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If one receives a job offer, should the vacation time be explicitly stated and exact? I received one such for an early employee for a very small and new startup, where the offer received mentioned "participation in company vacation plan when established". The general informal vacation policy currently seems to be take what you need within-reason, get your work done, etc. People just post it to a calendar, etc.

The informality is not a big deal, and I do not expect needing extensive vacation. However, I'd be more worried about not taking any, leaving the company potentially, and them not needing to pay out any unused vacation time because it wasn't stated.

Should I push for exact vacation numbers even before they've established the policy? The pros would be payout-requirements, and firmness, the cons might be less stated time than the informal policy allows for.

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    Depending on your location, they may not need to pay out unused vacation time regardless. – Bobson May 23 '14 at 15:52
  • Depends on the country. Where I am from you have a minimum of 4 weeks, and they are carried over if not used and paid out when you leave. This is the minimum by law. If you are not protected by law, I would very much ensure that you have the specifics beforehand. – pi31415 May 23 '14 at 22:48
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    This is in the USA. – Miro May 27 '14 at 13:14
  • Is this company using so-called "unlimited vacation policy"? or just has some vacation allocation which isn't yet set in writing? Those are two very different things. – smci Sep 22 '14 at 21:33
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The key part of your question is that it's a new company. New companies, pretty much by definition, are making things up as they go; they need to get started on the work while engaging appropriate professionals (lawyers, HR consultants, etc) to help them nail down all these corporate details. In my experience most people who start companies haven't done this before.

Joining a new company at these very early stages calls for a great deal of trust. No, they don't have a vacation policy yet, but do you trust them to be reasonable? Do they trust you to be reasonable in the meantime? (It sounds like they do.) If you're willing to take a job that might vanish within the year (because new companies are susceptible to that), then you should be willing to take a job where some details are still up in the air so long as you think they'll end up being within normal bounds.

Further, even if a company does have a policy, that doesn't mean they won't change it later. My last employer reduced everybody's vacation by a week across the board last year as a cost-cutting measure. Companies routinely make changes to health-care plans, which can have a financial impact comparable to (or even higher than) vacation allotments.

A job offer from a mature company should specify the package -- title, salary, vacation, stock options, retirement-fund matches, etc. But you're not dealing with a mature company, and both they and you need to be more willing to leave things for later specification if they aren't make-or-break for you. (And if they are make-or-break, you can decide to leave later if they turn out not to be acceptable to you.)

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Should I push for exact vacation numbers even before they've established the policy?

"participation in company vacation plan when established" is pretty explicit.

It tells me that the company hasn't yet established any policy, and once they do, you will get to participate at the level that befits your position. This isn't uncommon in startups (at least for all the startups I have worked for).

If you don't read it the same way, or if you strongly prefer some specific "I will get x days per year" stated up front for some reason, then you could push for it in writing.

You may not get it in writing, or you may get something in writing with a caveat that it is subject to change once a formal policy is actually created. You can always ask.

However, I'd be more worried about not taking any, leaving the company potentially, and them not needing to pay out any unused vacation time because it wasn't stated.

That's indeed a possibility. If that's a real worry, then seek to get as much as you can in writing.

And if you are very worried about the effects of leaving and accrued vacation pay, you may wish to re-consider your desire to work at a startup. Startups policies often change rapidly. Startups are not for everyone - some folks prefer more certainty.

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