how to ask for more vacation time

It will come as a surprise to exactly no one that Americans don’t get enough vacation time from their employers. The average American worker in private industry gets only 11 paid vacation days after a year of employment (plus, generally, federal holidays and paid sick leave). That’s awfully stingy compared to how much leave workers in other industrialized counties get.

But a lot of people don’t realize that they can often negotiate more time off, either right up-front when they’re first being hired, or down the road after they’ve been in the job for a while.

At New York Magazine today, I’ve got a guide to how to do it.

{ 225 comments… read them below }

  1. Chairman of the Bored*

    Some employers really are bizarrely adamant about not negotiating time off.

    I was once offered a job by the US branch of a German company; they were willing to throw money at me, but absolutely refused to give me even one additional vacation day.

    An extra $10k? $15k? $30k? Sure thing. But another week of PTO was “not possible”.

    They acted like I was totally unreasonable when I said they could just put me on whatever vacation plan their German employees got.

    We never came to an agreement and I didn’t take the job, they preferred to see me walk than to bend this policy.

    1. Nicosloanica*

      I have encountered this too, and I suspect it comes from the fear that all the other employees would start demanding more leave too if new employees got it – a sure sign they are stiffing their other employees at present, in my opinion. That said, if you use vacation as reward for longevity (two weeks in the first three years, then three weeks until year five, then finally four weeks at five years or whatever), it will definitely irk your longtimers if a newbie comes in and gets “grandfathered in” under the system at their last job, or whatever.

      1. Medium Sized Manager*

        Years ago, we updated our vacation model to allow people to accrue faster, and the more senior folks were definitely irked by it. Everybody is hired with two weeks of vacation, and it went from accruing another week at 5 and 10 years to 1 and 10 years. Anybody who just hit 5 years didn’t benefit from the change, and they were vocal that it was unfair that others benefitted.

        1. Anon in Canada*

          Crab mentality. “If I couldn’t have it then others shouldn’t have it!”

          This is why the idiotic vacation accrual policies of the US and Canada are still in place decades after the idea of “one job for life” became outdated.

          Europeans, Australians and New Zealanders don’t have to “put in their time” at a single company to get decent vacation, and don’t go back to entry level when they change companies.

          One way to placate the longtimers would be to give them a one-time addition to their vacation bank. In this case, if they’d been there for 5-10 years, add 4 weeks to their bank as a one-time retroactive adjustment.

          1. Medium Sized Manager*

            For all of the “at least we aren’t American” griping from Canadians, you would think we’d better align ourselves with other parts of the world instead of the States.

            1. Anon in Canada*

              “Well, we get a bit more than the US!”

              Here’s the thing: most Canadians are not aware that every European country, plus Australia and NZ, guarantees 4 weeks of vacation (a few guarantee 5), and that it’s NOT based on tenure at a single company. Probably due to lack of geographical proximity, and because so few Europeans/Australians/NZers immigrate to Canada (outside Quebec)? (Can anyone wonder why???)

              We’re geographically right next to the US, so obviously that’s what we’re familiar with; and many immigrants to Canada come from Asian countries (e.g. China, Philippines) that are even stingier on vacation than Canada and the US are.

              1. Your Mate in Oz*

                Australia also has long service leave and that complicates the discussion even more. After 10 years we get two months off. That’s a statutory obligation and it is paid out if you leave a job. But it’s a once-off thing that more closely amounts to an extra 0.8 weeks of annual leave every year with a “conditions apply” clause :)


                FWIW I once negotiated an extra two weeks of annual leave a year rather than a pay rise when I got promoted, and my employer hated it. It was different, weird and wrong! I quit before negotiations progressed beyond them asking if they could buy it back from me (my position was “sure, and I can take unpaid leave”)

              2. Violet Rose*

                It’s even more disparate than that: 5 weeks may be the legal minimum in Germany, for example, but everyone I’ve spoken to says that anything under SIX is seen as stingy; I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case in other neighbouring countries as well.

                1. Phryne*

                  I the Netherlands, 4 weeks is the legal minimum, or rather, 4 times you weekly hours per year, which in practical terms you can get 4 weeks off. The reason for this formulation is that about 45% of the population works part time (less than 35 hrs/week). Working part-time has no effect on stuff like health insurance here, most perks stay the same, while stuff like bonusses or other monetary extras just scale down to your fte, so working part-time is not penalised.
                  How much vacation time you get for most jobs is in the collective work agreement, and mostly it is more than the legal minimum.

      2. ecnaseener*

        Eh, it could just be that their system calculates accruals automatically and doesn’t have a built-in way to change someone’s accrual. We can argue that they should invest in the resources necessary to make the system more flexible, but it might not have anything to do with stiffing the employees.

        1. Nea*

          As a contractor, I heard that excuse again and again when signing on to new contracts. “Oh, I know you have x years of experience, but the *system* logs you as a new employee, so you only get the PTO that kids fresh out of school get.”

          Funny how that’s never mentioned before I sign…

          1. Tasha*

            Twice I’ve experienced “the system can’t handle it” problem, but my manger(s) just let me take extra days off the books.

        2. Phryne*

          Of all the bad excuses ‘computer says no’ is about the worst. It means the company is not even willing to admit to themselves it is their choice to stiff their employees.

    2. Sneaky Squirrel*

      I’ve experienced the opposite. Some companies don’t realize how much those extra days of PTO may build up over time, so they’re not willing to throw that $1-2k extra in salary at someone but an extra few days of PTO, sure.

    3. Anon in Canada*

      This. Vacation is a policy, it’s the same across the company and it’s not negotiable.

      This is idiotic.

      1. Chairman of the Bored*

        This is highly dependent on the company, I’ve definitely negotiated additional vacation time at other places.

        1. Anon in Canada*

          Very small companies and nonprofits are more likely to have leeway to negotiate vacation.

          Big corporate companies, no.

          1. TechWorker*

            I think you’d be surprised at what policies big corporate companies are willing to bend for someone they’re really wanting to hire. I agree it’s less likely you’d be able to negotiate it afterwards, but probably not impossible if you have leverage for whatever reason.

            1. Bitte Meddler*

              My most recent job search was last fall. All three finalist were big corporate companies and all three agreed to meet the PTO I had at my then-current job: 18 days (not including company holidays, floating holidays, and sick time).

              The then-current company granted me the extra 8 days at the start of my 2nd year when I realized our performance raises were company-wide COLAs. If I had been a good, quiet Corporate Cog, I would have had to wait until the start of my 5th year to get an additional 5 days, and the start of my 7th year to get an additional 3.

              I was 55 when I negotiated for the additional 8 days. Just because I was new to that company didn’t mean I was new to the workforce. I had paid my dues just like all the people who had been at Then-Current company for 5+ years.

              Companies are being very short-sighted when they think that losing PTO is the thing that will keep good employees from finding better opportunities.

        2. Love to WFH*

          I’ve successfully negotiated an extra week of vacation at a mid-sized company, and at a pretty large one (more than 5,000) employees. One thing to get agreement that increases include your higher starting point. At that company, you normally started at 2 weeks, and went to 3 after a year. I asked for a 3 weeks in my offer. I got it, but after one year, I stayed at 3 instead of increasing to 4.

          My present company was adamantly “no”. There were 3 weeks of PTO (no additional sick days), and 3 floating holidays. I decided that was close enough to 4 weeks of PTO — then they took away the 3 floating holidays the next year.

      2. CL*

        I actually had an HR person tell me that most companies don’t allow negotiating vacation time and I must have been working for small places. Interestingly, I had mostly seen it at a company 4 times the size of where I was working.

    4. Llama Llama*

      I work in payroll and having a different payroll plans is insanely painful. It can happen but requires lots of work and system modification.

      1. Zee*

        But don’t most companies already do that, by having people who have been there longer accrue at a higher rate?

        1. Bitte Meddler*

          Right? Payroll systems should have a field called “PTO Monthly Accrual Rate” and the payroll person enters “0.833 hours” for folks who are only getting two weeks per year, “1.25 hours” for folks who get three weeks per year, etc. Easy peasy.

          1. Llama Llama*

            You would think it would be easy and payroll systems possibly should work that way but that is not how it works. Especially when it’s 100K employees. You may start out at 15 days of PTO but get 20 after two years and only start accruing after 3 months. So the system is not accrue .2 hrs per 1 hour worked but accrue based off of this payroll model. Can there be more than one payroll model? Yes. But it’s becoming an exception based system which is much harder. My company is large and has LOTS of payroll models but if you ask anyone in payroll they would say the fewer the better. And we are not going to create a new one because a random person asked for a different model (we may just add you to an already existing one if it makes sense).

    5. Bast*

      This is so strange. An extra 10k or 15k is surely a whole heck of a lot more than an extra week or two of vacation is worth. You’d think they would be thrilled to offer a non-monetary incentive for someone to join.

      1. Anon in Canada*

        In almost all big companies, vacation time is a POLICY and by definition policies apply to everyone and aren’t up for negotiation. The people doing the hiring probably had zero say on the matter. The orders came from above them.

        Losing a good candidate because of such rigidity should have been a wake up call to the C-suite of this company to stop making vacation a policy, and allow it to be negotiated. Or, they could allow for hiring managers to devise deals in which more money is given and then the employee is allowed to take unpaid leave.

        1. Bast*

          By this same vein though, there usually is some sort of limit when it comes to salary as well, and they are also banded in many large companies. I can see throwing an extra 10k to a really appealing candidate, but 30k? It speaks to having a little more room to move and control of the scenario.

          I have run into deals where someone with experience will come into a company and because they don’t want to pay more, they will offer an extra vacation week early. So, if you typically start with 15 days and get an extra 5 days after 5 years, they will offer the 20 right up front, with the caveat that you are not getting an additional 5 days when you hit 5 years, because you already have it. This doesn’t work in government jobs where no amount of negotiating will get you anywhere, but I have seen it in larger firms, with the understanding you don’t go around bragging about your extra 5 days.

      2. Chairman of the Bored*

        I assume that at least part of it is that somebody being out of the office frequently is generally more visible than their paycheck.

        My colleagues don’t know how much I make unless I tell them. However, they can do the math after I’ve taken my 3rd 2-week block of vacation that year.

