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I have an appointment which I can't schedule outside of working hours. It is my first week in the job and I wanted to ask my new employer if on a particular day during my first week, whether I can come into work later than usual or finish work earlier than usual.

Is it reasonable to ask my new employer whether I can clock in a few hours later or clock out a few hours early on a particular day in my first week, in order to go to an appointment that cannot be scheduled outside working hours?

If so, how do I write this request in an email?

I can either request to clock in later or clock out earlier, so I was also wondering if it is best to give my new employer the option of either granting me permission to clock in later, or grant me permission to clock out early? They might appreciate the flexibility.

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  • I can't see the problem in asking, provided you're not causing overt disruption (such as leaving a classroom training course early). If you couldn't have foreseen the exact timing of this appointment, and can't delay it for a few weeks while you get your feet under the table, then maybe just briefly explain the circumstances: "Hey, boss, I've broken a tooth and need to go the dentist asap. Is it ok to book off Thursday afternoon?". It doesn't need to be a dentist - it can be a doctor for a minor procedure, a mechanic for car repairs, or whatever.
    – Steve
    Jul 29 at 9:09
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    As a future tip, if you know you're going to need time off shortly after starting before you're hired (whether a few hours for a doctors appointment or a previously schedule vacation), it's probably a good idea to bring it up during the presigning negotiations. If they have rigidly inflexible policies you might be able to tweak your starting date to just after the event (or take is as a warning that this isn't a job you want afterall); or get a bit of PTO as a starting bonus instead of having to go into the hole. Jul 29 at 11:50
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    It does depend on the nature of the appointment and whether it's possible to change it. The first week may well be packed with meetings and training. But equally, if you've just moved for a new job, there are often things that you need to organised, and employers will want to be flexible if you need to e.g. look at a place to live.
    – Stuart F
    Jul 29 at 16:04
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You can always ask to take a day of personal time off. Or half a day if your company processes allow that. Or collect a couple minus-hours on your time account if your company uses flex-time.

Employers usually don't like it when employees who just started take personal time off just for recreational purposes. But if you explain the reason for why you need to be absent, that it's not for fun and why you can not reschedule outside of work hours, then reasonable* employers will usually make an exception.

Whether or not you are entitled to take personal time off during your first week is a question which needs to be answered by looking at your work contract and your local employment laws.

If so, how do I write this request in an email?

This is something I would ask in person or at least via phone / video chat. Usually you would address such a request to your direct superior. But if you don't yet know who that is, then you just have to contact whatever contact information you have with the company, which is likely the person in HR responsible for recruiting and onboarding. If they don't have the authority to give you permission, they should be able to redirect you to the person who has.

In larger companies it will usually be necessary to make the official request for PTO electronically through a standardized process. But if you are not officially an employee yet, you will not know how it works or might not even have access yet to the system which handles the PTO workflow. So you might need the assistance of your manager anyway.

* Not all employers are reasonable

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  • An appointment does not qualify as recreational
    – Sa2
    Jul 29 at 9:58
  • Who in the company is the correct person to make this request to?
    – Sa2
    Jul 29 at 9:58
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    @Sa2 I thought I made it clear that employers are more likely to make exceptions for "serious" appointments, but I will try to make it even more clear.
    – Philipp
    Jul 29 at 9:58
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    @Sa2 Usually you would ask your direct superior for personal time off. But if you don't yet know who they are, you might have to try whatever contact you have. Either they can give you permission, or they can direct you to whoever can.
    – Philipp
    Jul 29 at 10:00
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    @Sa2 Making such requests in person has several benefits. It gives you the opportunity to persuade the person you are talking with directly and answer any questions they have immediately. It also has psychological advantages. It is easier to say no via email than it is to say no to someone's face.
    – Philipp
    Jul 29 at 10:46
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Is it reasonable to ask my new employer whether I can clock in a few hours later or clock out a few hours early on a particular day in my first week, in order to go to an appointment that cannot be scheduled outside working hours?

We can't really answer this question without knowing what your job is, but if you think it would be reasonable once you've been working there for a while, it is probably reasonable during your first week.

If so, how do I write this request in an email?

You don't. You do it in person (or video call, or whatever is available to you). You want to establish a rapport with your new manager, take every opportunity you can to connect with them.

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  • What if you only have your manager's email?
    – Sa2
    Jul 29 at 9:32
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    "Dear Manager, could we please have a call to discuss something in my first week? Thanks, Sa2". Not rocket science! Jul 29 at 9:52
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Depending on local laws, you could just say "I have a doctor's appointment on day X, how should I proceed?". Work laws, in general, grant you the right to go to a medical exam/consultation without requiring permission from your manager/company. But maybe you'll need to hand a doctor's notice that confirms you were indeed seeing a healthcare professional. Even if the law is not on your side, any reasonable employer will understand the situation.

The same goes for having to sort out a banking issue, testifying in court, and so on. As long as you can explain the case and it is neither leisure nor an interview for a different job, it should be no problem, people have these issues all the time (except for the court case, I hope). If you are not comfortable, you can at first ask generically "How should proceed if I had an appointment during work hours?",

The theoretical question is best posed on Human Resources (HR), while the practical question should be addressed at your direct manager, which will be known to you no later than on your first day.

If however, this is some gray area case, like accompanying your grandmother on a health check, or some already postponed meeting with the principal of your daughter's school, then think well how often an event like this would happen. If it is way too usual, I think it becomes basically a requirement for you that you should work at a place that accommodates this. If these events are to happen once in a blue moon, then explain to your boss that you have this situation and that it is not a recurring thing so that an exception can be made for you, but you both understand that exceptions will not take place every month.

Please refrain from asking for a day off if you are doing something that looks frivolous, even if it is something very important for you (at least if it is not as important as your new job). Examples that come to mind and would put a bad light on you are "I wanted to go to this author's book signing session", "I had this laser tag game with friends scheduled since last month!", "I'm going to this chess championship I have no chance of winning".

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  • Fortunately it is not for something frivolous. Do you agree with the other answers that I should ask my manager over the phone or face to face, rather than asking through an email? Even this early in employment.
    – Sa2
    Jul 29 at 13:32
  • No the answerer, but @Sa2, especially this early in employment. You just started and don't know all the details of the company culture or your bosses preferences, so play it safe by doing it in person.
    – Jeroen
    Jul 29 at 13:39

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