how to ask for more vacation time

If you’re like most Americans, you don’t get nearly enough vacation time from your employer. The average American worker gets only ten paid vacation days after a year of employment (plus, generally, federal holidays and paid sick leave). That’s pretty paltry, especially compared with time-off norms in other industrialized countries. What you may not realize, though, is that you can often negotiate more vacation time for yourself — either as part of the job-offer negotiation process, when you’re first being hired, or later on after you’ve been on the job for a while. Here’s everything to know about how to ask for more vacation time.

How to negotiate more vacation as part of a job offer

The easiest time to negotiate for pretty much anything — more money, more vacation time, working remotely one day a week, or so forth — is when you’re originally negotiating your job offer. When a company has decided they want to hire you and is in the process of wooing you, but you haven’t accepted their offer yet, they’re often more open to accommodating your requests than they will be later. There are limits to that, of course — if you ask for too much or for something wildly outside the norms in your field, you risk turning them off or seeming out of touch. But asking for a bit more vacation time than the offer originally includes is (a) something that people do and (b) a request that’s often granted.

The easiest way to get more vacation time included in your offer is to compare the offer to the vacation time you’re getting at your current job and asking if the new employer can match it. For example, you could say, “Right now I get four weeks of vacation a year, so two weeks would be a pretty big step back for me. Would you be able to do four weeks to match what I have currently?” This is a particularly common request from people in mid-level and senior roles, who have worked their way up to a higher amount of vacation time at previous jobs and don’t want to start at the bottom again.

Or, if the new company will increase your vacation time the longer you’re there (for example, starting people at two weeks a year but offering three weeks once you’ve worked there three years), you can ask to start off at the higher level: “I know you increase people to three weeks of vacation after three years. Given the experience I’m bringing, would you be able to start me at three weeks right away?”

You can also suggest more vacation time if the employer is unable to agree to something else you’ve requested during negotiations. For example, if they didn’t agree to your request to increase the salary, you might say, “Would you be able to do an additional week of vacation instead? I’d be glad to accept if you can do that.” (That last sentence can be helpful incentive — it’s telling them that you can both wrap up negotiations right now if they’ll say yes to it.)

Of course, the employer may not agree; some companies have rigid rules about how much vacation time they’ll offer and won’t budge from that. But it’s a very normal and reasonable thing to ask about, and an employer shouldn’t have a problem with you raising the question.

How to negotiate more vacation time at your current job

In many ways, asking for more vacation at your current job is similar to asking for a raise. Since you’re asking for a change to your compensation package, you should wait until you’ve been at the job for at least a year, and you should be in excellent standing; this isn’t a request you can make unless your manager is thrilled with your work. But if you meet both of those conditions, you can try meeting with your boss and making the request.

It’s easiest to tie it to performance evaluations or salary reviews, because that gives you a natural opening where you and your boss are both already reflecting on and discussing your performance. In that context, you could say something like, “One thing that would keep me really happy here is if we were able to increase the amount of vacation time I receive each year. Would you be open to giving me an additional week of vacation per year in recognition of the work I’ve been doing?”

If you suspect this will be a no-go for your manager, your chances of success may be better if you ask for more vacation time in lieu of a raise that year. That’s often an easier thing for an employer to agree to, since you’ll be saving them money.

It’s also worth researching how much vacation time other employers in your field are offering. Your employer might be much more willing to grant your request if they know that their competitors are offering more paid vacation than they are.

Get it in writing

If you do get an employer to agree to give you more vacation time, make sure you get that agreement in writing. This doesn’t need to be a formal contract — and in the U.S., most likely won’t be, since most U.S. workers don’t have employment contracts but just something that memorializes what was agreed to in case there’s any question about it later. If you don’t put it in writing and then your manager or HR person leaves, the next person won’t have any record of the agreement. Plus, with nothing in writing, there’s a higher risk of genuine mistakes or misunderstandings, like someone forgetting a year from now what your agreement was.

If the employer doesn’t offer anything in writing, you can simply send an email saying something like, “I wanted to summarize our conversation earlier, agreeing that effective this month, I’ll begin accruing four weeks of vacation time per calendar year. Thanks for working with me on this!”

I originally published this at New York Magazine.

{ 103 comments… read them below }

  1. Aurora Leigh*

    I half wamt to try this, but everyone else in my dept (including my boss) had to work 5 years to get a 2nd week of vacation. Would it be out of touch to ask at my next performance review if I could get 2 weeks now?

    I’m a star performer in my dept and the go to for special projects. No one has gotten a raise in the last 7 years, as the company is struggling financially. I sort of doubt it (or I) will stick around long enough for me to hit the 5 year mark.

    1. Cordoba*

      It doesn’t seem out of touch to me.

      Nobody’s gotten a raise in the better part of a decade, so the employer should be open to ways to sweeten the pot that don’t directly cost them money.

      The correct point of comparison is not “what do other people at this company get?” but rather “what would Aurora Leigh get if she took a similar role at another employer?”.

      If your boss views this request as being “out of touch” who cares? Sounds like you are very well regarded and this job is going to be a shorter-term thing anyway. Worst case she says no and you move on in essentially the same situation you’re in now.

    2. ZuZu*

      Yikes, after 5 years you only get 2 weeks? Definitely ask. They’re never going to keep strong performers with those limited benefits (and lack of raises!) You can preface your ask by saying you know it’s not the standard schedule if you’re afraid of being seen as out of touch, but honestly their benefit offerings are out of touch with most companies, and they should be aware of it!