    6. UnemployedInGreenland*

      I have noticed that when I’ve worked in the US for Europe or Great Britain based companies there was a definite frostiness if I or anyone else compared the benefits, holidays, etc. between the differing groups. And when I was laid off – very cruelly, just after cancer surgery – from a US job with a Europe based company, they seemed to revel in the fact that I was not protected by any of the European types of employment laws.

    7. SpaceySteph*

      Not with an overseas company, but I also experienced this. Was once told their timekeeping software would just simply not allow it.

    8. Melicious*

      I’ve encountered this too. I asked for more vacation time, making clear that it was more important to me than additional money. Nope. No go. It took real effort to take the irritation out of my response that amounted to “sigh, fine, I guess give me more money then.”

  2. Nicosloanica*

    I wonder how many Americans get all the Federal holidays (I want to say there are 9, plus we get Juneteenth here). If the total is 11, 9 days is quite a significant increase – however, it was only when I moved to the East Coast that I received them all. We only got “the big ones” when I worked in the Midwest.

    1. Lucky*

      Are you trying to say that federal holidays make up for the low amount of vacation that Americans get, compared to the rest of the developed world? Because other countries have those sorts of holidays too, often more.

      1. Chas*

        Yes, the UK has 8 bank holidays (Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday and Easter Monday, the first and last Mondays of May and the last Monday of August) and our minimum amount of leave for full time workers is 20 days + those 8 bank holidays. (I’m lucky and work somewhere that gives full-time staff 30 days + 8 bank holidays + 3 closure days between Christmas and New Year’s, so a total of 41 days off per year)

      2. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Honestly I don’t even count these kinds of holidays as “time off” because they happen one at a time, they’re spread out, and they’re mandated by law (at least where I am, you either get the day off or get paid time-and-a-half, etc.). Vacation is a calculation on top of these dates, not summed with these dates. A three day weekend is nice, but it’s not the same as being able to take a week or two off at a time to recharge.

        1. doreen*

          I wouldn’t exactly count those holidays as “vacation time” but sometimes when comparing one place to another, you have to account for them. For example, my understanding is that in the UK, the minimum amount of leave is 28 days – but the employer is not required to pay employees for holidays so if your job closes on Christmas or you want Good Friday off you have to use leave days and if your job closes for all the holidays you might be left with 20 days to take when you choose. I know jobs that are 24/7 and never close that describe their time off as 4 weeks vacation plus 10 paid holidays but since they never close , you can use the holidays just like vacation days. . When I retired , I was getting 22 vacation days , 12 paid holidays and 5 personal leave days per year. It’s not really a fair comparison to just say 28 vacation days is more than 22 is more than 20.

          1. Anon in Canada*

            I don’t think that’s how the “28 days” in the UK works. AFAIK, they get paid for holidays, it’s just that the “28 days” includes holidays so it’s really 20 vacation days + 8 holidays. Americans and Canadians, OTOH, never include holidays when saying how many days off they get.

            Holidays also aren’t quite the same as vacation for people who live far from their families – if you live too far from your family to visit them over a 3 day weekend, holidays serve no purpose to you, it’s vacation that’s important.

            1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

              doreen was correct about that. There’s no legal recognition (in terms of time off) for “holidays”, the requirement is 5.6 weeks of leave, which works out to 28 days for a 5 day week. Many companies “give you the bank holidays” but what’s really happening is there’s a certain amount of annual leave that the employer forces you to take on that day (e.g. Easter Monday is a mandatory PTO day at many companies). Often the holiday recording systems only show the “non bank holiday” days as the others are already considered allocated, but the legal provision is just the 28 days.

            2. TechWorker*

              The requirement is 28 days of paid leave, which can include bank holidays but doesn’t have to. When people talk about how much holiday they get it is (in my experience of office jobs) usually the number without bank holidays. Eg ‘4 weeks’ == 20 days is the legal minimum, 5 weeks is fairly common in corporate jobs (so 25 days + 8 bank holidays). I am also lucky because where I work we can flex the bank holidays by agreement with your manager – eg work the bank holiday & use it elsewhere. (This is mostly because we work with loads of teams in the US and India, so it’s actually pretty useful if the odd person is working on a U.K. holiday :))

              1. londonedit*

                Yep, where I work it’s 25 days’ holiday *not* including the bank holidays. I’ve never worked anywhere that doesn’t give bank holidays off (that’s more of a retail thing, and usually/often you’ll get paid time-and-a-half or double-time for working on a bank holiday). The vast majority of standard salaried office jobs in the UK will come with 20/25 days’ holiday plus the 8 bank holidays as standard. I don’t ever ‘count’ bank holidays as part of my annual leave allowance because they just come along when they come along, you can’t choose whether or not to take the day off.

                There is often some difference with the way the time between Christmas and New Year is handled – Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day are public holidays, but some companies will close between Christmas and New Year. In my experience of publishing companies, which traditionally close between Christmas and New Year, there are three ways of doing it. In the jobs where I had 20 days’ holiday, you’d usually get the extra 3.5 days for Christmas on top of your annual leave allowance. In companies where I’ve had 25 days’ holiday, you might have to save 3.5 days to cover the shutdown. But where I work now, the office is officially closed from lunchtime on Christmas Eve until January 2nd, and we don’t have to take that out of our annual leave. So effectively we get 25 days plus 8 bank holidays plus 3.5 days over Christmas.

            3. doreen*

              Sorry if I wasn’t clear- yes, the 28 days is really 20 days plus holidays but I’ve heard umpteen people say 28 days is the minimum without mentioning that part. I’m not saying that holidays are always the same as vacation – but they might be. If my employer never closes and gives me 20 days of vacation plus 12 holidays that I can use just as if they were vacation *, that’s no different than giving me 32 days of vacation. Americans don’t include holidays when they are talking about how much vacation they get but when they are talking about comparing two jobs and how much time off each gets, they pretty much include everything

              * The difference usually has to do with a deadline , where I have until Dec 24 2024 to use the leave day I got for working on Christmas 2023.

      3. Chirpy*

        No, but it helps. Actually getting the federal holidays off means you don’t have to use a vacation day to celebrate that holiday.

        the bar is so low in America that it might be underground…

      4. amoeba*

        Switzerland is also really interesting in that respect, because a lot of companies give some additional “bridge days”, which does make for a nice addition! So, when I first came here, I was a bit disappointed because in Germany, 30 days of holiday are common in my fields (I believe the minimum is 25?) and in Switzerland, it was always 25 (minimum is 20). Bank holidays are “equal to Sundays”, so everything’s closed, in both places, so an extra up to 9 days in my canton, depending on when they fall (if it’s a weekend, you’re out of luck).

        But when I started my first industry job, I realised that I get an additional 5 days off, mostly the days before or after bank holidays or the Friday for Thursday holidays, which is actually great! I mean, you cannot chose, obviously, but it generally amounts to some nice long weekends (and when you time your holiday accordingly, you can use that to take two weeks off while taking only 6 days of vacation, and stuff like that…)

    2. StressedButOkay*

      We get all 11 where I currently work and I honestly feel like that’s unusual – I either only got the major ones previously or I got the major ones and some floating holidays that I could pick when to take.

      But they’re honestly so spread out (ugh, we have to wait until the end of Maaaaay) that it doesn’t FEEL like a lot, you know?

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Yep, this. They’re annoyingly spaced. We have to wait until the end of May, and then it’s Memorial Day, Juneteenth, and July 4th back-to-back. I understand the reasons for the timing of each one in isolation, but in the context of the larger calendar, it’s annoying.

        Side note: there are now 12 federal holidays, following Juneteenth’s addition a couple of years ago.

        1. BubbleTea*

          We have a similar issue in the UK with a pile up around Easter, two in May, one in August, then a long time til Christmas.

        2. OldHat*

          When I worked for state government, we did get some additional holidays (or an opportunity to get a comp day for some government agencies). There was an additional January one, plus one each in March, April, June, and August. So it felt like we were in February before we had a normal week in the new year. When they added the August one decades ago, they combined the January one with another one because can’t have taxpayer’s money go to waste by giving paid holidays!?! I think it was a different June one because even this state knew then that keeping the January one and taking way the June that stayed was too much even for them.

          The crankiness when one got lost to the weekend or the January one fell on the third Monday of January really showed how this little thing was some sort of morale booster.

          October seemed left out and we really tried to find something that justified it. Not that it would have happened, but we got nothing other than turn Halloween into a day off holiday. We “found” other candidates in February and December, but nothing in October!

    3. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

      Everywhere I’ve worked (in the private sector) in the Midwest, we’ve gotten 7. My dad worked his entire life in the post office and boy howdy, he can’t wrap his head around how few holidays we get.

      1. Jenny*

        I’ll push back against this. I’m a Federal Employee:

        We get New Years, MLK, President’s Day, Memorial Day, Juneteenth (new), 4th of July, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. So that’s 11.

        When I worked private, I got New Years, MLK, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Friday, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. So that’s 9.

        It’s not as crazy as people want to believe.

        1. Shynosaur*

          I’m also in the Midwest at a nonprofit and we get 7. Glad you’re working someplace where it’s comparable, but 7 vs 11 is crazy enough.

        2. Civil Disobedience*

          In my field (private-sector consulting), generally we only get 6 or 7: NY Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Thanksgiving (I do get Black Friday at my current firm, but that seems to be a bit more rate), Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

          MLK, President’s Day, Juneteenth, Columbus Day and Veterans Day are much more rarer private-sector than public sector in my experience, which is sometimes offset by getting a floating holiday, Christmas Eve or Black Friday.

        3. Bast*

          In my office positions (so, not counting my years in retail and food service where we only closed for mayyybe 2 holidays a year) the days we have always gotten off in every office are: New Years, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Depending on the office, I have also gotten off: MLK Day, Veterans Day, and Columbus Day in SOME offices, but they weren’t givens. It’s very common for the people I know to NOT get Christmas Eve or Black Friday off unless they use PTO. Some jobs are more generous, but most seem to have more or less the same days off.

        4. Breaking Panda News*

          I’ve never worked anywhere that had the day after Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve as a holiday. It’s PTO if you are off. Our more recent owner added MLK day, but for most of my career it was 6 holidays in the midwest.

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            Our place eventually had the day after Christmas or Thanksgiving off, but I had been there ten years before that happened (admittedly, the few people who did show up ate like kings, since we all brought in leftovers).

