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I'm working for a software company as an intern for a year, and, as part of my contract, was granted 25 days paid holiday (excluding public holidays) upon starting. I started at the beginning of May, and I'm contracted until the start of June 2017. I'm a paid, technically full time employee (on a 1 year contract) and have full rights and benefits as a UK employee.

While working I'm also resitting part of my second year of degree, which was supposed to be finalised by August this year. As fate would have it, the university recommended that I resit the year as a part-time student, splitting the exams and assignments over 12 months, rather than taking 8 exams in the summer. This gave me some more freedom, the ability to get better marks and took a lot of pressure off, so I took it. It also meant that I would have to take 16 days off work to sit exams (2x 8 day periods), which I wasn't aware of until 4 months into my internship.

Since starting, I've used up 17 days of my holiday days due to needing to catch up on uni work and a few days off due to travel limitations etc. I have enough holiday days left to sit one exam period, but not both.

In person I have a hard time phrasing questions (and general interactions) and often come off as rude/abrupt, and wanted to ask here how I can ask for unpaid leave without seeming rude?

I wrote the following email:

I have an exam period between the 11th and 20th of January back in redacted, I have enough holiday days to cover the period but I was wondering if I would be able to take unpaid leave for the 8 working days please?

I can happily provide the timetable I’ve been sent with the dates and times of the exams for you to confirm if necessary.

Cheers,

Jay.

This is my first time dealing with a situation like this, I only ever worked part-time before and the exam period is closing in so I'm panicking a little.

Does this email sound polite? My manager is reasonable, I just don't want to come off as rude.

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    That's fine. Don't over think this; it's a reasonable request; explain the need and ask, and if necessary discuss. – keshlam Dec 19 '16 at 13:01
  • Minor quibble: I would never use "please" like this in a business email. "Would you please be so kind as to ..." and "Please ensure that ..." are fine, but using it to modify a question like this feels off. – Lilienthal Dec 19 '16 at 14:35
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    As a salaried employee, at least in the US, you typically have to use all of your paid time of first before you can request unpaid time off. While personally I think your request is reasonable and your email well written, don't be surprised if they have you take your paid time off first. – Mister Positive Dec 19 '16 at 14:37
  • Why are you wording it like this though? Do your paid holidays not reset with the new year and were you instead given the 25 days to use over the entire internship? Why do you want to take January unpaid? Wouldn't your internship be over by the next period? What are you reserving your remaining days for? Why wouldn't you just mention the two exam periods and ask to take either unpaid? – Lilienthal Dec 19 '16 at 14:44
  • @Lilienthal It "resets" at the end of my contract which is June, I have 33 days including public holidays for the 12 months I'm here, rather than it being split over 2016-2017 separately. – Jay Gould Dec 19 '16 at 14:51
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The email is perfectly reasonable, and not at all rude.

I prefer to talk these things over in person with my manager and I'd suggest you do the same. Still, there's nothing wrong with the email itself.

It might work, but the company might also have policies that require you to use your holiday days up first. My company is like that.

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    If you already have the dates for both exam periods, ask for both in the same e-mail so your manager has more perspective on this, so: I have exams between 11th-20th of January and 11th-20th of April. Since I only have 8 days of paid leave left, I would like to take the other 8 days unpaid leave. – Sumyrda Dec 19 '16 at 18:53
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Edit to:

" [Fill-in manager's name],

I have exams between the 11th and 20th of January back in redacted. Although I have enough holiday days to cover the period, I am requesting that you give me permission to take unpaid leave for the 8 working days - it's really important to me that I pass those exams with flying colors :)

Thanks in Advance,

Jay Gould "

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This is really something you want to discuss with them in person, as it will be far easier for you to explain the part-time status and how it helps ensure you will do well, which benefits your current and future employer(s) as much as it does you.

I'd be very surprised if they didn't grant the unpaid time off. I would not be all that surprised to learn they have an overhead charge number for that kind of thing, which gives them the flexibility of treating the time as "special training" or as "attendance at an offsite seminar" or something else.

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