      1. Aurora Leigh*

        Yeah . . . everybody gets 9 days of PTO, for sick time or appts or whatever, which can be taken hourly, and is a separate pot from vacation time, so that makes it a little better.

        But I’d like to take a weeklong trip next year so . . .

    3. RJ the Newbie*

      I feel your pain, AL. I was at a similar place in the early aughts and it was horrible. My industry was still recovering from the loss of the dot.coms and then came 9/11. I was stuck there for another 4 years.

    4. Greg NY*

      You lose absolutely nothing by trying. Sometimes company policies are put in place and they aren’t changed (or even pushed back on) out of complacency. You can be the one to raise the issue, and it will put the onus on them to deny your request and explain exactly why. Like most other negotiations, this is a matter of the kind of leverage you have, and your performance gives you that leverage. If the company really can’t afford it, just like they can’t afford a raise for you, you may have a simple decision to stay or get out.

    5. Kes*

      Sounds like it’s worth trying, especially if you frame it as a replacement for the raise they aren’t able to give you.

    6. BRR*

      It’s possibly worth a shot. There is a certain type of manager who is willing to go to bat for you and since raises don’t seem likely, some places might make exceptions for vacation time.

  2. Stephanie*

    I tried this when I got the offer for my current job! Didn’t work (I think CurrentJob wasn’t really taking any counteroffers), but it was worth the shot.

  3. Sandman*

    This is one of my biggest concerns about re-entering the workforce. My husband has over five weeks of vacation per year at this point and we want to be able to do fun stuff with our kids while they’re still home, but it’s pretty inconceivable that I’d get anything close to that going back. I’m really excited to get back to work and have an all-in kind of personality, so it’s not about not wanting to work – I just want to have a good life alongside work. It’s a quandary.

    1. Clisby Williams*

      Have you considered re-entering as a temp/contractor? I worked for years as an hourly-paid contractor with no paid time off (my husband’s benefits covered health care). I often took 5 or 6 weeks of unpaid leave a year. As long as it wasn’t during some crunch time for a big project, the employer didn’t mind; they weren’t having to pay me to be gone.

      1. DreamingInPurple*

        I’m guessing the ability to take unpaid time off may be field-specific, because I’ve never worked anywhere that allowed nearly that much. A lot of companies would unfortunately just see that as a sign that they could hire someone part-time/seasonally or cut the position.

        1. Clisby Williams*

          That’s why companies hire contractors – easy to cut them loose. Doesn’t work for everybody. If I had needed to be the one providing benefits, it wouldn’t have worked for me.

      2. fortunate*

        my dad is currently a contractor and one of the pros has been that his supervisor lets him take as much unpaid time as he wants – as long as he promises to come back. :) my parents have been able to take a number of trips (both planned and unplanned – both of their parents had health issues that they needed time off to help with this year) and my parents can evaluate the lost income when making decisions (they are fortunate enough, that when my dad was laid off in spring 2017, they learned that they *don’t* need two full-time salaries to get by).

      3. Sandman*

        I’ve been considering if there’s a way I could do that well. I’m taking a class right now that I’m hoping will beef up my bona fides for that kind of work.

    2. HS Teacher*

      We have a lot of parents who work in our schools. Some of the staff gets the same days off as teachers do. I don’t know your skill set but a school admin position could be a good idea for you.

      1. Sandman*

        That’s a good thought – it’s ideal schedule-wise. My brain doesn’t have the natural detail-orientation that makes for a really great admin, but I do keep my eye on a local university that has some positions that are pegged to the school year. (Which reminds me that it’s about time to check for open positions there again, so thanks for the reminder!)

  4. Lia*

    I advise against it, UNLESS you can guarantee you’ll be able to take it or get it paid out if not, but that’s my personal experience. Those I have known who got it were rarely able to take the whole amount given. Colleague worked 10 years at a place, was given 4 weeks annually as part of his hiring package, and never was able to take more than 2 weeks in a year (interestingly, the base amount) without severe hassles.

    Now, negotiating things like flexible work days/times, such as 4 10 hour days, working from home, or the like, are, again in my experience, benefits that tend to have more success.

    1. MatKnifeNinja*

      My sister has worked in the same company for 25 years with 6 weeks vacation (no pay out). She’s never been able to get more than 3 weeks off without an immense amount of hassle. Like the higher ups being majorly pissed off about it. They won’t let her take three day weekends to get at least some of the days off.

      I like your alternatives better. At least you can immediately put them to use.

      1. Greg NY*

        And that’s one of the major problems here. It’s why increased paid vacation at specific years of service milestones is often a red herring.

    2. BurnOutCandidate*

      I’ve reached the four week level, and, frankly, I struggle to take even five days (the minimum required to cash out the remainder) due to chronic understaffing.

      How understaffed? My job used to be split among four people. One was reassigned, one left the company, and one was fired. The first wasn’t replaced, the second wasn’t replaced, and the third wasn’t replaced. I’m burnt out (hence the username), I took one vacation day recently and got guilt-tripped by other managers and my department director, when pushed to describe how I feel about work I use words like “drowning” and “despair,” and I can’t tell if I’m depressed because I’m mentally exhausted or mentally exhausted because I’m depressed.

      Fun times!

  5. Persimmons*

    My company recently introduced “pay to play” time off, which they used to kill requests for more vacation during new hire negotiations. “Oh, if you’re not happy with our policy, you can buy more time.”