        5. watermelon fruitcake*

          Counterpoint: as a state gov’t employee, we get 13 holidays. Our union negotiated the day after Thanksgiving, as well as Good Friday (referred to as “spring holiday” for 1A reasons – I’m not Catholic or Christian but it sure makes the stretch between Presidents’ Day and Memorial Day more tolerable).

          When I was in private sector, I got nothing. Allegedly, we got Christmas and New Year’s Days off, but I didn’t last long enough to see it in action. (See also: no vacation days at all for the first year, going up to a whopping ***5*** at your 1-year anniversary.) I will concede this company was probably worse than most, but seeing as there is no such thing as statutory time in any state in the US… I’m sure many other “small businesses” operate the same way.

          You can’t really “push back” against an anecdote with an anecdote. There will always be another anecdote.

      2. Chirpy*

        My job is “good” for retail, and we get 6: New Year’s, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

        We’re also closed on Easter, but it’s unpaid. We close 2 hours early on New Year’s Eve and Christmas Eve (also unpaid).

        1. Bast*

          It’s sad to say that that is pretty good for retail. I used to work retail, and we closed for Easter and Christmas.

        2. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          My last few years at my retail job, we were open on Easter and it was THE BEST. It was literally dead (I think the staff bought snacks and that’s how we had any sales for the day) so we could get *tons* of stuff done. I think one year I ended up resetting half the store’s endcaps. My family doesn’t celebrate Easter, so it wasn’t a hardship to work and I accomplished so much with so little headache, it was really worth it.

    4. Hlao-roo*

      In the companies I’ve worked for the in the US, I’ve generally gotten between 10 and 12 holidays (total–usually some mixture of fixed and floating holidays). The company holidays have never exactly aligned with the 11 US Federal Holidays. I usually work on Junteenth/Columbus Day/Veterans Day and have company holidays on the Friday after Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve.

      1. getaway_grrl*

        I work for a state university and we work Columbus Day and President’s Day, but get Christmas Eve and the day after Thanksgiving off. Juneteenth was recently added to our list of days off.

        A few years ago, our university decided to shut down for a week over Christmas and New Year’s, and they were going to make employees use vacation days for the non-holidays. Our bargaining units quickly put a stop to that idea because it would unfairly penalize new hires who didn’t have enough time accrued.

        My friends in the private sector get Christmas, New Year’s, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and Thanksgiving.

        I’m happy with my vacation accrual. I almost applied for a job elsewhere a couple of years ago, until I found out that my vacation accrual for the first year would drop back to 40 hours. The slightly higher compensation wasn’t worth giving up that much time.

    5. Check cash*

      I get all of these and 30 PTO days plus 3 floating holidays. I work in insurance in the US and shocked what people in other industries get. I will max out at 40 with seniority.

    6. ThatGirl*

      We get eight standard: New Year’s, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving (2 days) and Christmas (2 days) and then 4 more- usually they tack an extra day on to the Fourth or Labor Day or Memorial Day to give us a 4-day weekend and then 2-3 are floating.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Oh, and we have one union shop (manufacturing facility) that gets Juneteenth off because it’s in Cook Co, IL.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Fed contractors are private industry, not fed employees, so their employer decides how many days they get off.

        1. Nea*

          Yes, but I’m answering Nicosloanica’s question with the data that not even people who work (at a remove) for the government get all the government holidays.

          Which can be a way that Fed contractors actually get penalized by their companies, if you think about it, in that their employees are forced to use personal leave to cover federal holidays they cannot work but are not offered as holidays by their employers.

    7. NMitford*

      Literally the only people in the US who MUST be given all of the Federal holidays are employees of the Federal government; for everyone else, it’s up to the employer as to which Federal holidays to honor. My husband is a Fed and I work for a contractor for the Federal government, so we get them all in our house, but I’ve had non-contractor jobs where I didn’t get a lot of them. Veterans Day and Columbus Day aren’t as widely observed. The big accounting firms don’t let anyone take time off during tax season, so no MLK or President’s Day.

    8. Skytext*

      I have NEVER gotten that many holidays off! Even the places I worked that gave them only did the “Big Six” (New Year’s Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas).

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yep — we just get those six, but they’re built into our PTO package, so depending on your specific work/location, you may have the option to work the holiday as a normal work day and save the PTO in your bank for a different day instead. I don’t have a work location that closes (like a provider office) or has specific coverage needs (like a clinical floor), so I frequently work Memorial Day and Christmas Day, because I don’t have any personal plans and they’re close to my month-end so it lets me get some extra work done, and then I have extra vacation days.

    9. Zephy*

      My company gives us time off for the following Federal holidays:
      – New Year’s Day
      – MLK Day*
      – Easter
      – Memorial Day
      – Independence Day
      – Labor Day
      – Veteran’s Day
      – Thanksgiving Day
      – Black Friday*
      – Christmas Eve*
      – Christmas Day
      – New Year’s Eve*

      When the holiday falls on a weekend (like Easter always does), they do a “50/50” split, where half the office is off for the Friday before and half for the Monday after. Everyone gets a 3-day weekend, just not all the same 3 days, and the office doesn’t have to fully close. Holidays that are always on fixed days of the week (so, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving), we do fully close and everyone is off. Black Friday/Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve/MLK Day are also part of this “50/50” scheme – if you work one, you’re off the other.

      We don’t get a day off for President’s Day (instead that’s our annual staff meeting), Juneteenth, or Indigenous Peoples’ Day (fka Columbus Day).

      1. Katrine Fonsmark*

        Easter definitely isn’t a federal holiday. I’ve never heard of anyone in the US getting it as a holiday unless the company follows the stock exchange holiday calendar then they get Good Friday off.

        1. New Mom (of 1 7/9)*

          Black Friday isn’t a federal holiday either (though both my current and previous companies took it off)

    10. Glowworm*

      I’m just now working at my first job that’s ever given all the federal holidays off. My previous jobs were retail and then healthcare administration, and I never got Veterans Day or Presidents’ Day or anything like that.

    11. Decidedly Me*

      We get 10 holidays (9 of the regular ones + day after Thanksgiving; Juneteenth was added in exchange for another federal holiday). Honestly, I hate getting random days like this off. I’d much rather have those days added to PTO and use them as I wish.

    12. I'm just here for the cats!*

      except for when Christmas and new years all happen in the weekend or whatever days you don’t work. My mom’s work gave the half day off on the December 23rd and that was it. So many companies say if your scheduled day off is the holiday you don’t get another day off. I’m glad my job has floating holidays for these reasons.

    13. Also-ADHD*

      I get unlimited time with a minimum (22) plus 11 federal holidays and 3 floating holidays and it feels like I have more time off than I used to teaching (there it was all unpaid and I worked during it half the time). But I work remote so I barely feel I need the time off anyway. I feel like remote first companies tend to have better policies in this area.

    14. Beth Anne*

      Many places do not close for most of the Bank Holidays. Most places only close for the major ones like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Memorial Day, Labor Day and 4th of July. New Years Eve and Day is hit or miss.

      My first job was working for a CFP and you’d think the days the market was closed we’d get off (ex. MLK Day) No she made us work anyway so we could “catch up on other work” while the market and most people were off. Instead of giving her employees a 3 day weekend.

      Many jobs do not even pay you for time off they let you take it unpaid. It’s really kind of sad and they wonder why so many Americans are stressed out and overworked.

  3. Lucia Pacciola*

    I question the premise.

    “Americans don’t get enough vacation time from their employers.”

    Employee compensation, including benefits and perks, is ultimately a retention decision for the employer. Americans are getting exactly as much vacation as necessary, for employers to attract and retain the caliber of employees they desire.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I believe the “enough” being referenced is enough for the human and their work/life balance. Similarly to how businesses that pay the federal minimum wage are technically paying *enough,* because there are enough workers who can’t find a better option, but for those workers it’s not enough to live by or to fairly compensate them for their labor.

    2. Nea*

      I disagree. The #1 reason I’ve taken jobs is because I need a job, not because they offer “exactly as much vacation as necessary.”

      And that’s before I mention the company that promised – in writing! – more paid time off than they actually gave me once I signed the dotted line.

    3. Anon in Canada*

      It means “compared to every other developed country other than Canada and Japan”.

      Europeans, Australians and New Zealanders are always outraged at the barbarically low amount of time off that most North Americans get.

      1. Moira's Rose's Garden*

        Mostly because actually taking that time is dis-incentivized by employers or is awarded in such a was as it’s not actually possible to use it all.

        USians aren’t leaving unused PTO on the table because we have so danged much free time!

        1. Magenta Sky*

          Very true. But negotiating for more when you’re not using what you already have seems like a waste of time that would be better spent negotiating how to use what you already have (or finding a better job).

          1. Lenora Rose*

            This assumes the people not taking it and the people asking for more are the same people, which they often are not. It certainly says nothing about whether the amount Americans in general have is “enough”. Businesses not allowing people to take what they do have is another sign that businesses have the power, not that the businesses are doing the right thing.

        2. Tea Monk*

          Yes, if you can’t take vacation without planning it out months in advance, you can’t take it.

    4. Lenora Rose*

      Are you saying Americans should only look at other American jobs in their vicinity when deciding what is enough, and never make a comparison to other countries when it comes to the actual benefits of the workplace? Should never fight, individually or collectively, for better? How local should they go when it comes to how little they should compare themselves to what others have had doled out? Should states with notoriously poor employment standards not look at their neighbour and consider their policies either?

      Because it only makes sense to look at how other places do things and ask “Can we do this better?”

      It benefits everyone with the possible exception of owners and shareholders when the employees are actually given benefits. And in some cases, as to the owners, well, even Henry Ford — a right wing extremist and the opposite of pro-worker — knew his employees needed to be able to afford his products to sell his products, and learned that a 40 hour work week was as productive or more so than a 45-50 hour one with exhausted employees.

    5. Dasein9 (he/him)*

      Category error. Just because something is enough to be carried by an increasingly unequal market does not make it enough for humans to thrive.

    6. Skytext*

      Wow, so by that reasoning, child slave labor and sweatshops are “okay” because the employer is attracting the caliber of employee that they desire? Employee desperation for a job doesn’t make it right.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      I’ve always been under the impression it’s because there’s no competition provided by those with power within the system, rather than a lack of demand for it from those subjected to it. When I was looking for US jobs from abroad, they were really interested in talking to me but they could predict that I wouldn’t go for the holiday allowance. They were right.

    8. Love to WFH*

      I work with people from around the world. The employees based in America get far less vacation time, no separate sick time, fewer holidays, and pathetically less maternity/paternity leave.

