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The company I work for has a habit of shutting down around the holidays, usually a week for Thanksgiving and a week for Christmas in order to save a little money and give their staff a little time off.

The practice seemed like a good deal at first, most of the staff accrued enough paid time off to cover the shutdowns and having some extra time with the family is nice, but in the last year or two the shutdowns have been getting longer and we're shutting down for more holidays, like a week off for Easter and now we're off for another week for the 4th of July.

I'm growing a little concerned that by the time the Christmas shutdown rolls around that all of our paid time off will be used up and it will create a bit of a problem, not to mention that these shutdowns force us to save our paid time off, eliminating paid time for sick days and other random needs.

What would be a tactful way to address these concerns?

  • is this paid time off that you've accumulated by working overtime through the year, or is it already eating into your annual allotment (presumably 10 days)? – Kate Gregory Jul 6 '14 at 20:55
  • @KateGregory The set up is that we accrue PTO on an hourly basis depending on how many years we've been with the company. As in if you've been with the company for X years and you work Y hours you earn Z hours of PTO. In my bracket I should accrue about 3 weeks a year. – apaul Jul 6 '14 at 21:10
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    Is there some reason to continue working for this company? I wouldn't stay anywhere that expected me to have weeks of unpaid time even if it was time off. – HLGEM Jul 7 '14 at 16:57
  • @HLGEM I'm still a student, so my options are a little limited. – apaul Jul 7 '14 at 17:02
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    OK in that case, you need to put aside a percentage of your salary every pay period so that you have enought to tide you over during the non pay weeks because a company like this is not going to care that you won't get paid some of those weeks. Or find a seasonal job that you can do that week in December and THanksgiving. – HLGEM Jul 7 '14 at 17:07
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Get together with the other employees and write him that

"We are growing concerned over the extent of the holiday shutdowns. We are alarmed that by the time the Christmas shutdown rolls around, these extensive holiday shutdowns will cumulatively consume all of our paid time off including paid time for sick days and other random needs."

There is a possibility that your management is pinching pennies, though, and these shutdowns were meant to do just that - wipe out your paid time off. It will be harder for management to crack down on you specifically and to ignore your communication if you all set your viewpoint collectively.

If you are raising the issue during a staff meeting, make sure to preface what you are about to say with "We have talked among ourselves, we are all in agreement and we want to raise this issue with you ..." If the management senses that you are just one individual, they might cut you off from the herd and have you for dinner. As their dinner - For your self-protection - again, sorry for being repetitive, you definitely want them to feel that you are part of a whole.

@DanNeely raises the excellent point that, if you are a junior staff member, then you should,if at all possible, let a senior staff member staff member do the talking.

  • If, as appears likely, the OP is a junior member of the staff; it would probably be beneficial if a more senior colleague took point in bringing the issue up with management. – Dan Neely Jul 7 '14 at 21:20
  • @DanNeely Excellent point :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Jul 7 '14 at 21:26
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If this furlough is "funded" by your year round overtime, you can look at it as a way for the company to even out salary cash flow, by paying you the same whether things are busy or slack. Assuming you still get at least two non-furlough weeks away from work, I would see this as a good thing. A week at Xmas, at Thanksgiving, at Easter, and around the 4th of July, all without a pay cut and you can still take two weeks to go somewhere, or a week to go somewhere and 5 days of personal business one day at a time the rest of the year? Sounds heavenly, really.

But if there isn't enough year round overtime to add up to 3 or 4 weeks off on top of your annual leave provisions, then what's actually happening is "you get 3 weeks vacation, but I pick them." Such vacation has less value than one you can schedule at a time that works for you (traveling to a family wedding or reunion in June, taking the kids somewhere for March break, etc.) In addition if you use your paid time off for doctor's appointments or other personal business, this could really make those things feel more difficult.

I don't think you can ask your bosses not to have the furloughs, or to have them paid. No doubt they are happening because of a lack of things to do at those times. You can ask for more paid leave, but if they could afford that, they wouldn't be having the furloughs. Try asking for more overtime opportunities. Just say "I don't want to run out of paid time during the Xmas shutdown. Can we make sure I get 40 hours worth of PTO earned by then?" That's about 2 hours a week.

I worked at a place where we worked 8 hours (not counting lunch) a day so we were in the building for 8.5 or 9 hours. The rest of the industry had 7.5 hour days. After 14 8 hour days, we had accumulated 7 hours extra time - and they gave us every 3rd Friday off. We were expected to put doctors appointments and such on that day, so it cost the company less than it appeared to, but it was a handy way to live knowing you could shop in uncrowded stores or have a long weekend at least once a month, sometimes twice. If you work 2 hours of overtime a week, you'll accumulate 100 hours, which should carry you through 2.5 weeks of furlough. The company won't really be saving any money, but they might agree to it anyway.

  • I appreciate the thoughtful response, but I doubt that putting in extra hours will be an option, they really hate paying overtime. In the beginning when I had enough PTO to cover them, the shut downs were heavenly, but as 3 weeks turn into 4 or 5 weeks and I'm still only getting 3 weeks paid... It turns into "You get 5 weeks vacation at times we pick, which 3 weeks do you want to be paid for?" – apaul Jul 7 '14 at 16:15
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    Well, if you set aside 2 hours of your net pay into a dedicated bank account each week, you will save up enough that you can withdraw during the later furloughs. In effect you are taking a pay cut - doing it this way may spread the pain a little to where it's bearable to stay in the job. – Kate Gregory Jul 7 '14 at 17:21
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This is fairly common. It has some distinct advantages for a company's finances.

For one thing, accrued leave counts as a liability -- a debt -- on a company's balance sheet, and it's sometimes helpful to reduce the size of that debt.

For another thing, most vacation policies say that vacation has to be taken at the convenience of the company as well as the employee. Closing the office for a furlough is the same thing as asking employees to take vacation all at the same time.

Finally, depending on the nature of a company's business, it may make sense to close completely rather than try to run with three of ten people away on vacation.

I will take the liberty of addressing this question as if I were your management.

Our business works better when we're almost fully staffed rather than short-staffed. It makes more sense for us to close our office and factory completely rather than run it with lots of people taking vacation, and the others scrambling to keep up with the work. So, we're asking you to take the leave -- the vacation -- you have accrued over the year all at the same time, so we can shut down during certain weeks of the year.

This year we are asking you to plan to take five days of your leave in the first week of July and another five days in the last week of December. If you have accrued more than ten days of annual leave you may arrange with your supervisor to take the other days at a time that's convenient for your department.

We know people occasionally have family events or other reasons to take leave at other times of year. If you have a situation like this, please speak to your supervisor. We can't make promises, but we can try to work with you.

Thanks for your cooperation. When the market for our product improves we hope to return to a more flexible annual leave policy. In the meantime this will help us get through the present downturn and continue to satisfy our customers.

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