    It’s really freaking expensive, too. I don’t quite understand the equation, but it costs more than I earn (gross) in a day to buy a day off.

      1. Jaybeetee*

        I think the way it works in the US is that it’s legal unless it’s specifically *illegal*. That is, if there’s no law on the books saying, “Employers cannot ‘sell’ additional leave to employees” or somesuch, then it’s legal.

    1. MatKnifeNinja*

      The hospital I worked at started the buy vacation days in the 1980s, and still does it.

      New hires get 7 days vacation until 5 years. Then it’s two weeks. Cost was slightly more than you gross per day.

      People who could really use it, could never afford it.

    2. H.C.*

      I’m in my employer’s “buy PTO” program (up to 20 days on the top of the standard 10); however, the purchased days come out of my benefit allowance & any unused remainder is reimbursed back to me at the end of the year, so I don’t mind having that kind of paid leave flexibility.

    3. H.C.*

      also, RE: “I don’t quite understand the equation, but it costs more than I earn (gross) in a day to buy a day off.” – that may be because you’re buying a day’s worth of total compensation (salary + benefits).

      Hopefully it gets reimbursed if you don’t wound up using it!

  6. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

    I think negotiating vacation time is one of the most difficult things to do, and I’ve found it to be almost impossible. The few times I’ve tried an employer has been willing to provide additional compensation, but not more time off. To me this is one of those things that is really only negotiable if you are very senior and a rock star.

    In fact, I think it’s so challenging that I think people need to know that 95% of the time you will be unsuccessful.

    1. Greg NY*

      This is a sign of an employer that needs people in the office all the time and will probably be a stickler for medical time off as well. If they are willing to pay more but not allow additional time off, that tells you a lot. Their staffing is too lean.

      1. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

        Honestly, the places I’ve tried this with don’t have issues with giving time off for medical issues. It’s more a case of them having a specific policy and them wanting to stick to it.

        My current employer would never negotiate PTO benefits for anyone. However, they are very flexible with people who need time off for medical stuff, etc. Because generally maternity/paternity leave, extended medical leave, is a few times in a lifetime issue, not something that occurs every year.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          This, exactly. HR has hundreds of employees to keep track of and a pretty lean staff, and I can’t imagine the headaches that they’d have to do tracking who has what level of leave. And, frankly, given the asinine things I’ve seen people go to HR over, I can see why they don’t want to get, “Jane gets 20 vacation days, and I only get 15!” ad nauseum.

          My employer offers pretty generous leave (including months of paid parental leave) + federal holidays + a comp day policy for extenuating circumstances, but it’s set in stone. Medical issues are handled by the book, and managers are trained on appropriate handling. The FMLA request process is documented, straightforward, and administered by a very competent person. They will not negotiate additional vacation days as part of a compensation package.

        2. Camellia*

          Yes, came here to save this. Nowadays it’s a policy, plugged into the system, and shocked looks abound if anyone even suggests such a thing. I hear about this negotiation tactic a lot and it may have worked well in the past but just doesn’t seem like something to do these days.

        3. designbot*

          That’s been my experience as well. They give me a staunch “But this is our POLICY” as though it’s some holy book that they’ll die if they deviate from. I know my current HR tends to be afraid of comparisons and benefit creep, when people start going “well why does so-and-so get this and I don’t?” and vacations are so much more visible than salary.

    2. Neela*

      I’ve done it successfully at my last two jobs. At my current job I was negotiated coming in at 4 weeks which is what I’d had in the job I was leaving from. I know others here have done it as well. I don’t know what you’re basing 95% on but it doesn’t match my experience at all….

    3. Lil Fidget*

      I have heard of people negotiating to be in a higher category – so, they get what senior staff gets, or they get what a two year employee would get instead of an entry level category. I have never heard of anyone negotiating a successful vacation amount that is more than what the company offers. In part, the company doesn’t want to have a different time sheet calculation for just one person.

    4. zora*

      I don’t think that is universally true, so I’d push back on you phrasing it like it is.

      In my experience in nonprofits for most of my career, getting additional vacation was extremely common and negotiating for it was successful a majority of the time. Not just for me, but I heard this from many colleagues in that sector. It was something nonprofits could do to offset the lower salaries.

      Maybe you could provide more information about the industry, or types of companies you have worked in where this has not been successful, rather than painting it as a universal thing across the working world.

  7. Anonymosity*

    I doubt this would work for lower-level jobs. However, I’m willing to try the “Given the experience I’m bringing” gambit.

    Making someone work for five years for three weeks of vacation is insane. I think they put this on entry-level positions because most people in those jobs either leave or move up long before they reach the five-year mark; therefore, they don’t have to do it. I’m going on the fact that I have seen the same exact jobs at the same exact companies posted multiple times over the last two years and they’re the same ones I saw in 2012 the last time I was job hunting. There is very little growth here, but if those jobs were any good, that wouldn’t happen, since people here tend to stay in the same job forever if they find something decent.

    I have friends in Europe who are always astonished that we get so little holiday time in the States. One friend from France called it “barbaric.”

    1. Rebecca*

      I agree, it is barbaric. My current company’s structure is this:

      After 1 year, 10 days vacation.
      After 15 years, 15 days vacation.
      After 20 years, 20 days vacation.

      Everyone also gets 5 PTO or sick days. All of it is use it or lose it. And yes, you read that right. You have to work 15 years to get 15 days vacation. We have 6 paid holidays. The best part is, you are encouraged “not” to take PTO unless you’re truly sick or need medical attention. I use it anyway, regardless.