      So, yes, American employers can still hire people while offering pathetic amounts of time off. It’s sad.

      1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        America is very “business friendly” and I live in particularly “business friendly” state. If I want a job in my area (and it’s not feasible for me to just pack up and go to a different state right now), I need to take what jobs are offered in my area. My choices are going to be limited to “industry standard” things like pay, schedule, benefits, etc. It’s not like people can just…not work.

    9. Decidedly Me*

      This is a really entitled way to view things. These are systemic norms happening here. To change something so entrenched in the way you’re suggesting would mean that mass amounts of people would need to reject jobs with the current normal amounts of vacay leave. It would then have to hurt long enough for individual companies to start making changes and then longer still for a new normal to take root. How many people do you think can afford to be without a job and insurance for that long?

    10. TheBunny*

      I disagree.

      Companies know what is competitive. If I get a job that offers 40 hours of PTO the 1st year and I say I want 4 weeks, they know I’m going to be searching quite a while to ever actually get that offer.

      It’s why so many have stories about offers falling through at companies when they try to negotiate PTO.

  4. KatL*

    I got hired at my job this past July with 2 weeks PTO and 1 week PSL. Seems like a lot, right?

    Well, my mom was passed away in January, and I took a week and a half off to be with my dad and handle some of my mom’s affairs.

    My company did not make an exception given the circumstances, and I had to use my PTO. I’m down to 2 days and 3 hours for time I have left for the rest of the year. We also do not get most federal holidays off.

    The weird part is, I got hired on salary, and I thought the deal was I would be available for longer work hours without extra pay and I would be able to take time off when I needed it. That’s how salary had always worked for me in the past.

    1. Katrine Fonsmark*

      It actually doesn’t seem like a lot at all. I got hired into my current job with 23 days PTO and it increases one day a year to a max of 30. Plus 11 holidays. So I’m at 27 days now plus the holidays. I don’t know what PSL is but 2 weeks of PTO is very stingy.

        1. Katrine Fonsmark*

          Oh duh! I guess I’ve just never heard that acronym, weirdly. All I could think of was “Personal Service Leave” which makes no sense lol.

            1. Nea*

              I would totally work for a company that offered me Pumpkin Spice Lattes as part of my compensation!

    2. Check cash*

      That does not sound like a lot and I would laugh at an employer who cared so little about the people they employ. That is a bananas low amount of time. And yes, I am in the US. I would not accept anything less than like 25 days PTO if I were NEW to a company, plus usually some floating holidays in addition to the regular ones.

      1. Bast*

        Curiosity has me — what industry do you work in? I have never heard of someone getting 25 PTO days as a new employee. 15 seems more standard, and some go as low as 10 and claim it is “generous.”

        1. ThatGirl*

          My husband got 5 weeks of vacation time in higher ed – but he was paid a pitifully low amount.

      2. Love to WFH*

        Good jobs in software companies have had 4 weeks of PTO plus at least 10 holiday days for awhile. I haven’t see 5 weeks of PTO to start.

        Then there are the companies with “unlimited PTO”, but because that’s dependent on manager approval of vacation requests, it’s tricky.

    3. Ashley*

      Salaried positions without the flex on the companies part are what really push me over the edge. I will work late if needed, but let me duck out for the occasional appointment without having to make up my time or take PTO.
      At least most places do give you 3 days bereavement leave, but usually that is so insufficient for the relationship. Three days works for some relatives where the policy typically doesn’t apply, but 3 days does not begin to cover the time needed for most immediate family members deaths.

    4. Lenora Rose*

      There should at LEAST be a week of bereavement leave available as well for those circumstances.

      We just discovered a weird (and infuriating) quirk to how HR set up bereavement leave here. It’s officially 5 days for a close family member (“with more available at the supervisor’s discretion”) BUT they count the weekend against this. So if your family member passes Saturday, Sunday or early Monday, you can schedule Monday through Friday off to manage affairs. If they pass away Thursday night, though, you only get Friday {Saturday, Sunday} Monday, and Tuesday. (No other leave is assigned like this, and with the possible exception of custodial jobs, most workdays are mon-Fri)

      Thankfully, the person who was spitting mad about this is the CEO’s assistant, and the CEO is very on board with asking HR what they were thinking.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yuck! We had a previous HR business partner try to tell us that it was calendar days, not business days, but we escalated it and luckily she was wrong and it is 5 scheduled workdays, regardless of what days of the week they are.

    5. Nicosloanica*

      This is ignorant but when people say “two weeks PTO” they mean ten days, right? Ten days over the whole year with no Federal holidays is punishingly low. I think the first time I took a job like that, I thought “two weeks” was 14 days of PTO, not that that’s so much better, and was sadly disappointed.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Yes, almost always when people give their PTO/vacation time in terms of weeks, it is in terms of work weeks.

        1 week PTO = 5 (work) days = 40 hours
        2 weeks PTO = 10 days = 80 hours
        3 weeks PTO = 15 days = 120 hours

        and so on.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          And if you work part time it should be pro rated (I know in the US part timers don’t necessarily accrue PTO at all but bear with me) so that if for example you work three days a week then your 1 week PTO is three days.

  5. KHB*

    I have the opposite problem: On paper, my employer gives me plenty of vacation time, but the structure of my job makes it virtually impossible to use it all, or even get close. (It’s not so much that I’m overworked, but that my workload is structured month by month. So I can’t take a week off and have someone else cover for me for just that one week – instead, I either have to compress four weeks’ worth of work into three, or else I have to have someone else cover for me for the entire month.)

    Worse, the powers that be have it in their heads that more PTO is “what employees want,” so every time they’re looking to reward us (e.g., for milestone employment anniversaries), they shower us with more PTO. Which, if you’re not already using the PTO you have, is worth precisely nothing.

    I’d really like to figure out the solution to this. I’ve talked to my boss, and he makes all the right noises, but somehow nothing ever changes.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      This — quite precisely this — is how it is where I work now. We get plenty on paper, but workflow and the fact that my tiny department is the final backstop for everyone else means that we can’t really take any. I once took a vacation and tried to keep essential things moving, and I wound up in the hospital as a result of not sleeping. Fun times.

    2. Magenta Sky*

      I suspect that your employer doesn’t shower you with more PTO because they believe that’s what employees want so much as they know it will never be taken.

      Accrued PTO in California is legally considered wages already earned, so if they make it impossible to actually *use* it, it amounts to wage theft. This is not true everywhere.

      1. Stuff*

        You can still play this game in California. California allows caps on accrued PTO, and PTO above the cap isn’t paid out. So you can shower someone with enough PTO to hit the cap, make sure they don’t use it, then keep using PTO as a reward you never have to pay out on. Sure, you still have to pay out up to the cap when they quit, but compared to raises or increasing staffing, you could still probably come out ahead.

        1. Magenta Sky*

          “. . . make sure they don’t use it . . .”

          That’s the part that can get you in legal trouble. If the employee demands specific details on *how* they can take the accrued vacation they have, and it’s not forthcoming (or the answer is “you can’t”), bad things can happen.

    3. Nicosloanica*

      I think the only solution is to just start taking it, and let the workplace feel the pain of that. When my workplace didn’t let us roll over leave, I started taking every Friday as a half-day under similar circumstances. My boss definitely hated it, but that was her problem since she had set up the structure in which I could never actually get away for a real vacation.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Yeah you can’t care about something they don’t care about. It’s easier said than done, but I would start with booking the time and notifying the boss and asking them how they’d like me to handle cover. Anything that isn’t covered by those very reasonable precautions is their problem.

      2. Stuff*

        In many companies, that would get you fired, probably in most companies. Your boss can, in fact, tell you that you can’t use your PTO, unless the company itself introduces rules against that. Even California lacks a law saying that your employer has to let you use your PTO, we just require payouts up to a “reasonable cap” for unused PTO.

    4. Stipes*

      If nobody can cover you for a week, that’s a problem for more reasons than your ability to take PTO — what would your company do if you were suddenly hospitalized mid-month? Things need to be structured with contingencies for missing even your most valuable employees. Both so that they can take PTO, and so that no process has a “bus number” of one.

      1. KHB*

        When somebody gets hospitalized mid-month (I say “when,” not “if,” because this has happened), then either somebody else scrambles to pick up the pieces on their half-finished project (which is a LOT of work), or else their half-finished work just gets abandoned (which is obviously not ideal). For a once-every-several-years type of emergency, we can handle those as the available options. But obviously we don’t want to be doing that every time somebody goes on vacation.

      2. Anononnnnn for this*

        “Bus number” of one–that’s me. In my particular tiny niche, I’m the only person who can do what I do. Two other people can do 90% of what I do, but they are at two different orgs than where I am now. I can train my team, but…how can they learn 10 years worth of experience in a matter of months.

        No wonder my boss is VERY UNHAPPY that I handed her my notice this week.

    5. Kyrielle*

      I’d be tempted, in your shoes, to argue that they’ve set up a case where the only reasonable thing to do is take an entire month off, and correspondingly you are going to take off some particular month and they can find someone to cover that month…. (Not sure how bad an idea this is, but it probably won’t go as well in real life as it sounds in my head. But … if the system demands it….)

  6. Chairman of the Bored*

    Is there an equity component to this in the same way there would be with salary?

    If individual employees negotiate for additional vacation time with the end result that vacation time is ultimately unevenly distributed along race or gender lines does the employer have a legal obligation to level it out across the employees?

    1. Brain the Brian*

      This is the argument my employer uses for refusing to negotiate anything. We get a decent amount of vacation, but our salaries are pitiful.

  7. Lou*

    I’m in the UK, I get 25 days paid leave and 8 days of bank holiday (like US federal holidays) as standard and can buy up to 10 more days as salary sacrifice. It’s at the more generous end but not exceptional for an office job here. I could never work in the US. When do you guys see your kids?

    1. No Tribble At All*

      We pay exorbitant amounts of money to put them in daycare so people who aren’t paid enough can take care of them. :(

    2. Magpie*

      Comments like this about how much better things are in non-US countries are really unkind. This seems to come up in the comments section every time there’s a discussion about time off or health insurance. US citizens generally don’t have the option to pick up and move to a different country to get better benefits so it feels like you’re rubbing in the good fortune you had to be born in a non-US country rather than offering helpful, actionable advice.

