In writing this answer to this question it occurred to me, within the United States at least, a lot of people probably work for companies where vacation is fairly rigid yet people would like more of it.

  • How can someone effectively propose to management and HR to allow employees to purchase additional vacation?

Unpaid time off has, generally, in my experience required significantly more work to actually take than vacation - systems are designed for using vacation already.


  • United States
  • Mid-size to large company
  • Defined vacation schedule based on years experience, etc
  • Person making proposa is not in HR or management
  • 7
    Other than the costs of providing your benefits, how would purchasing vacation differ from unpaid time off?
    – Blrfl
    May 1 '13 at 17:46
  • Now that I think about it, I'm also curious about how "purchasing vacation" works. This didn't really register when I was reading answers to my question. While taking "Leave Without Pay" is acceptable to me in a pinch, if I have to pay the company for the time off they refused to give me, then I probably want to find a different place to work.
    – GreenMatt
    May 1 '13 at 18:11
  • 6
    @GreenMatt: Not to mention that you'd be giving the company post-tax money to pay your salary, which would be taxed again before it landed back in your hands. That's why time off without pay makes more sense.
    – Blrfl
    May 1 '13 at 18:56
  • @Blrfl if you want to ask a question about unpaid time off vs purchasing vacation, feel free, this question is about purchasing vacation (which then enters the vacation reporting system and is normally considerably easier to manage as an employee).
    – enderland
    May 1 '13 at 19:24
  • 1
    @Blrfl - In my experience, in the United States, "buying vacation time" simply consists of your salary being reduced, pre-tax. You would not have the double taxation issue you mention. When you file your taxes your W2 will just say that you made less. In my experience it shows up on the paycheck as a pre-tax deduction.
    – kralco626
    Dec 26 '13 at 15:04

I work for a (medium-to-large US company with years-based vacation policies) that has just such a program in place. Associates can choose to purchase 1 week of extra "Vacation", at the cost of 1 week of salary. Although the cost is spread out throughout the year's paychecks, they are effectively taking a week without pay.

To be honest, I'm a bit surprised by how many Associates choose to take advantage of this benefit. Even many people who complain regularly that they are strapped for cash take the extra week off. I guess you could also consider it a 2% pay cut.

I don't know if this benefit came from a bottom-up effort, or a top-down effort, since it was there when my company was acquired.

I do know that we have many committees whose role it is to continuously survey the Associate ranks, asking about what would make for a better workplace, report back to management, and implement some of those suggestions. This benefit may have originated there.

In your case, if your company has these kinds of committees, you could join one and thus have a voice with those who are in a position to implement such a policy. If your company does not have these committees, you could speak with your boss and with HR about the policy (or even offer to start one of these committees), and perhaps even offer to conduct a survey of the Associates to see if this benefit is appealing. (I've often seen SurveyMonkey used for this sort of thing.)

Try to get HR on your side here. Most HR groups do annual or more frequent surveys about benefit trends. Perhaps with your prodding, they might find that this is a reasonably new, but increasingly common benefit that has a relatively low company cost, and a high employee satisfaction return. That tends to appeal to HR. You might even be able to do a Google search yourself and find other companies in your industry who offer this benefit - good ammunition to start a discussion, as HR likes to stay competitive with benefits.

  • I work for such a company, and I don't know why people don't take this: the company refunds money you spent but didn't use as vacation. So at worst you're making an interest-free loan for (on average) half a year, but at best you have the extra days if you want/need them. Apr 19 '15 at 22:44
  • "To be honest, I'm a bit surprised by how many Associates choose to take advantage of this benefit." How much PTO do you offer by as standard?
    – Tom W
    Apr 20 '15 at 12:05
  • @JoeStrazzere no I didn't mean automatically taking it; I meant taking the option so you have more flexibility later in the year. That's in a scenario where you get the money back if you don't spend it (like my employer), I mean. Apr 20 '15 at 12:58
  • @MonicaCellio: May be a matter of cash flow for some of them -- or of the psychology thereof. Same reasons some folks don't sign up for a 401(k) even when ignoring it means passing up "free money." Or fail to take advantage of other benefits. If the don't know, don't understand, or don't trust...
    – keshlam
    Jul 25 '15 at 2:33

It won't be easy to propose something like this, but I think it can be done in a mutually beneficial way. Keep in mind, your company has probably had these policies intact for a very long time. You don't want to come in gung-ho demanding changes.

Approach the situation with empirical evidence, write a careful e-mail to the head of HR/Benefits about the benefits of more vacation(happy employees do better work, etc). Make sure to reference official studies that you find online about how productivity and vacation have a positive correlation. I'm sure they are out there :) You can also explain that purchasing vacation is a nice benefit since the employer isn't technically paying out anything extra.

The next thing is you want to find some other like minded thinkers. One person is easy to ignore but if many people send e-mails similar to yours than you will have a much better shot.

These are a lot of the same tactics I tell people to employ when they're trying to get 401(k) changes made.

  • To help make it more mutually beneficial. We have a policy that also allows you to sell holiday back to the company each year if you so wish. Provided you stay above the legal minimum of course
    – user5305
    May 2 '13 at 8:50

Have a discussion with your immediate manager to bring up the topic. This isn't a particularly sensitive discussion, so I wouldn't feel the need to be extremely careful about it. If your company has an open door policy, now would be the time to use it.