      I’m lucky because my previous company was purchased by my current company, and our management at the time was able to obtain grandfathered vacation days for us, so I have 20 vacation days plus 5 PTO. I wish I had more, but basically 5 weeks here is the most I can expect. And I’m still way under the 20 year mark.

      I’d ask for more time in lieu of a raise but since we don’t get raises either…

      1. Greg NY*

        Your last sentence is where it bears asking why you’re still there. Do you truly have no other options or is this employer great in other ways? Because when both money and time off are lacking, it’s tough to make up for it.

        1. Rebecca*

          Rural area, very few other options (unless at age 55 I want to get a warehouse job making less money, and even less vacation time, and as a bonus, be on my feet for 12 hours a day). And I’m a “short timer”, in my mind at least, after I get my Mom squared away, I’m outta here. I’m an only child and my Dad passed away, so right now I’m helping my Mom. Job is close, no overtime, set hours, and I can do it in my sleep.

      2. Etanabird12*

        I once worked at a Director level position that provided 22 days of PTO per year. And those 22 days had to include all days off – vacation, sick and holidays. I have never worked so many holidays at any job. The only ones I really took off were Thanksgiving and Christmas. Very disappointing.

    2. Greg NY*

      The actual reason why this happens is that it’s a relic from the old days where people stayed in their jobs for most or all of their career, and you were rewarded as your tenure increased (just like starting at relatively low pay and being paid quite a bit with high seniority), and no one bothered to change the vacation accrual policy to fit in with modern times.

      That said, there is no reason why anyone should ever start at two weeks of vacation, with the possible exception of the FIRST year only. It doesn’t happen in any other country. I can most definitely understand accruing more PAID vacation (which is a raise of sorts) the longer you are there, but there is no reason that the total number of days off should vary simply by tenure. The needs of the organization and your ability to take any time off varies by position and doesn’t change simply with increased tenure. It’s also why some people even with 4, 5, and 6 weeks of paid vacation can’t seem to take it all off.

      Why there is so little vacation time in the US can be boiled down to three factors:

      1) when there isn’t a law, the lowest common denominator usually prevails; the US has no law, other countries do

      2) employees are more accepting of it because the US has a workaholic culture (it’s people like myself and our fellow commenters on this post that are in the minority)

      3) there is no cross-training and no slack built into US employer staffing, unlike other countries; it’s also why long vacations usually cannot be accommodated without extreme difficulty and why extended medical leave wreaks havoc

      1. Rebecca*

        Point 3, yes!! I really need someone to back me up, but you can’t expect to hire people at $11 or $12/hour, very little time off, no raises, etc. and expect them to stay long term. There are a few of us here who have a lot of experience, but now more than half the staff is brand new. I spent months trying to train someone to back me up, she quit. Next person in queue misses more time than she’s here, and I suspect she’ll be out of here, too. And I know first hand about extended medical leaves – 2 of my coworkers were out for weeks at the same time, serious medical issues, and the workload just wasn’t manageable.

      2. pleaset*

        4) Because health care is so expensive and generally tied to employment, people are much more desperate for jobs than would otherwise be the case.

      3. Akcipitrokulo*

        Point 1 – yep! Absolutely spot on!

        Most companies here (UK) go a little beyond the legal minimum (28 paid holidays for FT, pro-rata for PT) for anything beyond entry level positions to be competitive – but the wanting to compete for good staff has a high legally enforced starting point.

        If law wasn’t there, of course companies wouldn’t offer as much. Why would they?

        (And they didn’t before the legal min was there, and don’t in places where there isn’t one.)

    3. RJ the Newbie*

      Your friend is correct. I switched jobs about a year ago and as I was negotiating PTO, I was being offered 10 days by a top design/architectural firm with no increases for two years. For my job level (20 years experience – senior project accounting/management) that was extremely low and I backed off. They weren’t able to find a steady candidate and still have an open listing.

      My current employer offered me 30 days as part of their initial offer. They are not without their challenges, but at least they respect their employees time off and encourage us to take it!

    4. MatKnifeNinja*

      My RN friends only get a week for 5 years with the option to buy more days off. They all have their BSN, and work at a huge hospital. Floor nurse, OR, ER…doesn’t matter where, they all get the same. 7 days. Supervisors and managers get two weeks starting out. People in the labs (blood bank, pathology…) only get 7. It’s not just burger flippers or call center wranglers who get hosed.

      The only nurses I know who can wrangle more time off work in departments like outpatient cardiology. They work for the doctor/clinic.

    5. Bumble*

      I’m glad someone said this before I did. It seems so rough. Are national holidays in addition, at least?

      UK legal minimum is 5.6 weeks. That can include national holidays, but lots of employers stick them on top.

      When I started my new job, I got 41 days (inc national holidays). So basically 8 weeks.

      What’s weirdest to me is that there doesn’t ever seem to be a push towards more vacation in the US? Like, I never see it mentioned that people are protesting it. Getting more vacation days for yourself through negotiation – great. Getting in for everyone – EVEN BETTER.

      1. NewJobWendy*

        “Like, I never see it mentioned that people are protesting it. Getting more vacation days for yourself through negotiation – great. Getting in for everyone – EVEN BETTER.”