      1. Pop*

        I agree, these really irk me – they always come up around parental leave, too. Yeah, we know that the system we have isn’t great. Shock and disbelief that I got 12 weeks off for the birth of my kid doesn’t make me feel better.

        1. New Mom (of 1 7/9)*

          100%. This comes up on my parenting/pregnancy subreddits all the time and it really grinds my gears. Yes, we know! It sucks! And we’re supposed to be grateful because 12 weeks in the US is soooo generous.

      2. librarianmom*

        Don’t blame the messenger for the message. The actionable advice is to be aware that it is possible for a business to successfully function and give their employees proper PTO. To demand more from employers. How do you think change happens?

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          This. People post comments like that because inevitably someone from the US posts a comment here about how the status quo is totally fine or can’t be improved upon (see up thread where Lucia Pacciola suggested getting a pittance of a vacation is Americans getting exactly as much vacation as retention policies will bear).

          Lots of here might not personally need a reminder, but there inevitably are a few who do need that reminder. These comments are for those folks. You never know who is new to this blog — especially as a new reader who doesn’t comment — and it’s the first time they’re hearing that, wait a minute, you *can* hope for more.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          Yeah, I think people are underestimating how much genuine curiosity there is about how this is pulled off. I have standard UK leave and just about keep my shit together. I don’t even have kids! I also love America and would love to live there if I could figure out how on earth it’s all done. Sometimes we just want to know; is it actually doable? You all look like it’s getting done. It’s a bit like taking decluttering tips and household efficiency from a Tokyo resident.

          1. Nicosloanica*

            To be honest, I’ve always been a bit puzzled what people in other countries do with all their leave. Is it childcare stuff? Although they obviously handle it, I don’t know how a company manages their workflow if someone is off literally every other week due to sick children. Do they just have more employees per office? Or do you really just take the whole summer off, like they tells us people do in France? How on earth is anyone able to afford going anywhere for so long? I make a decent living but just two trips a year, a week each, is about as much as my budget can handle; I wouldn’t be able to afford renting a house on the beach for six weeks straight every year.

            1. Lenora Rose*

              Why do you assume vacation has to mean travel? Many people take time off to be at home doing hobbies or playing with the kids, or do day-trip type things in the city they live in, or the nearby county/province. Plus it’s an opportunity for the sorts of things that you can’t easily do during a work day but wish you had spare hours to do; errands, sitting down with an adviser. For many, some of that time is almost certainly eaten up by housework. Imagine how much cleaner your house could theoretically be (or how much less you’d need to spend on a cleaner) if you had enough actual days off that using a vacation day or week to CLEAN didn’t ALSO feel like losing your only chance to travel.

            2. allathian*

              Because I have 15+ years’ tenure in government jobs in Finland, I have 38 paid weekdays (nearly 2 months) a year, and 7-11 paid holidays in addition, depending on whether holidays that always occur on a certain date (Christmas, Finnish Independence Day, New Year’s Day, etc.) fall on the weekend or not. If they fall on the weekend, we don’t get the following Monday off.

              The way this works is that there’s more cross-training so that people can cover at least the most urgent tasks of other employees. It also means that we have peak seasons and slow seasons. During slow seasons it can be fun to be at work because you finally have time to focus on the non-urgent but important tasks. Generally the organization is just ticking over and any fires get put out, but no new projects are started and very little development work that requires the collaboration of large numbers of people gets done.

              Our summer vacation season is from June to August, with July being the most popular month. I generally try to schedule my summer vacation from Midsummer (the Friday closest to the summer solstice) to the end of July if I possibly can, but I have to compromise because my close coworker who has the some job description as I do and I cover for each other and generally can’t be out at the same time for more than a few days.

              The other big vacation season is at the end of the year. December 24-26 are paid holidays for everyone in goverment, as are New Year’s Day and Twelfth Night/Epiphany. Last time around, I took the last week of 2023 and the first week of this year off, and used 7 days of PTO to get 16 days off in a row including the weekends and holidays.

              Finland has two state churches, Lutheran and Orthodox, even if our holidays follow the Western calendar and Orthodox Christians have to use PTO if they want to celebrate Christmas according to the Julian calendar. Although society in general is more or less secular in the sense that people generally don’t talk about their beliefs (or lack of) at work and that stating that you are a non-believer is generally accepted without comment, the public sector in particular shuts down for the major Christian holidays and some minor ones like Epiphany and Ascension. (My organization has a handful of visibly Muslim employees who wear a headscarf and a few Orthodox Christians that I know of, but I don’t know about any other minority religions.)

              This system does work, but it also means that my salary is much lower than I suspect it would be in an equivalent job in the US (about 50k for a fairly senior IC job) and with a higher tax rate, although we aren’t dependent on being employed for health insurance and tuition is free up to and including a Master’s degree, so college graduates don’t need high salaries to pay off their student loans and I consider that tax money well spent. I wouldn’t mind a higher salary, but I wouldn’t be willing to give up my long vacations to get it.

              Another difference is that the public sector is fully unionized and most private companies are also unionized, and that the collective agreements negotiated by the unions apply to all employees in the fields covered by the collective agreement, whether or not they are unionized themselves. This means that in general there’s very little room for negotiating perks, and in government salary bands are tight, but we are also legally required to mention the salary in job postings.

              And what do people do on their vacations? It obviously varies. I like staycations and had no issues taking out all of my vacation days even during the pandemic (unlike my coworker who prefers to travel and was at a loss when he couldn’t). We live in a one-family house with a garden, so in the summer I do some gardening and other home projects that I don’t want to do when I’m also working. If my husband manages to schedule his vacation to overlap mine, I like to travel during the first week of my vacation because I need at least as much time off after the trip as the trip took to recover. I also like spending time with my extended family, and reading, watching Netflix, helping my aging parents, etc. Lots of people volunteer for at least a part of their vacation. I’ve also never had any issues with simply being rather than doing, doing, doing all the time. I tell people that I’m practicing for retirement (some 15+ years to go) on my vacations.

              We don’t have a summer cottage because my husband and I think that the house we own is enough work and we don’t need any more, but there are some 500k privately owned summer cottages in a country with a population of about 5.6 million, so most people have access to one through their extended family. The standard varies greatly, some are little more than cabins that Laura Ingalls would feel right at home in with no running water or electricity, others are secondary homes that can be used year round with indoor bathrooms and showers and access to municipal utilities.

              Granted, my then-coworker was more than a bit peeved when I returned to work after maternity leave and my son was sick literally every other week. I also had a temporary agreement to work 6-hour days, which meant that I was the one who nearly always took leave to care for the kidlet. It just meant that we had to outsource some of the work during my absences, and long days for my coworker. When my son’s immune system adjusted to being in daycare and I got to work for 6 months straight without any leave to care for him, I bought my coworker a box of her favorite chocolates with a note of appreciation for her forbearance.

            3. amoeba*

              Well, most people take at least a 2-3 week vacation once a year, mostly in the summer – which can mean going somewhere for the entire time (prices really depend on what you do, Europe is small, so you can get cheaply to places!), but also something like 7-10 days trip plus some days before and after for packing, unpacking, appointments…
              So that’s 10-15 days. A lot of people here also go skiing, as we’re in the alps, so maybe an additional 5 days for a skiing trip in winter brings you to 15-20. Then a lot of people usually take off time between Christmas and New Year’s – my company is actually closed then and we have to take PTO for most of it – so that might bring you to at least 20-25 or more, as people also like to take longer if they still have days left.

              And the rest goes for long weekends, Friday afternoons off, life admin stuff…

              Honestly, it’s really very easy to use it all and I generally even struggle making do with my 25+ days – luckily we can build overtime to take additional days off!

              (And that’s for people without children. Childcare in Europe often closes for long periods, like 30+ days – so parents very often really need all their PTO just to cover that!)
              Add a few for long weekends/afternoons off/private life admin stuff and you’re there!

            4. MsSolo (UK)*

              In the UK, kids get 13 weeks off school each year, spread out (6 for summer, 2 for christmas, 2 for easter, and 3 ‘half terms’). As discussed above, generally adults get 5ish weeks of leave, so even if both parents take their whole amount and don’t overlap, you still can’t cover all of the school holidays. We don’t have summer camps, and most holiday programmes run on school hours (9-3) and are heavily oversubscribed. So, generally, the vast amount of leave for parents is spent on childcare – in two parent families there is pressure to try and overlap for at least one week a year so you can take a family holiday.

              Around the Med it’s much more standard to take a long break in summer because it’s too hot to stay in the cities (which aircon made easier in the last couple of decades, only for global warming to make much worse). My understanding is a lot of businesses straight up shut down, and your salary is a bit like a teacher’s, 11 months spread over 12, but I’d welcome someone with more knowledge in that area.

              Before I was a parent, I probably took around 3 weeks a year plus bank holidays. A couple of 3-4 day holidays and the rest on life admin; it’s only really post-pandemic that most UK office-based organisations are more comfortable with someone working from home when they have deliveries/tradespeople in, so previously I had to take time off for that.

              How do businesses manage? Generally salaries in the UK (and, I think, most of Europe) are lower than the US, though ours have really stalled since 2008, and got worse since Brexit. Poking around the internet, it looks like our median salary for all workers is similar to the US (£27k/$34k), but for university graduates there’s a pretty significant divergences, with UK graduates on an median of £38k ($48k) while US graduates with a bachelors have a median of $78k. So the kind of businesses usually discussed in AAM that require degrees can afford more staff than their US equivalents – the average is to staff on the assumption 80% of people will be available on any given day.

              I know the US structures its school holidays differently (longer summer break) and there’s more provision for kids that doesn’t assume that parents can work 5 hour days for over a month, but I really don’t understand how you manage childcare outside of school semesters, especially if you don’t have family nearby. We’re currently spending a fifth of our household income on preschool, and though that’ll drop once she starts school we’ve still got to pay for wraparound care (£100 a week) and need to find at least 4 weeks worth of childcare for the school holidays where our 10 weeks of leave between us won’t stretch.

              1. amoeba*

                Eh, I honestly don’t think it’s the lower salaries – Switzerland isn’t exactly known for those and we still have a legal minimum of 20 days plus bank holidays etc!

          2. Hlao-roo*

            I think it’s a mix of a few different things:

            1) Vacation/holiday culture across the US is (in a broad sense) different from the vacation/holiday culture in the UK (or in France, or Spain, etc.). Because people don’t have as many vacation days, they take fewer and/or shorter trips.

