I'm a junior programmer in a small business. My employment is ending in a month because the boss did not renew my contract. I have only 3-4 days of holidays at disposal and I think the boss is pushing me to use more than those days so that at the end of the month will have to pay me less (because I would use more days than the holidays). I don't want that because I want to receive my full pay packet.

The problem is that they do not give me anything to do.

Since they do not give me anything to do, is it legitimate to do other things that do not concern this job?

By other business I mean doing recreational stuff, not other commercial work! I just want to be spending those hours doing something instead of staying still!

  • 91
    Depends on what the other things are. Best advice is to do personal learning that can be considered relevant to your job. E.g. Learn programming skills that could have helped your job, if you were still to have it in the future. That way you are working for the company still, but you're enhancing yourself for future career opportunities at the same time
    – Draken
    Jun 13, 2017 at 9:21
  • 24
    They probably don't want to get you started on something else because you'll be leaving soon and then they'll be left with code that they can't ask you about. For now you could probably best document your existing work and make it easier for when you're gone.
    – Brandin
    Jun 13, 2017 at 12:03
  • 2
    @Chris As long as they could be used and are relevant to the job, there should be little issue. It's not the OPs fault that they are being let go. The key thing is to show that the skills learnt are something that could be used for the company's benefit, even if it was only for the last week of work. Better than just sitting idly by twiddling thumbs
    – Draken
    Jun 13, 2017 at 13:18
  • 15
    In some countries this is regulated by law. For example in Poland if you "report your readiness to work" and get no tasks you are free to do what you want and they have to pay you. But that's in Poland. Consider adding country tag if regulations matters to you.
    – Mołot
    Jun 13, 2017 at 13:30
  • 2
    If there is nothing to do, you aren't looking hard enough. there's always code that needs documenting, testcases that need written up, all those little things that get let slide because they are too much trouble at the time, but really need to get done eventually ... etc
    – pojo-guy
    Jun 13, 2017 at 13:49

10 Answers 10


The problem is that they do not give me anything to do.

Since they do not give me anything to do is it legitimate to do other things that do not concern this job?

Rather than just waiting around, tell your manager/supervisor that you have no tasks assigned, and ask what you should do. Then do whatever it is you are asked to do with your time.

Keep your last few weeks professional and go out on a high note.

  • 99
    This, because you never know when you'll need a reference. Or just reputation.
    – gazzz0x2z
    Jun 13, 2017 at 12:44
  • 11
    I would note that you can combine this with @WorkerWithoutACause's answer: when asking the manager, you can propose a few possible tasks (documentation, clean-up, ...). Jun 13, 2017 at 13:33
  • 4
    Also, you never know whether they'll end up renewing said contract for OP at the last minute, and if you've slacked for the last 3 weeks instead of being ambitious about trying to find more work, your chances of such thing happening are lower
    – schizoid04
    Jun 13, 2017 at 14:35
  • 2
    If you've asked and your boss really doesn't have anything he wants you to do (which can be the case for a junior developer near the end of his time), say something like "Are you OK if I do some general reading?". If he says yes, it's OK to spend time reading up on things that are generally work-related (like that new development framework you;d like to know about but your company doesn't use). Always check in periodically with your boss to see if anything you could do has turned up. Jun 13, 2017 at 15:19
  • 1
    Agreed with this except that it sounds from the OP's question as though the answer will be "Take more days off (so we don't have to pay you as much)" Jun 13, 2017 at 16:23

The problem is that they do not give me anything to do.

I would argue that you should gives yourself something to do, such as typing up handover notes, adding comments to your existing code etc. this way you are adding value to your employer, meaning that you should be remunerated for your work.

  • 4
    And would be more likely to be welcome, should you ever wish to return to the company
    – Mawg
    Jun 14, 2017 at 12:03
  • As described, the company wants him to quit earlier so they don't need to pay him. This is not the normal situation.
    – gnasher729
    Jun 15, 2017 at 16:07

If by other things you mean other commercial activities, the answer is no. You're still on the clock and being paid for your time.

Your boss pushing you to use more than your allotted vacation time, or their not assigning tasks to you has nothing to do with the above.

Also: Depending on your locale your boss will likely have a legal claim to any income derived from your work on the clock. So not only it's unethical, it's also dangerous.


If you do nothing in your last few days, expect nothing from them as a reference.

There is always work to do. I have never seen an IT shop that had everything documented, and all of their code commented properly. Start working on that, or if you really want to be on their good side: write a guide for new people coming into the business.

Basically a short document that outlines all of the ins and outs to the company that you wish you had when you started. When Management sees that you were a valuable asset until the very end, they will give you a great reference going forward. Unless of course there is any reason they shouldn't give you a good reference, either way this will not hurt.