        We don’t have unions in most jobs. I work at a job where the amount of paid time off (it’s all one bank of hours) is fixed according to your salary classification. Some my classification is “Hourly Tier 1” and I get 12 days of PTO a year. My company doesn’t negotiate vacation days with individuals: you get what you get according to your classification. The most I can do at my review is make a pitch to reclassify me to a different tier that has more vacation, even if my rate of pay remains the same.

        And we can protest as a group but since we don’t have a union, that’s just a bunch of individuals all saying the same thing and being told no. We’re protesting – our employer KNOWS we want more PTO (at least more holidays because we get only the barest minimum, 6 per year).

        I work in a factory….but because unions aren’t really a thing in the US anymore, and my company is relatively young, it started off not unionized and has never unionized, and I’d be surprised if it ever did.

        1. Bumble*

          Yes – I see what you’re saying about unions. The anti-union attitude is a bit odd.

          But actually I wasn’t even thinking of unions when I wrote my comment! I was more thinking “why isn’t this part of any party policy/political platform/demands that people make of their representatives”. Or, why isn’t there protesting at the state or federal level.

          But I guess unions do help organise a lot of that stuff too – so you are right!

      2. medium of ballpoint*

        I think a lot of it boils down to insurance coverage. We could agitate for more time off, but if we’re fired in retaliation (and you can be fired at many jobs for no reason at all) then we lose our healthcare coverage. Tying healthcare to employments in the country really makes a mess for everyone. When dying is a legit possible consequence of losing your job, you’ll take all sorts of abuse.

      3. OldJules*

        We currently live in a heavily Dutch migrant population in Midwest. When I bought a week’s vacation at my new job, the veteran employees asked when what I needed the extra vacation for since I’m so new to the organization. The Dutch culture here thinks that you should work hard and not take vacations especially as a newbie. I LOLed and ignored it since I’m a transplant. But it’s so cultural! Like, we have to work hard/many hours to prove something. It’s wild especially when I talk to my older co-worker. I came from a country which has mandated 15 days of sick leave, 20 days of vacation is standard and employer retirement contribution is 13%. People always ask what I was thinking moving to the US.

  8. Loopy*

    Is there any sense that larger companies would be able to do this? I’m wondering if a larger company may not be able to go against the corporate policy once you are already working there?

    Also, so much regret for not doing this at the offer stage. I’m three months in and have no chance of approaching it for at least nine months is feeling pretty painful.

    1. Adalind*

      I had the same thought. With corporate companies I don’t see it working if you’ve already started. They have a specific PTO accrual chart based on years of service, grade level, hours, etc… and I doubt my management would be allowed to mess with that. I could be wrong. Anyone have success with that?

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Nope, and I couldn’t make that work for a candidate now, either. I’ve tended to work for larger but not huge organizations, and negotiation of benefits has been zero – comp only. I assume this would work better with a an organization with comp constraints and more flexibility.

  9. ZuZu*

    I successfully negotiated extra PTO with two job offers. The first was a salary decrease for me, but they had no wiggle room there. They offered me 2 weeks vacation, I asked for 3, and they gave it to me no questions asked.

    When I left that job (horrible boss who constantly complained I got more vacation than other people) the next company offered me 2 weeks. I asked for 3 again. They normally offered 3 weeks vacation after 2 years, so instead I got something like 12 days the first year, 13 the second, and then went on the typical accrual schedule.

    Now I’m at a job where I got 23 PTO days to start, and a manager who is super flexible, so I don’t even know what to do with all my time off. Great problem to have :)

  10. MatKnifeNinja*

    All the jobs I’ve ever work…

    More time off? ——>Here’s the door. Hell, they’d even fight you taking time off for FMLA for medical treatment or caring for a family member in hospice. Never worked food service or retail, so I can’t blame it on that.

    Hats off to all who have decent employers or work in a job that the request wouldn’t be met with hysterical laughter.

    Now it seems benefits=you should be happy you get a check cut. Period.

    1. Greg NY*

      It has to be either an industry that, while not food service or retail, is similar to them in supply and demand, or it has to be a very small town with very few employers. I can’t fathom how else you are stuck in such a rut.

      1. MatKnifeNinja*

        Health care, public school system and private school.

        The worse for any time off or calling on sick was the health care gig. Calling in sick was used against you.

  11. Cait*

    I’ve been so frustrated about this specific issue at my job. When I started, they said it was 2 weeks PTO (combined sick/vacation leave) to begin with, up to 3 weeks at 5 years and up to 4 weeks at 20 years. At my company at the time, I had 2 weeks sick leave and 2 weeks vacation, so I was able to to get them to give me 3 weeks PTO to start.

    Well now I’ve been here over 5 years, and I’m still at 3 weeks PTO. Which was fine for a while, because they’re big on flex time. But since I’ve had a kid, my ability to be flexible has disappeared, and my need for sick time has doubled (once when my kid gets sick, then again when I inevitably catch whatever he has). I’ve brought this up with my manager a few times (often after he compliments my work and asks if there’s anything that would keep me happier), but he always redirects me to HR. Apparently he has no control over how much PTO I get, and HR is now firm about needing 20 years experience for 4 weeks PTO (otherwise it wouldn’t be fair to everyone else). The last time we went through this song and dance, I ended up with a 10% raise because they wouldn’t give me the PTO. But I’m honestly at a point where I don’t want more money, I want more time off.

    It’s even more frustrating that they “can’t make an exception” for me when they have definitely made exceptions in the past. (When I was negotiating maternity leave, HR was firm about 6 weeks until my boss’s boss got scared I was going to leave and told them to give me whatever I wanted. I ended up with 15 weeks unpaid – again the time is more important to me than the money now.)

