The best way to ask for time off at a new job
Whether it’s for the holidays, a medical reason, or a trip out of town, it’s always awkward asking for time off when you’ve just started. Consider this your guide to requesting time off the right way.
Regardless of the reason you need to be out from work, paid time off (PTO) is precious when you’re working a full-time job. However many annual paid days off you’re granted in your acceptance package—12, 15, 18—they stand out.
But if you’ve just started, your vacation days might not be available to you yet. Many companies require you to accrue days (or even hours) as you work. For example, you may accrue 1.333 days of PTO per month of work, which would equal sixteen days per year. Something like that.
This poses a delicate predicament if you want to take more than a day off immediately upon starting your new job. You don’t want to seem anything less than that diligent, hard worker you promised your employer you were in your interview. But you really want those days off.
So what do you do?
“The best advice for any time off need is to get ahead of it,” says Laura MacLeod, an organizational and HR consultant in New York City. “Share it with your employer as soon as possible so the work does not suffer. Your boss will appreciate your timing and candor—especially if you make every effort to do what you can to accommodate the change.”
We asked career experts for frequent scenarios of when you might want to ask for time off right away, and they offered us their tips on the best way to get the time you need.
Requesting time off for the holidays
When you’ve been at a job for a while, and you have vacation days to burn, taking time off at the holidays is no big deal. But when you’re new, and you’ve accrued less than the time you want to take (or need to take to travel), this scenario can be tricky to navigate appropriately.
The solution? You negotiate.
“Offer to make up the time you'll miss,” advises Kimmie Marek, HR Director and co-founder of jewelry brand 7 Charming Sisters in Fredericksburg, Virginia. “You want to make an excellent first impression, and requesting time off shortly after starting isn't ideal. Be open and honest about why you need the time (family in town, etc.), and be clear with your employer that you will make up hours and have any outstanding items in.”
Many employers “loan” vacation days to their employees—so it’s definitely worth asking.
Taking time off for emergencies
Emergencies, by definition, are unexpected. For things like hospital visits, accidents, and deaths in the family, there is one prevailing principle when it comes to communicating your ask for time off: tell the truth.
“Employers tend to be more reasonable when employees are truthful,” says Cadieux. If you are not forthright, that may significantly have a negative effect on your relationship with your manager and potential advancement within the company. When you misrepresent your intentions, you will lose the trust of your colleagues which is self-destructive and very difficult to repair.”
“If you’re sick, or must stay home to attend to an ill family member, ask your supervisor and/or HR manager if there are any tasks you can accomplish at home. Even though they may not have anything for you to do, or it isn’t feasible, at least the question was asked,” says Dawn Boyer, founder of Dawn Boyer Consulting in Virgina Beach.
Asking for time off as a remote employee
If you’re a remote or work-from-home employee, taking time off may feel awkward. But remember, just because you don’t work in the office doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to your days off.
“Company policies should apply to all employees,” reminds Janice Cadieux, human resources specialist at Clinical Computer Systems in Elgin, Illinois. “Remote employees may have an opportunity to plan their own schedules, while some are firm on a set schedule and must be available during specific days and hours. Know your company's policy and openly communicate with your manager.”
If your work-from-home scenario doesn’t give you the chance to see your manager every day, over-communication is the way to go for requesting time off. Give your supervisor a detailed status update on all of your current work and who will be covering for you in case they have questions while you’re out.
Prioritizing the important stuff
Honeymoons. Marriages. The birth of a new family member. Don’t let work work get in the way of big life events.
Of course, you’ll want to communicate these things ahead of time, but it’s important to prioritize the stuff that matters—and your employer should understand.
“I had a client who accepted a new job shortly before he was planning to get married and go on his honeymoon,” remembers Joseph Ingam, head coach at Interview SOS, a full-service career consultancy company headquartered in Los Angeles. “He notified the employer of his plans at the time he accepted the job offer. It was very reasonable for him to request time off to go to his own wedding and honeymoon, and his new employer understood. They even congratulated him.”