Tell me how to ask my work whether I get paid during holiday
December 16, 2013 8:30 AM   Subscribe

Just shy about it and want to minimize awkwardness

The office closes during for two weeks during the holidays and I don't know whether I get paid during that time.

I'm on contract so I probably don't get anything, however my office throws money around a lot so it's possible that they would give me something. My contract literally says nothing about anything besides my hourly rate and the stipulation that they can fire me with two weeks' notice.

I'm just very shy about asking about these things. For example I had to ask if my contract was being renewed (they forgot it was ending, but when I asked it was taken as a given that they were renewing).

I'm a young employee and I don't feel comfortable asking for a lot of things because my work doesn't really care. But, I know it will never cross anyone's mind unless I speak up. Plus, my mother is bugging me about it.

So exactly which words do I use and how do I react if they say no? I don't want to look too disappointed because that would be embarrassing.

I know I "shouldn't be shy". That is not the issue, I'm just looking for help on how to minimize awkwardness.

** Let me save you some time by mentioning that I'm not looking for a lecture on why Millenials Are Entitled
posted by winterportage to Work & Money (29 answers total)
When you say that you are on contract, what do you mean exactly? Are you 1099 or W-2? Are you working through an agency or as a sole proprietor/freelancer?
posted by rada at 8:33 AM on December 16, 2013

Who would you ask if your paycheck were factually incorrect (i.e., only paid you for 20 hours in a pay period)? Find that person and say, "Hey, will I be paid while the office is closed for the holidays? My contract doesn't seem to say anything." If that person don't know, ask who might know and do what is necessary (make an appointment, whatever) to ask that person the same question.

You absolutely have the right to ask this, because it's a perfectly normal question for someone who hasn't been there through a holiday season before.
posted by Etrigan at 8:33 AM on December 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

Are there other contract workers who have been around longer, whom you could ask? Less pressure to ask a peer than a boss.
posted by Gordafarin at 8:34 AM on December 16, 2013

Do you have a payroll dept? Can you just call them and say "I'm not sure what the arrangements are for payment around the xmas shutdown, can you just run through them for me?" ...let them answer..."u-huh, u-huh, yup, so I get paid for the weeks we are shutdown?".
posted by biffa at 8:34 AM on December 16, 2013

If you want to be impersonal about it, you're not asking "will I be paid?" you're asking "what's the company policy for the weeks we're shut down? Are contractors paid? Are full-time employees paid?" (it's worth asking if other employees are paid, good to be informed in case they ever make noises about having you on full-time.)
posted by aimedwander at 8:36 AM on December 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: When you say that you are on contract, what do you mean exactly? Are you 1099 or W-2? Are you working through an agency or as a sole proprietor/freelancer?

I'm in Canada so I don't know what you're talking about.. I'm on a contract meaning theoretically my job ends in April and i don't get any benefits.
posted by winterportage at 8:40 AM on December 16, 2013

Response by poster: It's a small place so I think I would have to ask the HR person. There's no one else in my position here except one person who was hired after me
posted by winterportage at 8:41 AM on December 16, 2013

Response by poster: Can I just send her an email instead of asking in person?
posted by winterportage at 8:42 AM on December 16, 2013

As a general rule, to minimize your embarrassment around asking something you feel that you should already know (or that you feel the person you are asking may feel you should already have known), you can try phrasing it in terms of your need to confirm, rather than posing a particular understanding of things and then asking for validation.

So, try "I just wanted to confirm what happens with payroll for contract workers [like me] while the office is closed over the holidays... ?" rather than "We get paid over the holidays, right?".

The latter can expose you to the kind of "entitled Millennial" knee-jerk response that you don't deserve but that many are prone to when you're really just trying to learn just like anyone else would.
posted by onshi at 8:42 AM on December 16, 2013 [9 favorites]

Best answer: So exactly which words do I use

"Could you please confirm if the company pays wages to those who are 'on contract' while the office is closed for the two weeks of the year-end holidays?"

and how do I react if they say no?