    1. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

      2 weeks of PTO is horrendous, and 3 week isn’t much better.

      The worse place for PTO I’ve ever worked started everyone off at 3 weeks of PTO, and I left after only 10 months. It wasn’t workable, and I didn’t have kids.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      It’s even more frustrating that they “can’t make an exception” for me when they have definitely made exceptions in the past.

      You’ll find that a lot. Given all the mergers and acquisitions with big companies a lot of people are “grandfathered in” with much better PTO & vacation packages. But it was nipped in the bud and now no more negotiating.

  12. Kristine*

    I tried this once with a job offer. They only had 1 week of vacation per year standard and I asked them for at least 2 weeks since I use the time to care for older family members. They rescinded the offer, not that I cared at that point.

  13. Mbarr*

    This is super interesting. I wish I had thought of this when I applied for my current job. When negotiating with them, I named a figure $10K over what I made previously, and they nearly matched it, but not quite. (I was so surprised they rose so high in salary, I didn’t think to try to argue for vacation to make up for the rest.)

    I also just interviewed with a company for a job that’s probably going to pay less than I make right now (I make $73K, their max is $74K). But maybe I can use this vacation to make the pay drop more palatable! (Assuming they offer me the role…)

  14. MsChanandlerBong*

    I want to try this next year. Now is not a good time because my employer was pretty flexible when I was in the hospital, but I really don’t get enough time. I get 10 days of PTO, but I don’t get any paid holidays or anything. So if I want to spend Thanksgiving with my family, I have to use up a day of my very limited PTO. I ran out of PTO in August due to my illness, so now I can’t take a day off for the rest of the year–I had to work last week while throwing up into a garbage can next to my desk because I couldn’t afford to take an unpaid day off. (I work from home, so don’t worry–I wasn’t being sick in an office in front of people!)

    1. nonegiven*

      With a VPN and laptop, my son has worked from my and other relatives homes so he wouldn’t have to take the whole week off for 2 or 3 PTO days midweek. He is almost 100% remote, though.

      1. MsChanandlerBong*

        I do that, too, but it’s no fun to be stuck in the home office working when everyone else is cooking and watching football. Plus, we’re never busy enough to justify me being logged on all day, so I get more and more resentful as the day goes on.

  15. CDM*

    Also think about future vacation increases.

    My husband successfully negotiated with his previous employer to match the three weeks he was getting at the employer he was leaving. But didn’t think to negotiate stepping up to four weeks at the five year mark (when other employees stepped from two to three). So he would have gone ten years before reaching four weeks there, same as any other hire.

    1. Greg NY*

      Right, I addressed this just below. It’s smarter to ask for an additional one or two weeks in addition to what is normally granted for your tenure, so the advantage doesn’t disappear once you reach a level of service where you’d get that additional time anyway.

  16. Ali G*

    What bugs me is that typically how much vacation you get is tied to your tenure at the company – not your skills, seniority, level, etc. I just accepted a job where I start with 3 weeks vacation, until I hit the 5 year mark with the company. They just hired a new CEO too, so does he only have 3 weeks too?
    I was hired as an executive, and while I get that people should be rewarded for being loyal to the company and staying in their roles for a long time, It also seems weird that my work history, level, and skills have nothing to do with how much time I get off.
    I loved how they did it at my first job – it was based on years (full) of professional work experience, and you got one year if you had a Master or higher degree in a related field. So if I had come to that job with my work history today it would be based on an advanced degree and 14 years of experience.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      Considering full years of professional work experience seems a bit fraught – is it agist because older people will be more likely to qualify for higher benefits levels? What counts as “professional” experience? Does it have to be in-industry or does your receptionist job from college count? Is crediting years for degrees discriminating against staff positions that may not require them?

      HR at my old job was very big on (and very classist about) calculating total years of professional experience rather than relevant work and job performance, and it created disparities in pay and benefits that created real problems and didn’t reflect contributions to the organization’s work. Very good people tended to leave because people they worked circles around got paid/comped more based on years of experience, very bad people were pushed out via normal HR process, and what was left was essentially a mediocre talent pool.

  17. CM*

    Responding to the comments above saying it’s very rare and maybe you shouldn’t even try asking — in my experience, whether you can negotiate for more vacation AND whether you can actually take it are completely workplace-dependent and there are wide variations even within the same industry.

    I always ask for 4 weeks (unless the job already offers it) and I’ve had mixed results, but I’ve never had an employer get offended that I asked. My current employer is inflexible about vacation and immediately said it was non-negotiable. I’ve had other jobs where I was able to get more vacation just by asking.

    About whether people can actually take their vacation, this is a good question to informally ask people who work at the company and are not the hiring manager, after you get an offer (or any time if you know them personally and not just through the interview process).

  18. Greg NY*

    Oh boy, I’m going to have a field day on this. It’s one of my favorite work topics and biggest pet peeves.

    First off, as I mentioned in another comment, the current accrual structures are a relic from decades past and just haven’t been changed to account for modern times. No one should have to start from the bottom more than once in their career barring extenuating circumstances. You don’t start again with a lower salary when you change jobs. If there should be any accrual discrepancy at all, it should be total years of work experience, not tenure at that particular company. But I believe that everyone should start at 4 weeks of vacation a year, just like it’s done in Europe. The US system is at a distinct disadvantage here and it shows.

