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The concept of a certain amount of paid days is very foreign to me. I'm used to working shift work. The way you would take off is find someone and go, "Hey John, could you take my shift I'll take your next weekend".

The fact that you only have a certain amount makes me afraid to use them. What if I run out? Also it seems my company is making you use them for everything. Let's say my car is broken or I have legitimate plans that will take all day (I have to find a lawyer for example and they only work business hours), my company makes you "waste" vacation time. If I used vacation time for all this "dumb but required" stuff, I would have no vacation. On the flip side nothing in my life will get done. Let's say I have to get a lot of things done and run out but would still like a week vacation (when it's obviously slow). Is there a such thing as unpaid time off?

I would gladly work in a place where you get no alloted vacation time and you simply told your manager "Hey, is it ok if I take off in a few days I have something to do". If nothing crazy is going on they let you, else they don't. The company doesn't pay you so there is no net loss. I look at a job, "Work for an hour, get paid for an hour. Don't work, don't get paid." Simple concept but it doesn't seem to exist in IT.

  • Where have you worked/are you working now? How many leave days do you have in total? In the countries I know, when you run out of vacation days, you can still ask for unpaid leave but that rarely happens. In any case, finding someone to take over your tasks would not necessarily mean you don't have to take a leave day if you don't want to be present at your workplace and conversely having paid leave days doesn't mean that you don't need to ensure your absence does not disrupt the business (which usually means that colleagues can't all take leave days at the same time). – Relaxed Jan 19 '14 at 14:59
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    @kIIdflasdfllfad IT is mostly salaried employment so paying by the hour is alien to most professionals - and some would find it offensive – Neuromancer Jan 19 '14 at 16:36
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    @kIIdflasdfllfad social status and class mainly having no fixed hours of work aka salleried is a big class indicator – Neuromancer Jan 19 '14 at 22:41
  • @kIIdflasdfllfad It goes the other way too. Salary means literally the hours you work don't matter. If you get your job done that's what matters. For example I had something come up in my personal life so I left my manager know and I was gone for two hours to take care of it, not vacation time required. – Andy Jan 20 '14 at 2:22
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    @kIIdflasdfllfad There are companies that abuse it yes. And there have also been salary/exempt employees that sued their employer and won retroactive reclassification as hourly/non-exempt employees when the employer w's counting hours. – Andy Jan 20 '14 at 14:23
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The concept of Paid leave is used in some companies to provide family/work balance.

The concept is that, you take days off and the organisation still continues to pay you for the days you have taken off. That way, you can take time off work without compromising on earning for those days. Pseudo family/work balance. i.e, it is the organisation's way of saying, "Take a vacation but don't worry about earning for those days, we'll still pay you for those." (Thereby you need not work extra days to earn the income you lost)

The problem with this is, the meaning of paid leave gets diluted with time. Also, it leaves a lot of room for individual interpretations. Managers tend to look at paid leave as the days where you take time off to get your work done. This leads to the dilemma of "What happens when my paid leave get exhausted?"

Simple, you can still take time off without getting paid for it. This depends from organization to organization. But the rule of the thumb is, if there is an understanding between you and your superiors about taking time off without getting paid (after you exhaust your paid leaves), you can take them. Just make sure that you have proper "written" (email) communication sent to your superiors regarding the same.

  • @JoeStrazzere Means paid leave is meant as a tool to bring in work life balance. It shouldn't be viewed by managers as an option to be availed ONLY when one is in need of it. – Ricketyship Jan 20 '14 at 6:45
  • I'd downvote this if I could, as it's highly subjective, and depends very much on where you are, and who you work for. In many countries, paid leave is a legal right for employees, and the employer has no power (in theory, at least) to dictate what you do with it. – Steve Melnikoff Jan 20 '14 at 15:53
  • @SteveMelnikoff In a general sense, when your paid leave is exhausted, you can always avail unpaid ones. The question isn't about whether paid leave is a legal right. The question pertains to what one does after the option to take paid leave gets exhausted. But you are free to downvote. – Ricketyship Jan 20 '14 at 15:58
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What options are available may vary from company to company or country to country, but in my experience, generally your options are to make up the lost time or to take unpaid leave. In certain circumstances involving extended leave for an illness or injury you might become eligible for disability leave not included in your PTO balance.

In general, if the absence is short, like a day or less, the preferred method would be to make up the time during the same pay period, either by working from home, coming in earlier, staying later, or coming in on your usual day off. Essentially in this situation, you are "trading shifts" with yourself.