"Thank you very much"
posted by Tanizaki at 8:43 AM on December 16, 2013 [9 favorites]

If there are other employees in an equivalent position, I would start there. Just a simple, "So, is this holiday break thing paid, or...?" Most likely you will get a grumbly "Don't I wish..." type of response. Or possibly an "YES OMG I KNOW RITE" one, I suppose. If there are a bunch of you entry level inexperienced folks, asking might create a bit of a group "let's find out" vibe, too, if nobody knows.

If there's nobody else who is also on contract and at a similar level to you, I'd just ask your supervisor. Phrase it so that you're asking whether, like, just for your information, rather than asking for, because you want something. "Hey, I was just wondering, I know my situation is weird because I'm on contract, but is the holiday break generally paid?" Keep it casual, and again don't ask for anything.

This is totally fine. These are questions you're allowed to ask!
posted by Sara C. at 8:44 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and re what to do if they say no?

"Oh, OK. Just checking."

Again, remember this is a Whether conversation, not an I Want conversation.
posted by Sara C. at 8:45 AM on December 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Can I just send her an email instead of asking in person?

Sure. That way, you have proof of what someone told you if something goes wrong.
posted by Etrigan at 8:45 AM on December 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

You can absolutely send an email about this, this is in no way weird or unprofessional.
posted by elizardbits at 8:51 AM on December 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'd say you should do it by email. That way if you are told you are paid, and you aren't, you may have some recourse. That said, if you were in the US there is virtually zero chance you would get paid as a contractor. Hopefully Canada is different.
posted by COD at 8:57 AM on December 16, 2013

Asking this kind of thing by email is totally normal (I work in the US), and as an added benefit there's a paper trail.
posted by rtha at 9:01 AM on December 16, 2013

Best answer: I think you have gotten good advice already, so I'd just like to say that I ran into similar issues at my first professional-but-contract job a year or two ago. Basically, I was going to be hired for real and be given a pay raise, but the date was fuzzy and kept getting pushed back, and eventually I had to start asking about it.

I'd never worked in an office before, and I'm a young woman who was dealing with much older people, and let me tell you: it was terrifying. There's nothing wrong with you for being nervous about this. But at the same time, here's the thing. You are a professional, and they are paying you to perform a service for them. Don't think of yourself as a kid and a supplicant. Try to think of yourself as a smooth, confident, polite professional who simply has a technical question about HR policies. Act, if you can't make yourself really feel this. Don't demand anything, but don't be afraid to ask. You got this.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:09 AM on December 16, 2013 [8 favorites]

I don't know the answer to your question, but while you're asking you should figure out if you can get paid on a sick day as well. The answer to that is probably the same as with vacation pay.
posted by Green With You at 9:13 AM on December 16, 2013

The answer is probably no, you won't get paid, FYI.

Don't think like this:

"God I'm going to look so stupid everyone already knows this I'm going to look like some kid who expects the world oh jesus"

Think like this :

"I am a professional type professional. I have a question about the details of the arrangement by which I obtain cash money in exchange for my labor. I am going to ask the person whose job it is to answer such questions because this is a normal thing to do. This person will answer this question in a normal way because it is a normal question that is their job to answer."

It is basically always OK to ask for information from your boss around the details of your cash money arrangement. I totally get the feeling anxious like you're doing something wrong. That feeling helps your employer not you.
posted by PMdixon at 9:34 AM on December 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

Nthing ask in email, nthing couch it in terms of asking what the policy is, nthing that this is in no way an inappropriate question.

However, I must prepare you for the likelihood that you will not get paid. You are on an hourly rate and your contract says nothing about vacation pay. Therefore, you are probably only going to get paid for the hours you work. You may be pleasantly surprised, but I wouldn't count on it.

