I'm in High School and want to take a lifeguarding job over the summer. The training consists of about 40 hours separated into 1 2 hour lesson a week. I've already attended about 4 so I've put in a lot of time.

On the first day they told us we would work 8 hours a day for 6 days a week with no vacation time and no weekends off. I'm okay with this but my parents are planning to visit family overseas over the summer for 10 days.

Does no vacation time mean I can't take time off (I don't care about not getting paid)? If not is it okay to just quit after a month on the job even though its supposed to last the whole summer?

This is my first work experience.

  • 2
    Have you asked your supervisor or manager or HR ? Commented Apr 15, 2023 at 3:10
  • @Job_September_2020 No the person is very intimidating and I didn't know if it was a stupid question
    – JC101
    Commented Apr 15, 2023 at 3:12
  • 6
    It's a perfectly reasonable question. Ask them. They're the only ones who know the details of their policies. I would guess that this just means time off would be unpaid, but it might also mean you have to help them persuade other people to take your shifts during that time period, since they can't be without lifeguards. But I'm sure you are far from the first lifeguard who has had a conflict, and they must have a standard answer for you. The worst they could say is "Sorry, but in that case we can't use you; try again next summer."
    – keshlam
    Commented Apr 15, 2023 at 3:47

2 Answers 2


Does no vacation time mean I can't take time off (I don't care about not getting paid)?

Yes, that's what it means.

Summer lifeguard jobs are critical roles for a short time period (the summer). In many towns, lifeguards must be available or the pool/beach must be closed.

If you had wanted to take 10 days off in the middle of the summer, you should have mentioned this to your boss. They may have hired an additional lifeguard for coverage, or more likely would have indicated that you should find a different job.

There are summer jobs where taking 10 days off in the middle doesn't matter. Summer Lifeguard is often not one of them.

Talk to your boss now, so as to give them as much notice as possible. Perhaps they can find a way to fill in for your absence.

If not is it okay to just quit after a month on the job even though its supposed to last the whole summer?

You get to decide what "okay" means to you. It clearly won't be "okay" to your employer. You know you were hired with the expectation that you would remain for the summer.

You should expect that you will never be allowed to be a lifeguard in this town again, since showing up is a critical requirement for this job. You may also be banned from any town job.

I'm friends with our beach town's Head Lifeguard. He talks about this sort of thing all the time.

Frankly, if you wish to accompany your family, you will be better off quitting this job now and finding a different job for the parts of the summer you want to work where your absence won't matter.

  • 1
    This answer tries to make the employee feel responsibe for things the employer is responsible for. It is perfectly acceptable for any employee to quit their job and it is the responsibility of the employer to account for the possibility not of the employee.
    – quarague
    Commented Apr 16, 2023 at 11:27
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    @quarague, the employer fulfilled their responsibility when they explained the work schedule, "On the first day they told us we would work 8 hours a day for 6 days a week with no vacation time and no weekends off". OP is free to leave, but that is the nature of the job. Every summer job I had as a teen-ager or a college student expected me to work the whole summer without vacation
    – cdkMoose
    Commented Apr 17, 2023 at 21:14

Generally, how it works is this:

'Vacation Days'/Paid Time Off (PTO) - these are days that the company will pay you your salary, as if you are working - but you aren't working. In the US, I don't believe there is any minimum mandated, whereas in other parts of the world there is minimum number of days an employee is entitled to a year.

Also these aren't awarded in bulk, they are generally accrued at a set rate e.g. you 'earn' 1 day off for X number of days worked.

Now, at any time (we'll get to this in a minute) - you can take leave off and have it as unpaid leave. This can be either you don't have any PTO, you've used it all up or you haven't accrued any PTO yet.

In your case, since it's a summer job and you've indicated you are fine taking unpaid leave - here is how it works:

You put in a leave request for the number of days that you are going to be absent with a start and end date and that it's unpaid leave, your employer then approves the leave.

There are some caveats - in most cases and employer with have a policy about how much notice to give - this varies, but typically the longer the leave requested, the more notice you are either required to give or ought to give. 10 days isn't unreasonable, but it is significant - so I'd be giving them at least 1 months notice. Since you've indicated it will be over the summer - if you have dates, best to give them the dates now. Pro-Corporate Life Tip - Send them the request with the dates via email and never accept a verbal confirmation, ask for confirmation in writing This will help if they try and pull a fast one later on or claim it was never approved.

Generally, unless your boss/workplace is toxic, anything over 1-2 months worth of notice should be automatically guaranteed - the only exceptions would be if the time that is being requested off is a peak time or there is a project that is needed etc. etc.

They might grumble a little - but having a 2 month notice that you are going on unpaid leave for 10 days shouldn't be difficult and since it's a summer job, I'm guessing that they often use teenagers/people on their first job - so they are probably used to it (it might be why the HR person is a bit stern, used to kids pulling stuff whilst they learn what it means to work).

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    @JoeStrazzere - I mean, I had friends that did it in NZ when I was in my teens. They took time off. If the question is specific to not only a country, but a specific type of region within a country, for a specific job at a specific time - then perhaps it's too niche for here? Hence the general advice - which includes giving maximum notice. Commented Apr 15, 2023 at 16:20

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