    Second, you can, and always should, ask for additional vacation time to match that of a longer tenured employee at that company. There are two ways to go about it. One is to ask for your tenure, for vacation purposes, to be set equal to a level that will give you the vacation you want. If it normally would take 10 years of service to get 4 weeks of vacation, ask to be set at 10 years. It’s not an unheard of request, it’s not that different than waiving a waiting period for health insurance or for 401(k) participation. That may be administratively difficult for some employers to do since tenure may also affect other benefits, so the other possibility is to ask for a certain amount of vacation above and beyond what is normally granted for your tenure. If you want to start at 3 weeks and get to 4 weeks within a few years, ask for an additional week on top of the baseline accrual. It’s important that you frame it this way, because if you simply ask for an additional week of vacation to start, the advantage will disappear once you reach a tenure that gives you that week anyway. This works whether you are a new hire or you are already working there and trying to increase your vacation time.

    As a few commenters have mentioned, getting the increased time is only half the battle. You have to be able to actually take it, and take it in a way that’s palatable for you. You don’t want 4 weeks of vacation only to have to take it in the form of 20 four day weeks when you want a long 3-week vacation halfway around the world. Especially if you would be a new hire, it’s essential that you ask about the culture of the place, how vacation is typically taken and whether longtime employees have difficulty getting away. The same applies if vacation is typically taken in one week increments and it would stop you from a consecutive 2 or 3 week vacation.

    1. Trig*

      Your second paragraph is super helpful! Definitely useful to consider the tenure setting rather than the “more vacay right away” thing, which would ultimately set you back.

      I wonder how much wiggle room a massive international company like mine would have though. Our policy is 1-7 years gets 3 weeks, 7-15 gets 4, and 15+ gets 5. (Minimum required by the province is 2). I’m not sure the individual hiring manager would even have any discretion here, though maybe for higher ups it’s more negotiable. But a grunt like me? I’d be so frustrated to work somewhere for 7 years (been here 6 now, so it’s coming up!) and get my 4 weeks only to get laid off (likely) and have to go back to 2 weeks somewhere new! Of course, in the US they’ve gone to the “unlimited” model, so that’s a whole other wrench in the gears.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      “You don’t start again with a lower salary when you change jobs. ”

      Sorry, but that actually can be the case. Especially since the recession in 2008 and for many people over the age of 50. I know many people who were laid off during the recession and have still have not been able to recover the wages they once had, let alone vacation.

      1. NewJobWendy*

        It’s not just the recession. My salary history is all over the map and it’s just due to things like taking a more senior job, but for less salary because the company is smaller than the one I was leaving, or because I made a mid-life career change so my previous 15 years of work experience literally counted for nothing and I had to take an entry level job.

        Many of my friends have also have winding salary histories.

        Not all of us can be so lucky as to follow a strict upward trajectory.

  19. BlueWolf*

    Fortunately, my company has a pretty generous leave policy (although our vacation/sick leave is combined). Everyone starts with 22 days (which increases to 27 days after 3 years), plus floating holiday, and 8 federal holidays. The only challenge is trying to work time off requests around the needs of your department. I think taking two weeks at one time would be a stretch, unless it were a special occasion or something. I usually don’t take more than a week off at a time, and you have to make sure that your time off doesn’t overlap with too many other people.

    1. Greg NY*

      Yup, and that’s the other part of the problem. You really need at least one two week vacation a year just to fully decompress and recharge, one week isn’t enough. And that’s if you only want to rest. If you want to see faraway parts of the world, I don’t see how you can realistically do that even with 4 or 5 weeks of vacation if you can only go for one week at a time. If a department or organization can only afford to have people gone for one week at a time, and only one or two people at a time, they’re going to have a tough time with medical leave. People can successfully take off 4+ weeks a year, and for multiple weeks at a time, in Europe, so it could be done here if people cared to change the system.

  20. NJ Anon*

    Unless you work where I do. Every one starts with 2 weeks and goes to three after five years and that is it. This is for everyone, CEO on down. No exceptions. Fortunately, our other benefits are eccellent and our regional manager does make us use pto for mussung an hour or two here and there.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I ran into a number of companies (all large global or national ones) who had more or less the same story.
      10 days for everyone.

      Of course this is pretty much a LIE. The executive management gets much, much more. It’s just hidden.

  21. Aitch Arr*

    In many states, PTO/vacation is wages, so by asking for more time, employees / candidates ARE asking for money. Another reason for the employer to say no.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I have always struggled when I’m hoping for more money AND more time off. I feel like I can pretty much only get one or the other, but not both, and I have to decide where I’m going to put my negotiating budget. Last time I was screwed by also needing to ask for an upcoming pre-scheduled vacation, so I really couldn’t press on both other points.

  22. Kes*

    It blew my mind in my first job out of university when we got access to the spreadsheet that tracked vacation days (convenient so we’d know how many days we had left) and I found out that a couple of my coworkers had negotiated additional vacation weeks.

    My last job gave 3 weeks (more after several years), current job gives 4, I’m hoping not to have to go back down when I move on since I like vacation and travelling (who doesn’t), so I may have to try this out depending on what I’m offered.

  23. CaitlinM*

    I did this with my newish job. In my old job I worked at a university with very generous time off–over 20 days plus the week of Christmas. New job only offered 10 days. My husband has tons of time (he gets 15 or 20 per year plus has a lot rolled over) and we just had had a baby so I wanted more. Asked for 5 extra days and got them!

