My project deadline is coming up and I need to deliver some things asap (which got delayed mostly because of inexperience with the task at hand and limited communication with some colleagues). The "problem" is that I also have to take a certain amount of vacation days until the end of the year, two of which are tomorrow and the day after that.

I am feeling bad for taking this vacation. I did not travel anyway, so I would much rather be at work for the next two days. My crazy thought was to call and cancel these vacation days and try to negotiate taking them early next year or not at all. My target is not to ask for any monetary compensation, in case these days cannot be transferred to the next year.

It would be no problem for me to work a couple more days. However, I am not sure how professional this would look. Also, I work in Germany and I am sure there must be a law against such things, to protect employees (e.g. I have to take a certain number of vacation each year). My boss certainly did not ask or encourage something like that and I am positive that he would never try to exploit me by asking for something similar in the future.

My current plan was to try to reach him tomorrow by phone and ask about it. Would this make me look bad?

  • "I have to take a certain number of vacation each year" There is no such law in Germany. [Hard to find a source but as an employer I've never heard of it]. In most cases, you lose your vacation day around April next year, but this rule is often defined in your contract. – FooTheBar Dec 4 '16 at 14:36
  • I don't want to spread misinformation and I don't really have a source for that as well. In my company, our vacation days are lost at the end of the year. My question is partially like "Can I go to work at all? Am I protected in case of an accident? Do I have to stay over a certain number of vacation days, to avoid getting my boss accused of abusing my rights? Will it look professional if I call to ask about all that tomorrow morning?". – FlatronL1917 Dec 4 '16 at 14:44

There is a law in Germany, which somewhat unsurprisingly called the "Bundesurlaubsgesetz" (Federal Law on Vacation).

Rather more suprisingly the law does not say you have to take vacation at all - you have to claim your vacation days within a given year, if you do not you forfeit your claims.

There are very few exceptions, the one pertaining to your case is that vacation days can be moved to the next year if it is determined that your employer for some valid reason cannot do without you (i.e. contracts to fullfill that require full manpower). You can try to convince your boss that this is case, however at the end of the day it is his call, not yours.

Employers usually loathe to permit this, because it affects the balance sheet (if that is the right word - they have to put money aside to account for the case that they might be unable to give you the missing vacation days, so that goes down on the side of the liabilities). However if you need to finish a project the benefits might outweigh the cost, so your boss might be okay with it (in fact moving vacation days isn't that rare in Germany).

If you move vacations days to the next year you have to take them within the first three months of the year, else you forfeit your claims (as far as the law is concerned, the company might decide to handle this differently).

Usual disclaimer, I am not a laywer, I just googled one on the internet (plus, some personal experience).

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  • +1 From personal as well as second hand experience, most employers in Germany say that you should take all your vacation in the same year, but most employers will be happy if you move your vacation to the beginning of next year in order to get the project done on time. In fact it is quite common at my current work place to take an extended christmas break into the beginning of January with whatever vacation days you have left from the old year. – Sumyrda - remember Monica Dec 5 '16 at 5:42
  • This doesn't really address the professionalism question. It may be legally permitted but not professional, or maybe legally questionable but still professional to ask, etc. Professionalism is also in how you approach it, not just about rules. – Brandin Dec 5 '16 at 9:27

My crazy thought was to call and cancel these vacation days and try to negotiate taking them early next year

This isn't crazy - in fact, it's highly professional. You're acknowledging the fast that there's a deadline that needs to be met, and that it makes sense for you to work the next couple of days and then take time off when it is less critical. With a leadership hat on, this is exactly the kind of thing I'd like to see from people I work with.

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    @JoeStrazzere, if he calls his boss first, the boss should know if it is permitted. – HLGEM Dec 4 '16 at 17:03
  • @JoeStrazzere Yes it is. To what extend it is permitted or how best to go about it is company specific. Some companies allow you to take unused vacation days from the old year until March, others even until September of the new year. Still others don't let you carry vacation days but will convert any unused vacation days to overtime at the end of the year and you can then either take days off with overtime, have your overtime exchanged for money or just go home early when there isn't much to do (which of these options you have is again company specific). – Sumyrda - remember Monica Dec 5 '16 at 6:02
  • There will be some limitations, where laws say that you must have X days of holidays per year, but that number X is a lot less than the holiday that people typically have. So taking no holiday at all in a year and moving it all into next year would likely be illegal, even if employer and employee agree. – gnasher729 Dec 5 '16 at 8:48

It would be no problem for me to work a couple more days. However, I am not sure how professional this would look.[...] My current plan was to try to reach him tomorrow by phone and ask about it. Would this make me look bad?

Not at all. Recognizing the need of the company and trying to find a good solution for both sides is a very professional thing to do. Asking your boss is a very good first step.

However, you should not sell yourself short. Getting your money worth for your work is the whole point of being a professional. So an offer to move your vacation to a more convenient date is fine. Getting money instead of a day off is fine. Offering to forfeit it is not. That's unprofessional in the very sense of the word "professional". Your boss might be happy, and he'll certainly not tell you, but he will respect you a little bit less if you offered to work for free.

There are laws around "Urlaub" in Germany and a lot of specialized court rulings, but in most cases laws and court rulings only apply when employer and employee disagree. As long as you and your employer agree on something, it should be fine.

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