In job interviews, discussing vacation time (PTO) is not too clever: it signals you are thinking about time not spent for the company. Does this consequently make it an excellent topic discussing during pay negotiation later on?

In a meeting this Friday, I will list the reasons for which I deserve senior perks & pay grade. My boss will1 downplay any number of my arguments & fulfill my demands to a lesser extent. I might have to make this an in-or-out situation, making clear that I really mean it.

Adding to how much value I provide for the company.. I could also remind him of how unfavorable my resignation would be, considering (among other reasons) my impressive2 number of unspent paid vacation days. Either pointing out the size of my potential last pay check.. or just casually mentioning that I feel like requesting a looong vacation soon.

1 I expect this because last time I wanted a substantial pay rise, he said "OK" and that was it, no meeting.

2 not uncommon in Germany; voluntary; pay stub confirms the number; unspent days carry over to next year & do not expire automatically

  • 1
    Unless you have it in writing, you cannot acumulate a lot more vacation days than the yearly amount. In special cases vacation days can be taken over into the first three months of the next year. If you didn't take your vacation days 2 years ago, they might be lost Aug 5, 2019 at 16:04
  • veiled threats and coercion are not positive negotiating tactics.
    – joeqwerty
    Aug 5, 2019 at 16:21
  • @Mangocherry Might be a law question, but pretty sure having the current number on monthly receipts is the norm - and forfeiture rules are something that the employer would have to have in writing.
    – user107611
    Aug 5, 2019 at 16:37
  • You do realize that an increase in pay would just increase the amount of your finaly paycheck for those unused PTO. Unless you are somehow able to forfeit all of your unsed PTO in order to get a raise, which I'm sure you'd be against anyway. You have no leverage. Aug 6, 2019 at 1:55
  • @user107611 As always IANAL so for definite answers you have to consult a lawyer. But a forfeiture rule is present in the BUrlG. gesetze-im-internet.de/burlg/__7.html. Unless you have it in writing that other (better for the employee) rules apply, this rule applies even if you didn't know about it. Aug 6, 2019 at 7:54

3 Answers 3


Is unspent vacation time a good argument in pay negotiations?


The company has already given you those days. The fact that you have not yet used them is irrelevant. From the company's standpoint, any value that those vacation days provide is already in your possession to either use or cash out if you leave the company. Your boss will surely be aware of this, making this a poor argument for a salary/benefits increase.

Focus on the value you add to the company instead of attempting to indirectly threaten the company.

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    I'd add the comment that this is assuming the OP wasn't "encouraged" to not take the vacation time, which unfortuantely does happen
    – Gamora
    Aug 5, 2019 at 15:47
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    Not only have they already given you them they will also be accounted for in the company's financial system so they know they have that liability and it will make no difference to them when you cash it in.
    – deep64blue
    Aug 5, 2019 at 16:34
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    @AlanDev I was thinking less about the significance of the liabilities than about the necessity for re-scheduling workforce & liquid assets in a small company - in the same fashion I would find it annoying if certain clauses in my pre-negotiation contract necessitated me changing my long-term plans.
    – user107611
    Aug 5, 2019 at 17:20

This could backfire in many ways:

  • It may signal that you may be a workaholic - someone who works so hard for so long that they get burned out. Companies allot time off because they know employees perform better when they use it.
  • It may signal that you are not very good at managing your own schedule and resources.
  • The "threat" of having to pay a handful of PTO days is insubstantial compared to the overall cost of turning over a position, and it's not even the tiniest of drops in the bucket compared to the cost of an employment lawsuit. In other words, it's not going to significantly change the cost of you leaving, and if you're trying to threaten, it's not exactly a significant thing to threaten with.
  • Threatening a long vacation would be counterproductive as well - basically, you're implying that you're going to go away without bothering to help transition or backfill your position, which does nothing but make you look unhelpful and selfish - not the attitude you want to portray when you're asking for more money.

The best technique when asking for a raise is to make it about the value you bring to your employer because of your skills and abilities. You want to make yourself look valuable. Threats don't add value. Not taking PTO doesn't add value (as pointed out in a comment elsewhere, the employer has essentially already paid for your PTO in terms of their book keeping).

If you're going to ask for a raise, be ready to demonstrate the value you bring to the company. Be able to show how that value has increased since your last raise. Portray yourself as a dependable employee. Don't threaten or try to hold your boss captive.

  • The most threatening thing about me leaving should be .. me not staying. This is so much better than what I had in mind.
    – user107611
    Aug 5, 2019 at 17:08
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    Giving the OP a large pay increase actually increases the unpaid vacation time liability. It will be paid at the OP's future pay rate, not the pay rate now or when the time was accrued. The OP indeed needs to justify the increase in terms of value provided. Aug 5, 2019 at 17:21
  • @user107611: The most threatening thing... My point is, don't make it about threats. Turn the tables for a bit. How would you feel if your employer said, You must work more hours OR ELSE! or, we're not giving you this raise, look at all these resumes of people who would do the work for less! Maybe we should fire you! Those things would all probably feel unfair! Threats don't make for healthy relationships. What you want to do is focus on the relationship where you add value and your employer pays you for it. In salary negotiations, everything else is white noise.
    – dwizum
    Aug 6, 2019 at 12:28

All other issues aside, this would be a very foolish argument.

Depending on your contract, when you leave, you may be able to get your days "cashed out" at your current rate. This means that if you have $30k of leave currently, and you get a 10% raise, that $30k becomes $33k. Which means immediately, the company's liability increases. So, basically you're asking for a free $3k upfront, and then using it as a negotiating tactic.

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