  24. MissGirl*

    Anyone negotiated for s set amount of days to be taken when it’s unlimited PTO? I’m interviewing at a company that does this and I’m concerned it translates into very limited PTO.

    1. ZuZu*

      During the interview, ask them how many vacation days on average your would-be peers take each year. This usually gives a better idea of what “unlimited” really means. I interviewed at one place that offered unlimited vacation, but said most people took two weeks. That didn’t make it seem like a huge benefit to me. The other company I interviewed at with unlimited vacation said most people took about 3 weeks, and I talked to one employee who was getting married and said she would end up using 5 weeks for the year. I don’t think you necessarily want to try and negotiate a set number of days, but rather, find out the culture of actually using PTO.

  25. Shakti*

    More vacation time!

    In the mid aughts I worked for a large hospital corporation 40 hours a week. Normally that would mean 2 weeks of PTO would accrue through the year (10 days). But they were cheap bastards and had me on part time status. As a result they did offer to cover any part of the insurance they “offered” [I could “buy it” but at $10/hr it was more expensive than the price of the waiting list for state health insurance which I qualified for] and I only accrued one week of PTO. I had to buy an extra week by taking it out of my paycheck.

    The year my grandmother died, I wanted to use those weeks to go visit her grave (it was in another country and b/c of time zones I’d lose three days just by traveling). They wouldn’t let me add the 3 days of bereavement leave to that time. When I actually tried to take it, they started hemming and hawwing about it even though the manager knew months in advance I’d be asking about it.

    As if 2/3 of the office wasn’t out the entire month of December for the past several years and it didn’t inconvenience the office mightily. Or the fact the office manager took off half the week to be with her kids slowing processes down to a halt didn’t inconvenience people — when she already didn’t know how to operate Outlook.

    I will hate that corporation until the day I turn to dust in my own grave. I will laugh and laugh if that “non profit” gets audited. As it was, I let them enjoy my under-treated allergies.

  26. MissDisplaced*

    You can TRY to negotiate more vacation time in a job offer, but I found you probably won’t be successful. On my last hiring round about a year ago, almost all of the companies (very large national or global companies) were not open to any type of negotiation around vacation/PTO. Most gave 10 days, and that was that, take it or leave it. Most also had a ‘use it or lose it’ policy in place with no rollover of time to the next year (unless required by law).

    It was quite difficult for me, as I was coming from a place where I had 15 days my first year, and I was up to 18 total vacation days. This meant a loss in overall compensation to lose that PTO. I did eventually settle on 10 days but with a increase in salary to compensate for the loss of vacation time. I found the companies were much more willing to negotiate the salary instead of the PTO. Hard to believe! It seems the PTO would cost them less.

    Vacation used to be much easier to negotiate, especially as one went higher up the corporate ladder, but there seems to be a reversal in this process recently to no-negotiation. All I can say is beware and ask lots of questions, because the PTO practice is often misleading as well. (I found I had to work 18 months to get those 10 days).

  27. Salad*

    Thanks for this! I’m starting a new job next week and unfortunately taking a step back on vacation (well, I’m getting the same amount of vacation but losing comp time, which added a few weeks of time off each year in my last position). They wouldn’t negotiate vacation at the start but I’m hoping in a year at my performance review they’ll be more open to it.

  28. NewJobWendy*

    @Bumble: Re: why it’s not something that registering at the political level, I think it’s because we have other fights in general, and even other fights specific to employment issues. The US has no federally mandated parental leave, for example, and even the one federal law that does come into play doesn’t cover everyone all the time. We have a poverty-level federal minimum wage. We have no federally mandated sick time. Our current administration is rolling back employment protections and unions are losing more ground every day. Vacation time is at the bottom of a very long list of Stuff That is Not Good About Working in America.

    At the state and local level, people definitely are fighting for better employment benefits, but it’s mostly focused on minimum wage, sick time, and parental leave. I don’t see vacation time as part of that, again because I think it comes at the bottom of a long list. People are fighting for the things most immediate to their survival and while intellectually we know that leisure time is important to health and well-being, it’s hard to think about leisure time when people are struggling to put a roof over their head and afford life necessities like food, medicine, child care, etc.

  29. flying teapot*

    I had been thinking about this topic lately, and decided it wouldn’t be possible to ask since everything is so set in stone where I work. Then out of nowhere, last week we get a company-wide email stating that starting 2019, all full time staff will begin to accrue 3 weeks vacation instead of 2! I was so surprised, and elated.

    However, that won’t stop me from using some solid AAM advice to ask for a raise/title change next year :)

  30. Sharkie*

    I started my first job that offers me benefits and PTO, so I had no idea what is standard. I think I got really lucky.
    I get 5 days (40 hours) of sick and personal time not matter what, and 2 weeks to start for paid vacation time. Next year I will get 3 weeks paid vacation, and every other year after that (4 years, 6 years etc)I will get an extra week added until I max out at 8 weeks of paid vacation. My company also makes you take at least 3/4 of your paid vacation time to avoid burn out which is pretty nice (my boss and the coworker that trains me have only worked about 4 Fridays since I started in June. They also give you a just under a year of paid leave if you have a child/ have a medical issue no matter what country you are based out of ( the HQ is in Canada).
    Everyone in the company is all in and works their hardest and it shows in our quarterly reports. They also have crazy low turn over (95% of the company has been here 10+ years). I think the “anti burn out” policy is a huge reason why!

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