For longer absences, where making up the time would not be feasible, unpaid leave is an option many companies may offer. When I was a low-seniority employee at a salaried position, I had an opportunity for a three week trip to another country to do some volunteer-work unrelated to work. Being a low-seniority employee, my yearly vacation allotment was only two-weeks vacation time. Being a predicament, I talked to my supervisor to see if there was a way we could make my trip possible despite my insufficient vacation balance. Since it was not a "busy" time of year at work, she said it was no problem, but beyond my available vacation balance, I would have to take unpaid leave for the remainder of my trip. I did not accruing additional vacation time or other benefits during my unpaid leave, but at that company it was as simple as entering a special code on my timecard to get my pay docked for those days.

Your company may also have a policy allowing you to take unpaid personal leave for extended periods--at my company, that period was up to 3 months--for any non-work related reason such uses as caring for an ill or elderly family member, travel, mental health, etc.

But to know what happens at your company, should you unexpectedly need additional time off, you would have to talk to someone familiar with the policies and procedures at your company.

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    A third possibility is that some employers in some countries will be willing to let you "go negative", using more leave that your current PTO balance will take it to a negative number which will return to a positive balance as you accrue PTO. I have been in this situation a couple of times when I started a new job with a future holiday already booked. – Carson63000 Jan 20 '14 at 2:49
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    Some companies either don't allow unpaid leave, or look at it very negatively, in a career-stunting way. FMLA and long-term illnesses are different, but having to take a day off every week to service the car and run errands will quickly start affecting your reputation, at best. – thursdaysgeek Jan 20 '14 at 16:49
  • @thursdaysgeek: Ah yes that's when you should run 9 9s every two weeks. – Joshua Feb 3 '17 at 2:44
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In my country the general paid leaves are:

  • vacation leave (4 weeks minimum)
  • sick leave (2 weeks typically)
  • maternity leave

There are also some special leaves that may have been negotiated by the union or added by the employer to attract people, such as:

  • rostered day off (work extra for 19 days so you can take the 10th one off)
  • bereavement leave (funeral)
  • parental leave (child related activities)
  • time in lieu (convert overtime into time off instead)

Some employers will let you take unpaid leave. It is very situation dependant. From the employers point of view they still have the overhead costs even though you aren't there. For example, taking unpaid leave during a busy period will cost them money as they may have to find a temporary replacement.

There is no paid leave for going down town and doing personal business. I don't think it is fair on the employer to pay you to do that. The equivalent with shift work would be leaving halfway through a shift to go shopping.

However, most employers are flexible and would be prepared to let you have a few hours for errands every now and again so long as you pay it back. So you have a few options that they may be willing to accept:

  • Take vacation leave
  • Make up the lost time by staying later
  • Organise a rostered day off, or half rostered day off, and do the errands then.

The Aussie alternative: "Chuck a sickie". Basically say you are sick with diarrhoea and instead of coming into work, and go do your personal stuff. Diarrhoea is a favourite illness because you can legitimately recover from it within 24 hours. Note: Depending on the employer, chucking a sickie can get you fired.

Finally, you could work casually by the hour.

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What happens when you “run out” of vacation days\PTO

What happens differs depending on the rules in your company. If you aren't clear, you should ask HR.

Some companies combine vacation days and sick days into a single PTO category. You are expected to manage your own time off in whatever way works best for you. For people who don't take much sick time, it's a good deal. For others who need a lot of sick time, it's not such a good deal.

If your past work history indicates that you will need a lot of sick or miscellaneous time off, then you may simply need to plan on less vacation time. You might need to learn how to handle the "dumb but required" stuff without taking time off. Many of us find ways to get things done first thing in the morning or later in the day (where being a bit late or leaving a bit early isn't a problem in the company). If that doesn't work, then nights and weekends can often suffice. As a last resort, you can sometimes get someone else to run the errands for you (as a favor, or as a paid task). It's all about time management.

Some companies would permit you to take unpaid time off, at your discretion. I haven't encountered a lot of those companies, but my sense is that this should be the exception - to be used only in unusual situations. And abuse of this would be a mark against you during an annual review.

Combined vacation/PTO isn't something I prefer, but it is handled by many. But even if sick time were kept separate from vacation, you'd still need to learn how to deal with the situation.

IT work is generally not like shift work - you usually can't just decide not to be around and swap your time for someone else's. It sounds like this is new for you, and something you need to learn how to handle. You might want to chat with your co-workers to learn how they deal with it. Eventually, you'll settle in to the professional work life and it won't seem so foreign.

  • So that gives me a perverse incentive to hoard my PTO and use it at the end of the year if it doesn't carry over.... It sounds dumb to me. – kIIdflasdfllfad Jan 19 '14 at 16:10
  • The key is to focus on any flexibility you have with the hours you work so you can get stuff done without taking time off. It can be as annoying as taking three lunch breaks to do one task that needs 45 minutes, just because you can't spend 45 minutes doing it in one hit. Or if you have reasonable flexitime, go where you need to be the second they open, do your thing, then start work late. Especially if you're salaried, that's often what you're expected to do. – Móż Jan 20 '14 at 8:08

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