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I am from Asia and currently a grad student in USA. Every year I used to take vacation for 3 weeks to 4 weeks between December and January to visit my parents in Asia. As a student it is not a problem as my adviser at school has been fine with my vacation plan. However, I am going to finish my grad studies and going to join a big company (CA, USA) within a couple of months. According to the company's policy, every employee can get 3 weeks "accrued" vacation days per year (monthly 1.5 days). I am going to join the company in August.01.2013. I am planning to take a vacation of 3 weeks from Dec. 15. 2013 to visit my parents. However, by December.15.2013, I would get only one week accrued vacation days. Therefore I would like to discuss this with my future manager. The company already provided the details of my future manager. What are the things I should be careful while discussing my vacation plan with my future manager? Does it create any bad impression on me?

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The way to avoid creating a bad impression is by being open and honest, and being willing to consider alternatives. I've had this problem when switching jobs before. The way that I have handled it is to ask my new manager this question: "I have a vacation scheduled from June 1 through June 20. How shall we handle this?" (In this particular case, I already had all of my travel booked, and was willing to start the position after I returned from my holiday.) Then you have the opportunity to discuss it. Options can include letting you borrow against future vacation time, working on holidays (Labor Day, Thanksgiving) to bank some time off, or taking some or all of the time off without pay. You will create a bad impression if you demand that you take off this amount of time, or if you demand that you get paid vacation for all of it, or if you are inflexible about the needs of your company and your project versus your personal desire to take this vacation. You should also consider what you will do in the worst-case scenario, which is that your manager says that you cannot have any extra time off at all, and thus you will be limited to one week.

Going forward, you might want to reconsider this annual plan. You're likely to only ever get three weeks of vacation while working in the US, and you need to consider whether you want to use all of it every year to visit your family. Your original plan worked well when you were in grad school, but might not be appropriate for you as you begin your career. You might want to take a summer vacation to Europe, which is incompatible with spending all of your vacation time on your annual visit to your family.

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Making the request shouldn't create a bad impression-- managers that deal with employees that have family out of the country are generally accustomed to employees taking longer, less frequent vacations. As with any request, however, you need to be prepared to compromise or even have your request turned down. And you'll want to think through the concerns your manager and the company are likely to have.

If you are getting three weeks of vacation as a new graduate in the United States, for example, it is very likely that this is a combination of vacation time, sick leave, and other forms of paid time-off. If that's the case, your plans would require going two weeks negative in your accrued time off at the beginning of the year which would basically prevent you from taking a sick day for the first year of your employment. It's pretty unlikely that anyone can guarantee that you won't get sick for a year. That may make your manager concerned about when you would be able to get back to a 0 balance and whether that will involve you coming in to work when you're sick and infecting everyone else in the group.

The company may also have policies that prevent you from going too far into the negative on your accrued vacation. They may also have policies about how long a single vacation can be (and three weeks would likely be pushing the envelope). The company may be willing to let you go a day or two negative. But going two weeks negative may create issues for HR. If someone leaves the company with a huge negative balance, that almost certainly creates headaches for the company which is why they generally try to avoid the situation.

Is there something about this year that is particularly special? If there is a special reason that you want to be home this year, it may be easier for the company to deal with you having a one-time negative vacation balance. If your intention is to take a long vacation home every year, meaning that you would end up spending the first 8 months of every year getting back to a 0 balance, that is likely to be much more problematic. Companies are really wary of people that are continuously at a negative balance with no expectation that they'll ever be accruing their vacation time before they use it.

Depending on the type of job, there may also be political considerations. If, for example, your group is responsible for supporting a production process, it's likely that someone has to be working during the holidays to take care of issues as they come up. It so, it would be common for things like seniority to come into play where the more senior members of the group get the first choice of holidays and the newer employees have to work the days nobody else wants like Christmas or New Year's Day. There may also be projects that require work over the holiday period (the end of the year can be a popular time to install new software if that is a relatively slow period for the company. Or Christmas may be a key period for the company and they may want to minimize the time off people take in the lead-up to that holiday.

