I was a working student a couple of months ago at a company. We had an informal agreement when it came to vacation that I can just not work if I don't have the time to, and that's my vacation. But obviously I didn't get paid for those days/weeks as I didn't work. At the time I thought that was entirely reasonable.

However, I just found out that there is legislation where I live that I am entitled to a minimum amount of paid vacation even as a working student. I haven't received any of that, I only received the payments for my hours worked. Thus I am literally owed a certain amount of money by that company.

Note that while I did have a written contract with that company, it doesn't mention anything about vacation pay. It does however mention that I am not entitled to "extra payment", which I believe is against the law if it is meant to exclude vacation pay.

My question is how should I proceed? Do I just politely contact HR about this? How likely are my chances that they will fix this without escalating it?

Please don't debate legislation here, take it as a given. Hence location is irrelevant. I just want to know how to approach the company regarding this.

  • 13
    Please specify the country because the procedure may depend on it. Oct 11, 2021 at 17:37
  • 2
    We're you a casual employee, or part time employee? Oct 11, 2021 at 21:40
  • 1
    @GregoryCurrie I don't know what you mean by casual employee, but as a working student I was a part time employee. Oct 11, 2021 at 21:49
  • 2
    Even if some working students may be able to claim paid vacation, this does not necessarily apply to all contracts, or not in the same way. Location is important to determine if you are actually owed anything, as well as your exact status. If you were paid for hours worked rather than a fixed amount per week/month (with a fixed amount of hours for the same period), you may not be owed anything, or not the same amount -- this will vary per location
    – jcaron
    Oct 12, 2021 at 0:22
  • 3
    "Hence location is irrelevant." Location is highly relevant. For example, based on what you wrote, if you were in my city and state, you would be out of luck. The laws here are very specific about both accumulation and USE of paid time off. And if you're in the US, city and state might both affect the answer. As an example, in my state, based on what you wrote, the employer was within their rights to withhold unused paid time off. In another state, that might not be true.
    – user76902
    Oct 13, 2021 at 22:45

1 Answer 1


Since you've finished there I'd approach this by reaching out to their HR (or whoever handled payroll) and suggest that there appears to have been a mistake with your last payment as your holiday pay hasn't been included. Be calm, be genial, you'd be surprised how much people will sometimes bend over backwards to help resolve your issue simply because you didn't go in guns blazing. Especially where the issue you're bringing to them could get them in all kinds of trouble were it to escalate, and since this would have the potential to go legal and no-one wants to be the reason why their employer gets a drubbing in court I'd say this qualifies.

The advantages of this are:

  1. You're presenting your entitlement to the pay as a fait accompli - you aren't asking if you're entitled to it. If this is ignorance or confusion rather than malice then being the confident party on your position and entitlements from the very outset only benefits you.

  2. You're giving them a graceful "out" - if they were knowingly trying to pull a fast one they can cover by saying "whoops.. sorry about that it should have been included". And if they weren't then by not going in accusing them of this you avoid any overly-defensive reaction.

If they try and argue the toss and suggest you aren't entitled to it then stay calm, stay reasonable, and gently point out that under legislation X you'll have accrued Y holiday entitlement during your time there. Add that you've checked you records and you've definitely only been paid for the hours you actually worked (otherwise they'll ask you to go do this and you'll have to go through the whole conversation again later).

If they're still not for shifting then you need to get outside help - that could be a local governmental labour department or a lawyer, no way to know without more info on location.


You must log in to answer this question.

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