            Similar to Nicosloanica, I have heard that basically everyone in Italy takes the entire month of August off of work. It would be sad to be the one person in Italy who has to slog away at the office while everyone else is relaxing in their vacation house. But in the US, lots of people are at the office working in August, so it’s not sad/different to also be at the office working in August.

            2) It’s easy to be shocked at the low numbers of vacation/PTO days, because the minimums are shockingly low. No paid time off required by the government! 10 vacation days standard at some offices! But many, many people have more vacation days than the worst-case scenario. Most of the people I know (friends/family/acquaintances) who have white-collar office jobs have between 15 and 25 vacation days, and usually around 10-12 holidays. So that’s 25-37 paid days off work per year, which doesn’t look too much lower to my American eyes than the numbers I see posted here from European commenters.

      3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Even if we do, emigrating from the US is rarely as simple as emigrating to it.

          1. amoeba*

            Indeed! Working conditions nonwithstanding, moving to the US is still something of a dream for many people here – sometimes, if you’re a highly specialised professional, you can do it through work (mostly by being delegated by you current employer, even in my scientific field, it’s generally not as easy as applying to jobs in the US), otherwise there’s a green card lottery, and then you’re mostly out of options… you folks are quite restrictive!

            (Which is actually really a crazy concept for somebody like me who grew up as an EU citizen – where you’re just used to being able to move to other countries freely. Was almost shocking to realise how hard it is to change countries outside of that!)

          2. amoeba*

            Hah, indeed! Definitely not trivial… I’d even say maybe harder than the opposite?

            (My longer comment just got eaten, sorry if it comes back!)

    3. Brain the Brian*

      Some of us choose not to have them for fear we would never see them enough to raise them properly. (See also: declining U.S. birth rates.)

    4. Moths*

      I know that you didn’t intend this comment to come across as rude or condescending, so I’ll address your question at face value. We see our kids as much as we can because we love our children and value our time with them as much as parents in any other country. We spend time with them in the morning as we get ready for work and we spend time with them in the evening as we eat dinner together and have bedtime routines. We plan special activities for the weekends, just like parents in the UK probably do. And we look ahead and plan days off and vacations so that we can have extra time with them. When they’re sick, we scramble to find coverage at work so that we can take a sick day or we call on the communities we’ve built up to try to help. And just like children across the world, ours are adaptable and flexible and have no doubt that their parents love them and spend as much time with them as possible.

    5. Love to WFH*

      Americans can’t spend as much time with our families as we’d like. And we pay a fortune for healthcare. It sucks.

    6. FloralWraith*

      I’m a Canadian, with no kids, so the situation is not quite the same but:

      The weekends. North Americans jam everything fun/leisurely into weekends. Or they take unpaid time off, but it’s not a guarantee that their employers will grant it.

      Ironically, I do now live in the UK and I find myself swamped with my lovely 27 days PTO + 8 bank holidays + Christmas shutdown and I regularly have time left over at the end of year because I don’t know what to do with it! And it’s not just me, it’s my other American and Canadian expat colleagues who always have leftovers!

  8. BlueWolf*

    I find it difficult to use my vacation time because even though technically other people should be able to cover my work while I’m gone, the reality is that whenever I’ve taken more than a few days off something inevitably gets messed up and I end up having to scramble to clean things up when I get back. Or I feel like I need to work extra hard before vacation to get things done so I don’t come back to a pile of work or problems. It makes it hard to feel like I can really take a long vacation.

    1. Chairman of the Bored*

      If Employer really thought those tasks were important they would have hired enough people to make sure they get done even with somebody on vacation”.

      If the company doesn’t think the work is critical enough to staff appropriately then you certainly don’t need to worry about it.

      1. KHB*

        Sounds great in principle. In practice, not so much. The employer can (and usually does, in my experience) just say “You’re responsible for making sure X task gets done, whether you’re on vacation or not, and your performance will be evaluated accordingly,” and there’s not really anything you can do about it.

        1. Magenta Sky*

          Get that in writing, and have your lawyer point out that if you’re not allowed to actually take your vacation and completely disconnect, it’s not vacation time, it’s on the clock work time.

          (Or, better yet, find a job with a more reasonable employer.)

    2. Garblesnark*

      Yeah. This isn’t true at my current job, but in a past role, the only person allowed to fill in if I was out of office was my manager. I trained her on my tasks, but instead of listening, she complained the entire time that my job was boring. I started January and told them on my start date that I take the week of Thanksgiving off.

      March of my second year I was still cleaning up mistakes from the week of Thanksgiving. I lost track after that, because I went on FMLA leave because I needed surgery. They eventually fired me for mistakes made while I was out on said FMLA leave.

  9. bamcheeks*

    That nickel and diming one in the “you may also like” is blowing my mind! I hope that LW got it sorted or found another job.

  10. MI Dawn*

    My employer starts you out with 19 PTO days but we get all of the federal holidays off, plus a floating holiday, Black Friday and Christmas Eve, so 12 additional days.

  11. Roscoe da Cat*

    I think this is one of the major reasons people stay with the federal government once you get settled in. They give 4 hours annual and 4 hours sick per pay period (26 pay periods so 13 days A/L) for the first 10 years, and then you go up to 6 hours annual per pay period which is nice. But once you get to 15 years, you are getting 26 days a year of annual, ALL the federal holidays and 13 days a year sick which accumulates forever. You get paid less (and believe me, I work with my corporate counterparts and my salary is lower) but the benefits are impossible to beat.

    1. an academiclibrarian*

      one of the reasons i moved from the federal government back to higher ed was vacation time. higher ed (in my experience/academic libraries) immediately gives the 20-25 vacation leave. i wasn’t willing to stick around for 10 years to get more than 13 days of annual leave. the pay still isn’t great but i like my benefits better :) ymmv!

      1. kendall^2*

        Seconding academia for time off (US)! My current employer offers 3 weeks off for the first year, then 4 after that, plus a 5th week for one’s 10th, 15th, etc. years. Also 12 federal holidays, the last week in December (or however it works out between the holidays), and generous sick time.
        (Plus I’m officially half time but get full benefits (time off accruals adjusted to my schedule compared to full time), which is amazing.)

        1. Goldenrod*

          Agreed! I work for a public university in the US. I have more vacation time built up than I can even use at this point. I think I have about 6 weeks and counting? I accrue 2.5 days each month, and there is no limit to how much you can accrue. Also, we have a very generous sick leave policy, one “personal holiday” and many federal holidays.

      2. Zephy*

        Just weighing in with a counterexample from higher ed (clerical/admin side, not faculty) – we start new hires at 10 days, which increases to 15, then 20, maxing out at 25 after certain lengths of time (I think 2, 5, and 10 years). Plus about 8 Federal holidays.

        HOWEVER, COMMA, it takes basically an act of Congress to be able to *use* more than 40 hours in a single go. I put in a request for *gasp* 7 whole days of PTO, *for my honeymoon*, and I had to tell my boss it was for that and it had to be approved by damn near every layer of management between me and the chancellor, including the chancellor. And it was made clear to me that I had better not make another such request for a good long time.

        1. Artichokes*

          This is rough! I am also in higher ed admin, and feel like I could easily take 2-3 weeks off (it has been well modeled by my manager too), as long as I time it well with my work cycle. Now, *do* I do this? Not yet. But I am looking forward to a week off after our admissions season closes this April!

    2. WeirdChemist*

      You move to 6hrs after 3 years, not 10! You gave me a minor heart attack there for a second because I’m about to hit 3 years and am looking forward to that little leave bump lol

      1. Roscoe da Cat*

        Whoops! Youa re right!

        Also, I have worked in multiple places in the fed and they all let you use your leave…

  12. Alan*

    We get 21 plus a personal holiday, plus sick and federal holidays. That said, there is no negotiation room. I know one person that my company desperately wanted to hire and they gave him everything he asked for, except for the 6 weeks vacation he said was non-negotiable. They refused and he walked.

  13. No time off for you*

    The one time I ever tried negotiating PTO, I used similar language about how my current employer gave more PTO than the new employer was offering. I didn’t even ask them to match it, just asked if there was any wiggle room. The potential employer responded by saying it seemed I was more interested in not working there then I was in working there (I had also asked about the work from home policy).

    1. kendall^2*


      The one time I negotiated PTO, I said that I was already at 3 weeks, and could they match that. Which they did.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Yeah, I had a similar experience where I was “I have three weeks currently, can you match that?” The company did match and I took the offer, but I was fully prepared to walk away if the offer had stayed at 2 weeks of vacation.

        No time off for you, sorry the company you tried to negotiate with responded so negatively. “You seem like you’re interested in ~not~ working here” is rude when a simple “no, we can’t increase the number of vacation days.” :(

  14. VacationMe*

    I have requested more leave during negotiations several times and most of the time it is a no. This is because it’s tied to payroll systems that automate based on hire date. It’s a hassle to make exceptions.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        Yep, this. Software is made by humans. They are blaming their unwillingness to budge on a system they either designed or bought.

        It’s not a hassle to make exceptions. It just means that someone has to do their job. If you want me, make it work. If not, I’m out of here.

        1. VacationMe*

          When I say the no was because of payroll, it’s not because that’s what they told me. It’s what I now know based on my time being close to those HR/Finance operations. Also, payroll is generally a completely different entity than HR so they’re not as invested in getting a position filled.

    1. Silicon Valley Girl*

      Same, this is what I’ve heard from every big corp I’ve worked at. They can more easily give out cash bonuses than PTO bec. money can be moved around in budgets, but PTO is tied to the payroll database (& close friends who work in HRIS confirm that you don’t make one-off exceptions in the database!).

      1. Anna*

        As someone responsible for setting up and maintaining these time off, HRIS systems, confirm this is true. It’s not changing a data field such as typing in Silicon Valley Girls PTO days. It’s set based on your country/years of service. I am always surprised when this advice comes up because I have worked at 8 different companies that would *never* have allowed it because you’d be configuring different profiles for just one person. I have seen companies legitimately give 10-15k salary increases to get employees aligned to the country policy and have never seen any kind of exception made, even at the C-suite level.

  15. Yup*

    Ha! My other half had an interview in an industry desperate for qualified employees, and he told the interviewers that he’d been at this job long enough to accrue 5 weeks’ vacation on top of the 2 at Christmas, and he wasn’t moving for anything less. They scoffed and said “but you’d just be starting HERE.” He did not get (nor would he have taken) the job.