I would therefore recommend that you ask as soon as possible, because you may be able to sign up with some temping agencies that can find you work during the two weeks you won't be getting paid. Worth a shot. A lot of people will be on vacation over Christmas and a lot of those people's workplaces aren't shutting down. You might be able to get yourself in there if you move quick.

p.s. Sorry it sucks :-( having to find work when others are on vacation, but that's one of the downsides of temporary and/or contract gigs.
posted by tel3path at 9:40 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree with the other commenters above. Also, look at it as a life lesson: you know to clarify these types of things in the future. There's nothing wrong with asking the question, and, you are entitled to an answer.
posted by dfriedman at 9:59 AM on December 16, 2013

Best answer: I see a few Americans commenting that you won't get paid but Canadian Employment Law is very different than American Law (thanks goodness!) so they may be misinformed. Employment Law tends to be provincial unless your workplace is Federally regulated. In most cases employees, including contract workers, would be entitled to be paid on the Stat Holidays (Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Years Day) and not expected to work. At my (Ontario) workplace, workers, including those on contract, also are paid for Christmas Eve and New Years Eve with no expectation of work. Other people I know get paid for the whole two weeks with no work, for others it is considered vacation time and they are paid the vacation pay they are entitled to (and yes, people on contract are entitled to at least the minimum vacation pay of 4% in Canada).

It is a completely reasonable question to ask and one that can be communicated via HR in a brief email. Every workplace does it a little differently so it would be a reasonable question from someone with twenty years experience. Have you taken any vacation time? Is it showing up on your paycheques as a weekly/bi-weekly payment or a quarterly payment or do you just get paid for the days you take off? What about sick days/personal days? Don't feel shy about asking these questions, they should have informed you when you were hired (or maybe they did and it was understandably lost in the deluge of new information) and seeking clarification shows you to be a proactive professional.
posted by saucysault at 11:11 AM on December 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, and in case that link about Ontario isn't very clear, here it would be completely reasonable for the response to be "Yes, you will get paid for the two week shutdown with three days as Stat Holiday pay and seven days from your entitlement of paid vacation days" (assuming you have worked for six months and that is your prorated entitlement). If you get paid your 4% vacation pay in your regular paycheque you will only get a cheque for the three stat holidays, if they have not paid out your vacation pay during the length of the contract then you will get your regular paycheque without the expectation of you working. Have a look at your paycheque and see if there is a line item for vacation. Your province may vary. If you don't understand HR's answer and don't want to bug them again you can post their response and the relevant Province (and industry if it is Federally regulated like Telecommunications, Radio, Railways or Airlines) and we can help you parse it.

Source: I worked with Employment Law in Ontario for several years and it is NOT easy to figure out alone.
posted by saucysault at 11:22 AM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you for your info saucysault!

I haven't taken vacation time, I don't know if I can even ask for it. Sick days, I only had to use a half -day once and they were adamant that I go home if I'm sick - I don't think anyone is keeping track of it and my paycheque has been the same amount each time.

On the paycheque, I have my Net Pay, and deductions for Pension, Federal Tax and EI.
There is a line for VAC TERM but there is no amount deducted or added under that line, however there is a Year to Date amount.

So it looks like I'm not getting vacation pay at the moment- does that mean I should be getting my regular paycheque during holidays?
posted by winterportage at 1:29 PM on December 16, 2013

Response by poster: Oh and yes I work in Ontario.
posted by winterportage at 1:32 PM on December 16, 2013

Response by poster: It's a nonprofit lobby group in the entertainment industry
posted by winterportage at 1:40 PM on December 16, 2013

It sounds, based on what you report from your paystub, like you are accruing vacation pay (the year to date amount, as a "term" (contract) employee) and that you may be paid out from that during the shut-down. But only whomever you ask can tell you for sure.

In addition to the ideas for what to write in an email outlined above, it would be totally reasonable for you to ask about any other line items on your paystub that are unclear to you at the same time you ask about the vacation pay issue. Good luck!
posted by onshi at 1:50 PM on December 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yes, most likely they will pay you the three stat holidays and seven days vacation. Because of Stat Holidays mandatory pay and how Xmas floats each year, HR gets this kind of question every year as employees balance out what vacation pay they are entitled to. They will not raise an eyebrow at your question.
posted by saucysault at 3:08 PM on December 16, 2013

Response by poster: Good news, the response is that since nothing is mentioned in my contract, they are going to pay me regular wages during holidays. Yay for vague contract and charitable HR person!

Thanks for your help guys.
posted by winterportage at 10:06 AM on December 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

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