on that, they were astounded (which was kind of funny in an odd way). Experience may get more pay, and that also does not mean simply more pay can ignore the other benefits. I am not interested in working my “way up” to the current level of vacation and it actually was somewhat insulting to want my level of experience and offer that (the salary was standard – not anywhere near amazing). The irony is, that hospital bemoans having trouble getting good people. Hmmmm, wonder why they don’t make changes (and I am by far not the only one who gave them the feedback – “you need to be flexible with your PTO!” In the world of PTO (where PTO includes sick time) it is even more important to fight for it because you never know medically if you need it. One operation (think appendicitis) and you might be out for several weeks.

    1. KLCDA*

      Right! I used to work in provincial government and I recall my manager being able to negotiate for more vacation given her experience (helped that her role was out of scope, I don’t think you could really negotiate if it were in the union?) She was only 28 or so, but she had worked hard and had high-level roles outside of government. It makes sense to me. Imagine hiring an executive who’s worked for 30 years and who presumably will be of great benefit to your organization and giving them 2 weeks.

  15. Kay*

    I feel like #1 is something I do when a task I’m assigned runs into roadblocks or it takes longer than I was expecting so I kind of inform my superior of progress as I go every now and then to assure them I haven’t forgotten or put it on the back burner. Maybe that’s what Amy’s aiming for and missing the mark?

  16. Specialk9*

    If a company told me they need a week, maybe a month, off for moose season, they’d better be the only company who can do that exact thing. I would just mentally push them into the uh no category otherwise. Unless they had a contingency plan to cover that month, in which case, ok.

  17. Nana*

    Working for a Jewish non-profit…the office closed at 3PM every Friday (so people could get home in time for sundown start of Sabbath…even in summer). Same with the days before major holidays, with two days off for some (and four for Passover — first two and last two). NO adjustment if holidays fell on the weekend. But one year, I counted 40 ‘extra’ days. Especially nice for the non-Jewish employees, who had no religious obligations on those days.

  18. OP: I need a vacation!*

    How fun to see a link to my original letter! I was the one wanted to request a rather long vacation this year but my boss is too hard on the temp staff.

    My issue resolved itself! My Beloved Old Boss retired on Friday, April 6. I put together a wonderful party (he didn’t want one, but I’m pretty persuasive) and I cried. He actually hugged me. :)

    New Boss is a Specialist Engineer almost ten years my junior. I know her work and have enormous respect for her. I assisted her on some of her projects over the years so she has confidence in my capabilities.

    New Boss immediately reallocated a few of my responsibilities which allowed me to take on different, unique, challenges. As before, I am the only person permitted to access the applications BUT I discovered I can pre-schedule two of the most important reports so I won’t cause any major blips while I take my THREE weeks off. :)

    FYI – I had this past week off and New Boss is actually halfway through two weeks of vacation herself and has two more scheduled for the beginning of August. I think this is looking up. ;)

    1. BeenThere*

      What a great update! And good for you for hanging in there. My experience with a similar boss is in the post just below yours. They are characters, aren’t they? But I loved mine too! The company was really never the same once he retired… which is why I left.

  19. BeenThere*

    I once worked for a guy who everyone said was demanding. I was even forewarned by the agency before I went into the position (which I thought was kind of in appropriate). Turns out he just liked things the way he liked them. Because I like structure, this worked out great for me and we got along famously! He retired so when I left, there was no issue of someone filling my shoes. They weren’t big shoes, just a certain cut. LOL

  20. The Expendable Redshirt*

    I applied to work at a Jewish non-profit years ago. They also closed at 3:00pm every Friday for Sabbath. Every so often, I feel wistful that I didn’t get to experience the culture.

  21. KLCDA*

    I’m so fortunate to be where I’m at, although here in Canada I think we generally have more generous vacation policies than the States? I think it’d be rare to find a professional job here where you started with less than 3 weeks off. My partner works 8-5 and gets 5 weeks vacation since he’s been with the company 10 years, plus an earned day off every 2 weeks. I work 37.5 hours at a nonprofit and receive 3 weeks, I think 4 in another year or two (I’ve been here 1.5 years). However, where I work we support major events that are between 10- and 21- day offsite commitments (and LONG hours), and with at least one of those events a year plus associated offsite meetings and travel, we get a lot of overtime hours (as opposed to receiving paid time and a half for that OT which is technically labour law here, but untenable as a nonprofit. I’d rather have the time though). We’re also closed during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, and not required to use vacation time. All told, I think I’ll be out of the office for 6 or so weeks this year. It’s AWESOME. Ha, I think it helps that my coworker and boss are both nearing retirement and really appreciate a healthy work-life balance. I hope this isn’t bragging, I really thank my lucky stars all the time because I’m passionate about what I do, to boot!

    I previously worked at the Canadian office of an American-owned company (it actually started in Canada, then was acquired) and was a bit envious of my American coworkers’ unlimited vacation, but learned it was sort of a catch-22 — as it seems to be in most startups, where rarely if ever will employees take more than a few weeks off for various reasons (team culture, wanting to seem irreplaceable, etc.) I’m sure the Canadian employees generally ended up taking more time off — having those 3 weeks available means that you’ll tend to actually take them.

Comments are closed.