The big thing you want to do here is propose it something that benefits the company, and not just the employees.

This article goes in depth about the pros and cons of this situation.

  • This is a nice start but I guess I am hoping to see a bit more specific strategy. This is a question with a complicated answer which is considerably more than just "talk to your boss."
    – enderland
    May 1 '13 at 17:37

Every company is different, so it's difficult to know why your company gives you the current amount a vacation time and why they don't offer more. Do people with more seniority get more? Are they competitive. You don't want them to just give you an "No" upfront. Before making any type of request, make sure you understand the laws, have your facts straight, and be prepared for different arguements.

Employment Laws - Check in your area what are the laws concerning vacation time. The company may be required to compensate workers who leave with vacation time. That's why many don't give them to you all at once, but have you accumulate them over the course of the year. I know you are in the US, but these laws vary state to state.

Benefits - *You'll have to find out what the rate is and possibly (maybe not at first) offer even more to compensate for benefits.* It's not like your company can stop payment on your health care when you take a few extra days off. You should have these calculations ready and have something to negotiate.

Workload - Can they really do without you for a longer stretch of time? Some industries are more seasonal and have workers put in extra hours during busier times. You may be able to do this on a project by project basis.

Complainers - I'm amazed at how many requests like buying more vacation time are denied because of a fear that others will complain. They hide behind company policy instead of just listening to individuals and seeing what they prefer. You want more vacation time. Someone else may want over-time, so your extra money could pay for it. Another person may want flex-time. Everyone would be much more motivated this way instead of a one size fits all approach, so I don't have to listen to them complain.

My suggestion is to be prepared for a debate.

  • 2
    So... do I copy/paste this and magically get management to offer it? Or what? This doesn't provide any answer to my question at all.
    – enderland
    May 1 '13 at 20:52
  • You'll have to find out what the rate is and possibly offer even more to compensate for benefits. You have to find out if it is legal and you need to be prepared for objections. I can't predict what those are. The laws vary from state to state.
    – user8365
    May 1 '13 at 21:42
  • There is no magic. Only persistence, the best estimates of cost and benefit you can possibly come up with, and luck. There is no way to make a cat quack, especially if it doesn't see a need to do so.
    – keshlam
    Jul 25 '15 at 4:58

I also work for a largish company that has had a vacation buying policy for as long as I've worked there. Our policy allows the purchase of up to 1 week of vacation via paycheck deduction. We can cash in unused purchased time up to November and get that money returned in our December paychecks.

At my workplace, I see three main categories of people taking advantage of this policy:

  • people who always like or need more vacation - least germane for selling the policy
  • people buying the vacation "just in case" then cashing it in at year-end
  • newer employees

The key group, and the one I think worth focusing on, is newer employees. They have the least vacation, and they may have a lot to accomplish outside work all at once - house/car/DMV/bank/etc.

At the same time, new employees may be wary of rocking the boat. As Enderland notes, unpaid time off, at least where I work, involves discussions and planning and permissions. A lot of new employees may be reluctant to raise the issue while they're still learning how the corporate culture works. Vacation buying is just an option they can choose along with other flexible benefits - it sends a message that this is normal, other employees do this too.

For employees who start during the fourth quarter, this is also the vacation time that lets them spend year-end with family, rather than being unproductive in the office while all their mentors are on vacation.

I'm in group 2, I buy the week every year as cheap insurance and cash it in at year-end. The company gets an interest-free loan on 2% of my salary, and I get flexibility if I need the time. I did have a minor crisis one year, and I didn't have to explain why I needed more time. In turn, HR didn't have to OK a two-day unpaid leave that wasn't worth anyone's discussion time.

Purchased vacation is a cheap way for the company to offer flexibility and make its employees happier.

  • That was my hope, yes, to say "Here are some circumstances to focus on in selling this as beneficial." Sorry if I didn't succeed. Also, as a newbie, I can't comment on other's answers - I think that combining this focus with surveying peer organizations, as your answer mentions, would be a helpful approach.
    – Lace
    May 6 '13 at 22:38

Note that arranging some amount of unpaid time off is often possible, and is effectively the same as buying vacation for those days. Flex-time may be another way to add to time away from the office -- four days of working 10 hours banks a day off. There may also be other programs offered by your employer; as a youngster I took full advantage of the fact that we could get some days off for community service (which was what I wanted those days for anyway).

So if you can't buy 'em, check for alternatives which accomplish the same goal.

But you may be out of luck. The company does need to be able to count on your working most of the non-vacation days, to avoid having to hire someone else to make sure the job gets done. And if they can't count on you for that, they may go looking for someone more reliable.

Also remember that the scheduling of all time off is ultimately at manager's discretion. So even if you can arrange additional days , youmay not be able to take them when you want to.

  • My question was "how can I convince management?" not "what are ways to get vacation which aren't vacation?" and this doesn't really address that, but just is a less comprehensive summary of this list which sparked this question..
    – enderland
    Jul 25 '15 at 1:53
  • @enderland: In my experience, if management understands the request and isn't interested,there is no way to convince them, and recasting the question may be your only option. If the rest of your industry offers this and you can show that they're losing valuable people because they don't, they might listen. If you're a union shop and willing to go on strike over this, they might listen. Otherwise... you've shot your bolt; bring it up again next year with the best arguments you can muster, lather, rinse, repeat as necessary.
    – keshlam
    Jul 25 '15 at 2:21

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .