I work in the US.

I've accepted a position at another firm. The start date is about six weeks out, in the new calendar year.

I have questions for HR about their policies about departing employees, mainly about any payout of paid time off and also year-end bonus eligibility.

I can't find good answers to these questions in the employee handbook. Are there typically ways to get this information without HR finding out ahead of my notice period that I'm leaving?

  • Why do you need to keep your leaving a secret? You aren't just looking for a new position - you've accepted and will be leaving the company. Nov 19, 2015 at 13:59
  • 3
    I assume he doesn't want to hand in his notice earlier than his contractual notice period.
    – Dustybin80
    Nov 19, 2015 at 14:05
  • @Dustybin80 is correct. I'm "encouraged" but AFAICT not contractually bound to give two weeks notice, and I'm happy to give two weeks. I certainly don't want to give six weeks. Nov 19, 2015 at 14:13
  • What country are you in? The UK has certain statutory rights when you resign which should be a worst case scenario.
    – Dustybin80
    Nov 19, 2015 at 14:19
  • 3
    There are a number of employers who would let the employee go early, leaving the employee with a period of unpaid time. Two weeks of unpaid time might be fine for the OP, while six weeks might not.
    – Kathy
    Nov 19, 2015 at 14:42

6 Answers 6


For background context, there are plenty of questions here about employees getting screwed for trying to be nice to their employers.

Some of the things that happen when people give their company advance notice:

  • Immediately fired/let go
  • No bonuses
  • No vacation payout
  • Lack of transition planning

Having read most of the questions on Workplace, nearly everyone who gives advance notice has negative things happen. Nearly never is it a good idea to plan on giving advance notice.

You may come up with good reasons to give advance notice, but most of those reasons transfer all risk to you and all benefit to the employer.

My recommendations would be to assume the worst. If you have six weeks until you plan, I would recommend taking as much of your vacation as you can before. Expect that if you give notice you will not receive a bonus.

If you have friends who have left, or people you trust, you could reach out to them on Linked-In. They may be willing to give you their experiences.

  • 8
    Sampling bias. People who don't get screwed have notjing to complain or ask about and tend not to post.
    – keshlam
    Nov 19, 2015 at 16:27
  • Reached out to two former members of my team. They were happy to answer, but they didn't have much useful information, because they left early in the calendar year so that the issue of bonus and PTO didn't really apply to them. Nov 19, 2015 at 21:56
  • @keshlam - I was looking for the "What do I get my boss that treated me fair when I am leaving?" question. Shocker - not there.
    – blankip
    Nov 20, 2015 at 20:02

The chances are that you will not receive any year end bonus unless it is paid before you give notice. Bonuses are virtually never paid to former employees or ones who are leaving.

Payout of time off varies from company to company (and may depend on state laws) but you can at least check with your state's Labor department to see if your state requires that it be paid. If you have nothing in writing that says it will be paid, I would make the assumption that it will not and go from there. You could ask someone you know who has left the company if they got paid for their leave.

Some companies don't let you use leave once you give notice. Even previously scheduled leave. Check your personnel manual for this. So you might want to use any vacation time you have before you give notice since you have 6 weeks until you start the new position..

  • If it happens to be paid out before I give notice, which might be the case, I can assume they can't just demand it back? Re paid time off, my state apparently has rules that they must pay it out. But I'd rather just do what you're suggesting and slowly draw most of it down in advance. Of course, the fact that their ability to accurately track vacation hours is kind of broken isn't helping matters. Nov 19, 2015 at 15:37
  • 1
    Unless they have informed you in writing that accepting the bonus means that you have to stay X weeks afterwards or you have to pay it back (something I have seen for training or conferences but not for bonuses though I suppose it is possible), I doubt they could get it back.
    – HLGEM
    Nov 19, 2015 at 16:17
  • Isn't a 'bonus' remuneration for work done and not future work?
    – CGCampbell
    Nov 20, 2015 at 20:00
  • @CGCampbell: good point. My main concern re my bonus is that they won't pay out and will come back with something about "you left Dec X, and you're required to be here the entire calendar year." But I can't find any policy like that anywhere. I could just give notice that ends right before my new job begins, but it would be less of a headache for both me and them if my employment ended before the new year began. Nov 21, 2015 at 14:17

If you are not into giving early notice, then why not give the 2 week notice before your last day at work, then openly ask HR all the questions you have for them? Since you already made the decision to leave and have a firm timeframe, their answer about bonus eligibility shouldn't matter too much.

As far as paid time off, I would err on the side of caution, i.e. take any residual vacation that's over 2 weeks (if you have > 2 weeks accumulated) as soon as you can, then give a 4 week notice and ask to take the last 2 weeks off (if you get it, this effectively becomes 2 week notice). Worse case they won't let you and you tough it out for a month and get the vacation paid out. In the event the policy prevents paying out vacation for some reason, convert your 4 week notice to a 2 week notice...

With regard to boss pestering to stay, this can be minimized by being firm and consistent with your message about departure. Put it in unequivocal terms, e.g. you already made the decision and there is no turning back for any reason, no matter what. The first time they bug you about it, just ask them to save their time and please not ask you to stay. Say this firmly and clearly once or twice and hopefully the mgr will get the idea. Good luck!


The safe best to take the take the time off. In two states I have received $0 for unused vacation days. Unless the contract states an equivalent value for vacation days then it has no value. And they could let you go early so they don't have to pay holidays. Let's say you have 2 weeks of vacation. Tell them you are giving a 2 weeks notice and taking a two week vacation. Tell them if they want to pay you out on the PTO you would actually rather work. Turn in the vacation request first. Worse case scenario is they fire you immediately and claim a PTO has no cash value. You turned in the vacation request before you were fired.


The answer to your question is either part of your contract or part of a law and if it is neither, then this is an answer, too, because it means "anything goes", which usually means the company will pick what is best for them. It's safe to assume the worst.

In order to find out if it's part of your contract, you need to read the contract.
In order to find out if it's part of a law, you need to ask a lawyer specialized in employment rights.

All other options will include a level of uncertainty.


You could request a meeting with an HR contact and ask the question directly. You are under no obligation to answer the question "Why do you need to know this information"

Hopefully your HR department have discretion built in and will not tell your manager you have asked this question. But again, if your manager then asks you why you asked this, you have no obligation to answer

  • 2
    You are under no obligation to answer but in most cases HR is obliged to read between the lines, assume that this means that you're leaving soon and notify management accordingly so they can take steps to prepare for the transition. In bad companies this can mean firing the employee immediately which makes this dangerous advice..
    – Lilienthal
    Nov 19, 2015 at 14:38
  • @Lilienthal: correct. Unless there's a some formal mechanism otherwise, I would assume HR's first obligation is to the company, not to me. Nov 19, 2015 at 14:49
  • @user1071847 You assume correctly. In most cases the interests of the company and its employees align. This is one of the cases where they generally don't. Note that well-run companies and decent managers understand that employees leave and won't cause trouble because you announce that you're (thinking of) leaving, but only you can determine if you're in such a company (usually by seeing how they treated employees you saw leaving).
    – Lilienthal
    Nov 19, 2015 at 14:57
  • I happy to bow down to your opinions/knowledge but the "HR read between the lines and tell your manager" - if your manager starts to transition based purely on HR reading between the lines, is this not effectively constructive dismissal? And when "bad" companies dismiss based on this, is there no recourse? Can companies just sack people?
    – Mike
    Nov 19, 2015 at 15:12
  • 3
    @Mike That is "At will" employment. Companies can sack people for any reason they want other than a few specific protected reasons (race, victim of harassment, etc). No recourse under the law.
    – Myles
    Nov 19, 2015 at 15:19

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