  16. Pippa*

    My last three salary jobs have had sufficient PTO on paper. The problem with each position has been actually being able to use the PTO part of my compensation. Have I really gotten a day off if I’ve worked 45 hours Monday-Thursday in anticipation of being out on Friday? Have I really been compensated (as earned) for a paid week off if the week before and after vacation I work 70 hours each?
    Despite interviewing hard on work-life balance, including questioning vacation and sick coverage, this keeps happening.

    1. Zee*

      I have had the same issue about using PTO at almost every job. The work doesn’t go away when I go away, so taking time off just means more hours before/after. I guess the issue is that the position’s workload is based off of 52 weeks of full-time work, but they should be basing it off of 50.

  17. Scarlet ribbons in her hair*

    Well, the article is called “How to Ask for More Vacation Time,” not “How to Get More Vacation Time.”

    The companies that I worked for were very inflexible concerning vacation time. If you tried to negotiate with them, they said that you were perfectly free to go work for a company that offered more vacation time.

    One company where I applied (but did not work for) offered one week of vacation time, but said that when you consider that you would be out of work Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, that was nine days, and since a work-week consisted of five days, that was practically two weeks of vacation time (not one week).

    Another company where I applied (but did not work for) offered one week of vacation time, but said that when you counted up the Federal holidays that you would get off, it added up to more than two weeks off.

    One company that I worked for was extremely inflexible. If you wanted an extra vacation day that would be unpaid? Out of the question. Did you want to skip a vacation day this year and carry it over to next year, because you knew that you would need it then? Well, you couldn’t. After all, just because you decided that you didn’t want to use all of your vacation days this year, why should they reward you next year?

    At another company, we had to submit our vacation requests to the office manager, who literally said that she would discuss them with the owner when he was in a good mood. That could take months. One time, Robert wanted the first week in December off. The owner refused, saying that he hadn’t given enough notice. (That was because it took a very long time before the owner was in a good enough mood to discuss vacation.) Instead, Robert was told that he could get Christmas week off. He protested, saying that Christmas was going to be on a Thursday, and our office would be closed on Friday, and we would probably leave early on Wednesday, and he didn’t want to spend a week of vacation time but get only three days off. The owner then said that he could get an extra two days off the following year. Okay, but the following year, when Robert tried to get the extra two days off, the owner said that he had changed his mind.

    One time, Patrick arranged to take a week off and go to Puerto Rico. The week before he left, the owner announced that he had to return early, because the Friday that Patrick was supposed to be on his vacation would be a very busy day at the office. So Patrick flew to Puerto Rico on Saturday, flew back on Thursday night so as to be in the office on Friday, flew back to Puerto Rico on Friday night, and then flew back home on Sunday. Friday was a complete do-nothing day at the office (just as most Fridays were).

    One time, Peter took a week off right before Labor Day to go somewhere in the USA. On Friday morning, the owner complained to us that Peter was supposed to be in the office that day. We all tried telling him that Peter was still on vacation, but the owner didn’t believe us, and he called Peter and screamed and screamed at him for not being in the office.

    For some reason, the owner never gave me trouble about my vacations. Maybe it was because when I submitted my vacation requests to the office manager, I always gave four options for the owner to choose from (and I noticed that he always chose the option that was closest to the end of the year).

  18. RJ*

    I recently negotiated for more PTO with a new employer and came across a situation where PTO and holidays were coming out of the same number of days (20) for all new employees. As I was coming in as a senior employee, I pushed back against this and got it up to 30 and pushed up the accrual method as well. It’s not the only time I’ve had to do this and I too have found that the PTO/vacation/sick time policies here in the good ol’ US of A are antiquated and ridiculous for the most part.

  19. anonymonymouse*

    I tried to do this, as an alternative to a somewhat disappointing raise. My company refused outright. They didn’t want to “mess” with the existing PTO allotment system (which is not linked to payroll or any actual system).

  20. Glowworm*

    My job history is pretty much:

    Retail: 0 paid sick or vacation at all (multiple companies)

    Healthcare admin: one bucket of 17-22 paid days that covered both sick and vacation together. 7 holidays (Christmas, NY, Memorial, 4th, Labor, Thanksgiving, Day After Thanksgiving)

    Current (research admin): 10 vacation days, 10 sick days, 7 personal days, and 10 holidays (including Juneteenth, Veterans’ etc but weirdly not the day after Thanksgiving)

    The difference is stark enough that I am pretty much in a place where I will do anything to stay with this company, despite having currently a terrible boss, and a kind of dysfunctional team lol. The amount of time I have to leave my actual life is more than worth it. Time off attracts and keeps workers!!

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Can you take five personal days in a row once you run out of vacation or are they meant to be ad hoc?

      1. Glowworm*

        They can supplement either vacation or sick time, which is nice. The difference is unlike vacation I could take them unscheduled, like if I had a home maintenance issue or vet trip or something, but I could also just plan to use them as vacation. (In practice I can use them as whatever; if I was out of personal days and had an issue I’ve been able to charge that to the vacation bank. But on paper it’s different.)

        1. Caramel & Cheddar*

          Oh no I get what they’re meant for, I was just curious because I’ve worked places in the past where the personal days had to be taken unscheduled or, at most, scheduled a few days in advance. You weren’t able to use them as an extra week of vacation, for example.

          1. Glowworm*

            Yeah I think on paper that’s the rule here, but in practice I’ve been able to use them however I want, I don’t think it’s enforced in my dept ;)

  21. r.*

    Being unable to comprehend vacation time as a negotionable benefit is IMHO one of the hallmarks of bad management, on account of not being able to work with abstractions, or not knowing the cost or profit of an employee hour.

    However, from a certain perspective I also love that type of management. Yes, in case you dear reader think it is good management instead of bad one, I do love you for it. Here’s why.

    Assigning a per-hour cost to an employee is a rather straightforward exercise in basic arithmetic. Slightly less straightforward, but still far away from rocket science, is to figure out overhead: If you have the same amount of work that needs to be spread over less working hours per year (Because your employees have more vacation days) can drive team sizes, which in turn can drive overhead and friction, and those are very real costs to a business.

    But once you’ve done that then … giving someone an additional day of vacation entitlement per year is the same as giving them a raise with the same cost as the cost of that day. Just treat it as deferred compensation.

    It actually is often more advantageous financially, because one way to look at a positive PTO balance is … an interest-free loan from the employee to the employer: The employee accrues a certain amount of pay and fractional vacation days per day/week worked, but only the moneys-payable is settled at the end of the pay period. The PTO is often only consumed multiple months after it has accrued, and those months are time where the employer has already received services (hours worked) but hasn’t yet had to fully pay for them (by granting PTO).

    Understanding this has allowed us to frankly sometimes make out like bandits, because we’ve been able to score great employees at lower costs simply because we approach the notion rationally in a “sure, this is just part of the compensation package we can negotiate”, and this goes over really well for the candidates. Really well, as in “we can pay lower total compensation than the other offers the candidate also have, but they still sign up with is partially because part of the compensation is in more PTO than in money.”

    Most candidates tend to value the additional vacation time much higher than the cost incurred by company, in parts because we’re simply better at calculating it and arguing it. So in general taking a trade over X additional vacation days tends to have an upside of us north of factor 1.5-2 over the cost to us. Also, as described above, converting some of an employees compensation from payment-in-money to payment-in-PTO results in increasing the interest-free loan we get from employees; in general, getting interest-free loans is an idea we do like as a business. :-)

    So yes, in some of my more jaded moments I do love those employers and managements that enable us to get away with that racket.

    1. Parenthesis Guy*

      Unless you’re a contractor. If you work for me for $50 an hour, and I hire you out to Company B for $100 an hour, then I want to give you as little leave as possible.

      1. r.*

        That really is orthogonal to the problem.

        From a cost perspective:

        If the person that works for you is not a contractor but an employee … then having to pay them 8×50 USD per PTO simply gets added proportionally to your calculation of your labour costs. Your profit isn’t your 100USD take minus 50USD labor, it is take minus labor minus overhead; you just add that extra cost onto the overhead.

        That means perhaps that you’ll need to make a “look, I can give you extra vacation days, but that means I can only pay you 49 USD/hour going forward; deal?” suggestion to the employee.

        From a labor relations perspective:

        Well, you’ve got to decide what sort of labor relations you want to have, value extraction (I want to pay as little and get as much as possible) or value exchange (I still don’t want to pay what I don’t have to, but overall fair pay for fair labour?).

        Both approaches have their advantages … and their drawbacks.

        If you go for value extraction, as your comment implies, then you need to consider that relations are symmetrical. If you want to extract as much work for as little pay as possible from your employees, and try to skimp on everything you’re not forced to, you don’t quite get to complain when your employees will want to extract as much pay for as little work as they can get away with.

        That may or may not bring the results you had in mind.

  22. Union Rep*

    No prizes for guessing what my guide to getting more PTO says…

    But seriously, folks. The unit I represent with the fewest PTO days starts at 15, going up to 20 with promotion or years of service, plus a week of winter holiday break and 6 other holidays. Our workplace doesn’t follow federal holidays, but the number of federal holidays different employee categories get PTO or comp time for is in direct proportion to the strength of their union. Non-union employees get the same because we dragged the standard up.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I used to think that most of Alison’s answers boil down to “use your words” but I’m starting to wonder how many of them really boil down to “you need a union”.

      1. Also-ADHD*

        It really depends. I’m super pro union and was a union rep in education for many of my years teaching. But the job I have now is very specialized, pays way better, and is extremely variable. I’m all for equity but others might have my level/title but way less skill and output (or way more) because we don’t create dozens of grades. This was a frustrating part of teaching—I can’t see a better way to do pay scales but they don’t reflect individual achievement or skills and there’s no room for growth except leaving the union for admin. I’m not sure every job should be unionized but many that should be in the US are not. Teaching should be. IT probably should be except where very specialized niches. Many healthcare workers, like nurses, should be. Anyone doing hourly or shift work probably should be. They’d be better off, but as much as I loved my union teaching, I can’t see how it makes sense for all roles, especially higher level.

        1. Also-ADHD*

          To be clear, I think we need better labor laws not just unions. Unions make sense for employees that can form unified bargaining groups with similar needs (many workers) but they’re not a full solution, I mean, to the PTO issue in the US.