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    It's not accurate that three weeks of vacation as a new grad is likely to be combination of vacation, sick time, and other forms of paid time off. For software engineers in Silicon Valley, 3 weeks of vacation is pretty standard, plus 2 weeks of sick time, plus paid days off (New Year's Day, Memorial Day, etc: the number of these days off depend on the company), and perhaps a handful of "personal days". – nadyne May 30 '13 at 18:50
  • @nadyne - I did say "likely", not "certainly". I don't see anything in the question that indicates that the original poster is a software engineer or that they're going to be in Silicon Valley rather than somewhere else in California. – Justin Cave May 30 '13 at 19:03
  • Position is software engineer and indeed in Silicon Valley. – samarasa May 30 '13 at 20:17
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Get used to not having the time you had in the past to take vacations when and of whatever duration you like. That's life as an employee (and as a business owners it's worse, while in theory you can take whatever time off you want in reality you can take hardly any at all).
So rather than than try to get a month off when you've only worked there a quarter, AND don't have anywhere near the hours saved up, AND no doubt haven't yet read the employee rulebook (many companies have limits to the length of vacations), adjust your plans. Either make it a short trip over Christmas, or see if you can invite your parents over to the US (they'll have to fend for themselves while you're at at work, but you'll have the evenings and weekends together still).

  • terrible advice. Just ask to go negative on your accrued vacation. – bharal May 30 '13 at 11:10
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    @bharal and what about next year? This is not terrible advice at all. – enderland May 30 '13 at 11:51
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    @enderland "give up" is generally not considered great advice. – bharal May 30 '13 at 12:18
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    @Bharal - Not all companies allow for negative vacation time and most companies that do limit the amount you can go negative. That said I agree that "give up" is not good advice for how to solve the problem. And just because it worked one time with one company does not mean it will work everytime with every company. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 30 '13 at 13:08
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    This answer seems to lack a signifigant understanding of the problem. I do not think it rises anywhere near the level of expert advice and am not sure it even meets the minimum standards for the Workplace. Instead of being condecending and saying what the answer is, you should explain why it is that way and how the OP can deal with the situation. – IDrinkandIKnowThings May 30 '13 at 13:11
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You didn't mention at which level you are joining your new employer. Also, what does your contract say about such a situation ?

What are the things I should be careful while discussing my vacation plan with my future manager?

Without knowing your contractual obligations to your future employer, there really are only 2 possible out comes. One is that you will be allowed to take your yearly vacation and the payment for the days that you havent accrued will be docked. Second is to postpone this vacation to next year.

You have to also keep in mind a few other things : I am assuming you will either be working on your OPT or a work visa. Figure out if you can be allowed to work remotely. This can be proposed at some point in time during your discussion once you know the company policies and the law around your status in US. Also be prepared to not go on your yearly vacation this year. You are not a student any more! If this turns out to be the case, just make sure you know how many of these accrued leaves can be carried over to the next year.

Does it create any bad impression on me?

This may create a bad impression if you are joining at a very low level of the organization chain. In my opinion it would be best for you to not talk about it till you can get a feel for the culture of the organization. Although, as it happened in the case of my work buddy, if you indeed have a situation where you have to go home, then most employers will accommodate by docking your pay. Very important point is to have all this communication in an email so you can explain things to USCIS if situation arises.

  • @happybudha: Thank you. My offer letter only "lists" about the 3 weeks accrued vacation per year. Although, I am joining as a senior developer, this is somewhat an entry level as I am just out of the school. Yes, I am on working visa. – samarasa May 30 '13 at 16:28
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Ugh.

Just tell the employer that you've made plans, and that if possible could there be a work around?

Nobody cares about this stuff - they will either:

a. dock your pay for the excess amount

or:

b. have you accrue negative leave.

Given that it is for your family, you are in the US and not Asia, i don't see how people will mind. But first tell them you already have the plans! Then ask how to go forward!

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    I would mind...having non-local family is no reason to have a different set of rules applied. – jmorc May 30 '13 at 12:15
  • ? a different set of rules isn't being applied. It is a work-around, and not uncommon. – bharal May 30 '13 at 12:17
  • If it is a 'work-around' then that means you are using rules NOT in the handbook...otherwise this wouldnt be an issue. I'm not saying he can't have some work-around applied...I'm saying I would personally take issue with someone getting rules significantly bent to overcome this particular situation. – jmorc May 30 '13 at 17:30

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