I don't know your country, but usually they will have to pay you if you show up at your regular time and do all the tasks they give you to do (within the scope of your job description). If they give you none, their loss. As long as you stay in your office and have no tasks assigned, you can legitimately do private stuff to kill time (you are not forced to sit still for hours), but you have to immediately start working again as soon as you get another task. And you absolutely should not do other "business". Everything you code at work is the company's property. Only do educational or recreational activities, like browsing SE. ;)

..unless your contract says otherwise. Might want to take a look at it.

  • 12
    If you really have no tasks to do, spend that time learning something useful for the future.
    – florian
    Jun 13, 2017 at 9:20
  • 3
    @florian Like reading Stack Overflow? ;) Jun 13, 2017 at 19:01
  • I feel there are more effective ways of learning, but each to his/her own.
    – florian
    Jul 3, 2017 at 14:28

It's a tricky position for you as it is really demoralizing to have no future at an organization, be given no work & yet you still want to be professional.

If your boss really wants to save money he would find a legal break in your contract & get rid of you - there is usually a legal way to do this for people on contracts. So he's probably keeping you in reserve in case there is a sudden surge in work or he's a bit lazy & can't be bothered as you'll leave soon enough.

Either way I'd speak to him in person & ask him if you could do some self education to cover the time you don't have tasks & follow this up with an email stating what you are doing & why. This will mean that there is no comeback on you in the final month.

Do not do anything that could be construed as commercial in the meantime.

  • 6
    A three month contract is a three month contract. In many places it is difficult to get out of that.
    – gnasher729
    Jun 13, 2017 at 10:43
  • Even fixed term contracts usually have a notice period in the small print whether it is 1, 2, 4 or 13 weeks (depending on seniority) & usually works for both sides. The OP states that their contract expires in a month & they don't want to leave early. But for a temp junior programmer I would anticipate that the company contract would allow either side to give 1 weeks notice of termination if they so wished.
    – amelvin
    Jun 13, 2017 at 11:07
  • @amelvin : Possibly, but also quite possibly not - the big difference seems to be which side of the Atlantic you are on. Jun 14, 2017 at 10:00
  • @amelvin: Over here (Netherlands), fixed terms are legally fixed term. Notice periods are associated with indefinite contracts. If the employer tries to use both, I think you hit the contra preferentum rule. Before the end of the stated period, the employee can have the contract interpreted as a fixed-term contract (meaning the employer can't give notice) and after the fixed period the employee can have the contract interpreted as indefinite (meaning the employer must give notice, and pay the breakup fee).
    – MSalters
    Jun 14, 2017 at 10:11
  • @MartinBonner Fair enough I can't argue as I'm not an expert on employment contract law but I do sign a fair few of them! I think that contract law in the UK would support this view, but the US may well be different (I've read that California would treat this differently to Texas for example).
    – amelvin
    Jun 14, 2017 at 10:13

Since you are a junior programmer, what you can do is study. Go to programming languages tutorial pages, learn more things and improve yourself. While this isn't what you were supposed to be doing, it is not exactly not-work-related. Since your manager doesn't give you tasks to do, this is the most professional way to kill time in my opinion.


Assuming the United States, one aspect of contract work which is nice for the contractor is that the company is required to pay you for the hours you work, even if it goes over the standard number of hours (something which salaried employees may not enjoy depending on their exempt/non-exempt status). The flip side is that the company is not obligated to pay you for hours that you do not work.

If your contract does not guarantee you at least forty hours of work in the week, the company may be completely within their rights to simply tell you they have no work for you today. I have had that happen in contracts in the past.

  • 1
    Conversely the reverse can exist too. I'm on a contract now that I'm required to report my hours as "no less than 8 hours per day" as well as "no more than 8 hours without the manager's written approval" regardless of whether I was even here. The entire thing's been bizarre but at least it wasn't a scam (I was hired based off of a half-hour phone interview where I was asked, "so how would you write image recognition software without using a plugin?" and I said "I would buy a plugin"). Jun 13, 2017 at 19:09
  • I think the contract in question is an employment contract, not a contractor's contract, if that makes sense? (idk about the US, but in australia, what you said is true for contractors the company is hiring, but not true for employees, which still have a contract, but it is one specifying there terms of employment eg how much leave etc) Jun 14, 2017 at 7:50
  • @LyndonWhite: Ah. That is possible too. Jun 14, 2017 at 10:00

There are plenty of workplaces where it is perfectly acceptable to play games or goof around. But if you have to ask, you're not in one of them.

A good part is that this demoralizes people. A lot of people would like the 'freedom' to goof around as well, and doing so in front of them would be like eating cookies in front of a someone on a diet. While you can get away with it, it would be disrespectful.

You can likely do something entertaining which doesn't look fun, such as browse Stack Exchange. If you really want to watch a movie, you might want to do it subtly on your phone and put on headphones.


You describe that they are looking for excuses to not pay you, but the reason you are still working instead of enjoying your leisure time is so they pay you. So you definitely should not give them excuses to not pay you.

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