  23. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    What some of the comments aren’t considering is that there’s a “disruption factor” to time off that there isn’t in paying a higher salary – and that’s also the reason that companies often prefer to pay overtime rather than have people take time in lieu, as well. Projects are planned and workload allocated on the assumption of a certain level of staffing and absence (vacation, average amount of sick time taken, etc) and negotiating additional time off throws a spanner in the works with that if another 2 weeks (or whatever) in the year are going to be missed relative to what’s been planned for. Of course this is why employers often don’t like giving unpaid leave as well. Even if the job isn’t “coverage based” in itself, surely there’s some aspect of interaction with others (people, processes, work that is “downstream” of yours) that has to be worked around.

    1. r.*

      It isn’t just disruption factor, it is also the impact on team sizes.

      As a matter of fact, in a well-managed environment, I’d say that the potential impact on team sizes will eclipse the disruption factor considerably, since communication and coordination overhead tends to scale in a nonlinear fashion (polynomial or worse). Adding one additional person onto a team is much more expensive than many people think.

      That is one of the reasons why structuring your various concerns in a way where you can limit communication domains, and limit the scope of upstream/downstream, is so important — but that is true regardless of an additional week of PTO or not. The only impact on PTO is that if you are doing particularly badly on that front, then PTO becomes even more expensive.

      People do not scale; processes do.

      1. Sloanicota*

        I just don’t understand how Europe and other places seem to manage the workload just fine, somehow shuffling it around when people take leave, but we apparently can’t here in the US?

        1. Person from the Resume*

          Their staffing plan no doubt takes into consideration that Europeans have more vacation days. They very likely have a larger staff for the same work effort as a US company because the US employees don’t get a month + of leave every year.

          I am not saying that US leave standards are good, but it’s pretty easy to understand “how Europe and other places seem to manage the workload just fine, somehow shuffling it around when people take leave, but we apparently can’t here in the US.” They have more people to begin with.

          For maternity and paternity leave periods they budget to hire temps/replacements for the months/years new parents are away where the US companies do not do and just make the remaining employees work harder.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            Sure but there’s no reason US employers couldn’t staff accordingly and do it, other than “those other countries legally require that amount of leave and we don’t”. So basically, the only thing stopping US employers from planning accordingly is not enough of them are willing to do it because it’s good for humans. They’ll only do it if legally required. So we either change our laws…or form enough unions and collectively bargain for it that it becomes the norm due to volume…or way more candidates make a potentially very difficult calculated risk of always saying no to offers with crappy leave.

          2. amoeba*

            Eh, some of it, sure, but honestly, a lot is also just that everybody tends to be out at similar times, so the main vacation time is typically slower in a normal office job, anyway (as customers, vendors, etc., are all on vacation as well…)
            Not like the leave is evenly distributed throughout the year, except of course in some critical, coverage-based jobs. In my office, it’s generally just pretty empty during the summertime and around Christmas/NY, a lot of places just close down.

          3. allathian*

            As a European, I have to say that you got it in one.

            That said, we have higher tax rates than the US, and single payer health insurance. In some countries, there’s also single-payer sick leave for absences longer than 3 months, i.e. the employer is compensated for sick leave salary, although not for the work that isn’t getting done while the employee is sick.

            An additional difference that employees in specialist jobs that require an advanced degree are generally paid less than Americans in equivalent jobs because, at least in some countries like Finland, tuition is free up to and including a Master’s degree, so most people graduate without huge student loans.

            The short answer is that the whole system is set up differently.

  24. peakvincent*

    I was at 18 days (of sick and vacation) in my previous role and was always wishing I had more. In my current role, a lateral move with equivalent salary, they came in at 16 days. I asked for an extra week of PTO in negotiations, and they went for it! I’m pleased— now that I’ve started, I’ve seen that a bump to 21 days is what you get at the 3 year mark. If they hadn’t gone for it, I’d have asked for more money, but the time is what I really wanted!

  25. Nusuth*

    I recently took a lateral move to a new company, with the knowledge that my old role was fast disappearing. The total comp was a slight step down, with PTO a full week less than my previous job. I asked for more money, they said no. I asked for extra PTO, the HR person seemed affronted and said “oh, no, they don’t believe in that.” I took it because I had to but the fire is definitely lit to explore other options.

  26. Sled dog mama*

    I’m very excited to see this topic because I plan to ask for an increase in PTO this year.
    I have successfully negotiated PTO before at the offer stage (I was returning to a previous employer so asked to start where I had been previously rather than back at the beginning) but this will be the first time I’ve asked for more PTO in an existing role.

  27. Cruciatus*

    I had 18 days at my last place (and was 2 years from getting 24) and my new place pays better (and offers a pension AND a 401K)…but they do not negotiate on vacation time. So (depending on your level) you have to come in at 12 days, even if you’ve been working 20, 30 years and have earned more time elsewhere. It’s really the one crap thing about this place. It made me pause–I still decided to go for it because I will earn more money and have more opportunities here, but it left a slightly bitter taste in my mouth to do it.

  28. Yes And*

    I successfully negotiated an extra week of vacation by making a persuasive performance-based case for a raise that I knew the company couldn’t afford, then pivoting to PTO in lieu. My boss agreed on the spot.

  29. Just Thinkin' Here*

    As someone who has quite a few relatives in the medical field, medicine is one of the worst places to get more vacation time. Employers often start you at 1 week a year and it takes 10+years to get to 3 weeks. In the meantime, competitors will throw money at you to join their practice/hospital/agency. I’ve watched folks try to negotiate those extra vacation days – and they’ll get offered a $10K raise instead. So employers pay alot for workers who burn out, get frustrated, and job hop to the next highest offer because there’s no benefit to staying longer term. How easily they could decrease turnover by giving decent benefits, including more vacation time.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Huh. That hasn’t been my experience – I’m currently at 9 years and 33 days of PTO (one bucket, including six holidays), and will bump up to 35 days at my 10 year anniversary. (Oh hey, I forgot about that!)

  30. Olive*

    I negotiated for more vacation time, but a year later, my company did a vacation reorg, and although I ended up with more vacation than I had before, I didn’t get a proportional increase.

    I got a raise and promotion and my salary increase was proportional to my starting salary.

    I wish I had negotiated for more salary instead of more PTO.

  31. Yellow*

    Thanks to this site I negotiated an extra week of vacation when I started my current job almost a decade ago. I was willing to take the job without the extra vacation, so I figured there was no harm in asking- If they said no, not a big deal. I said I was very happy with the offer with the exception of vacation time, and would they be willing to start at 3 weeks instead of 2. I was with my previous employer for about a decade and had worked up to 4 weeks off per year, so the thought of going back down to 2 was hard. They ended up agreeing and I’ve been very happy here.

  32. Wet Coaster*

    This is so fascinating. In my province we get 5 sick days, 11 statutory holidays, and 2 weeks vacation at minimum. I get 4 weeks vacation at my employer and I also choose to bank any extra hours worked to take off later. Between my vacation and banked time I usually take 5-6 weeks off each year. I don’t think I could mentally cope with less. Last year I took the 2 weeks around Christmas/New Years off, a couple days in February, a week in July, a few days in August, a week in September, and 3 weeks in October off.

  33. Bluebell*

    I started my career in higher ed, which was pretty good for vacation days, and was senior staff level when I was offered a position in a cultural organization. They wanted to offer me the usual 2 weeks vacation, and I successfully negotiated for another week. Then my next organization had PTO combined, and I also negotiated for an extra week. These two orgs had under 200 people so they could be flexible.

  34. Drowning in Work*

    I WISH I got 11 days, paid sick leave and holidays off. I work in a veterinary practice and get a stingy 80 hours per year (two weeks). We are offered NO sick leave, whatsoever. If you’re sick, use your PTO – no other option, unless you can afford to go unpaid, which most of us can’t because, surprise, veterinary jobs don’t pay well for nurses or other support staff. We are also a hospital that is open 24/7. If a holiday falls on my scheduled day to work, I am expected to work it.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      My understanding is that most veterinary practices are in desperate need of personnel. Maybe if they offered more PTO….? And sick leave?

  35. Dorothy Zpornak*

    But what’s the point, really? How many people actually can take all of their vacation? There’s just too much to get done. I don’t even know now much vacation I get. (It’s stated as “earn x hours PTO for every y hours worked” and it’s a fractional number. I calculated what it really meant at some point, but I can’t remember.) 1 just know it accrues until you max out at something over 200 hours (225? 230?) so when I get to 200 I try to take some time off. I’m not sure how long it took me to get to 200 — I don’t think I took any time off during the pandemic so it might still be holdover from that.
    Anyway, if had more I doubt I’d notice.

    1. Katrine Fonsmark*

      PTO is a benefit that is part of your total compensation. Why on earth would you not use every minute? That’s basically throwing money away. And people need time off. Most people take all their vacation, especially younger people. There’s a lot to do? Sure. The company will figure it out while you’re gone. Use the benefits you’re entitled to.

  36. Nana Kathie*

    Late to the party, but…I worked at a Jewish non-profit (every Friday, we closed at 3 so folks could get home before sundown). The day before Major Holy Days, we closed at 1. There are a number of holidays and holy days in the Fall (some pretty obscure, but…). I once took two solid weeks off at a ‘cost’ of one vacation day and two vacation half-days.

    OTOH, a Board member was annoyed that we got Christmas off, because it’s a Federal holiday.

  37. Relentlessly Socratic*

    I have never worked or been offered a position at any place that negotiated PTO at any stage, including the interviewing stage. Also, only one place offered any incremental increase of PTO with tenure.

    –I’ve worked at a University both as faculty (no vacation time–just federal holidays, but when the school’s closed for break, my time was pretty much my own. Plus that luxurious 9 month salary paid over 12 months) and staff (standard PTO/Fed holidays)

    –I’ve worked at a non-profit, which increased 1 week/year at the 5, 8 (?), and 10 year anniversary time.

    –My two most recent positions were at US Federal contracting small biz, both with fixed PTO and no increase with tenure.

    –I interviewed at one place with unlimited PTO for a director level position. When I asked about how we ensure staff (you know, the people who would be working under me) actually take the time they need to recharge, citing research showing that people use less PTO when it’s unlimited, I got a run-around non-answer. I did not get the job, but they also failed a couple of my questions, so I wasn’t upset about it.

Comments are closed.