How to Negiotiate for More Vacation Time?
September 14, 2016 1:41 PM   Subscribe

I'm strongly considering a job offer and while I'm pleased with the salary and benefits I'd like more vacation time.

I'm really excited about this position and the company. The position currently offers around 3 weeks of vacation time but I'd like to get it bumped up a little without seeming ridiculous. Also, I've been conditioned to negiotiate for every job and would hate not do so here. Has anyone done this before and what did you say? Better yet, does anyone have an email script they used successfully in the past?
posted by CosmicSeeker42 to Work & Money (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't do it via email, at least not until you know if it's possible. My company was very inflexible on vacation time and claimed that they never negotiated with anyone (and I knew they weren't lying because I knew someone who already worked there). Yours might be very amenable, but you should ask the recruiter/HR person what kind of wiggle room there is. They want to fill the position so they'll definitely discuss it with you like any other benefit.
posted by clone boulevard at 1:45 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Some places are just plain not set up or willing to budge on vacation time (especially those in states that require vacation rollover and/or vacation payout at termination) - but some of those same places are willing to give you a slightly higher salary and allow for some unpaid time off. Just something to consider...
posted by brainmouse at 1:54 PM on September 14, 2016 [10 favorites]

I did this. I had been told by a contact at the company that they don't negotiate on leave, but I asked anyway. I asked for it in a list with a couple of other things (verbally) and it was the only part of my list the recruiter basically agreed to on the spot without the "I have to talk to the team" line. My only tip is to treat it like salary and make the say the first number if you can. I was actually offered almost twice as much more than I was planning on asking for.
posted by juliapangolin at 2:05 PM on September 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

I did this. First of all I knew the company both wanted and needed me, so I had leverage. I did it over email so that the conversation would be documented. I simply said that X weeks vacation was a non-negotiable requirement of mine and my acceptance of the offer was contingent on my required vacation time being stated on an updated offer letter.

The HR person I was dealing with swore up and down that it just wasn't possible. And I believe that it was something they don't normally do. But of course it's possible :) We went back and forth on this several times, and I kept reiterating my requirement. They caved and I got my vacation time.

Having it detailed on the offer letter was key. When I started at the company several people didn't believe me that I had X vacation time and I've had to show my offer letter as proof.

If they need you and you're prepared to walk away, hold strong. You'll get what you want. Good luck.
posted by curtains at 2:12 PM on September 14, 2016 [12 favorites]

How many years have you been working? At this new firm, how many weeks would you get with that much seniority?
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:39 PM on September 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Curtains' advice is key. If you do manage to negotiate it and then it's not documented in the offer letter, you don't have it.
posted by permiechickie at 2:46 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

The email script depends a lot on whether this is a soft or a hard requirement for you. Curtains' advice works well if it's a hard requirement for you, since everything is negotiable, and you can threaten to walk if it's truly something you won't take the job without. Otherwise, it's not a lot different from negotiating salary - pitches often include what you got at your last job, what others are getting in similar positions, etc.
posted by craven_morhead at 3:46 PM on September 14, 2016

The likelihood of this succeeding is likely to vary drastically from company to company. I know from experience that it can create a much larger logistical and HR headache than giving more pay does, at least in larger companies. I had a candidate ask for more vacation at one of my former employers, and it was escalated to nearly the top of the company, and the answer was "we can't support that, so if that's a showstopper for them, we have to let them go." In every company I've worked in, it would be a big enough burden that if we wanted a person badly enough to deal with it, we'd also be willing to give more pay instead. There doesn't exist a situation in which I'd have said a hard "no" to more salary, but then been willing to give more vacation on an ongoing basis (again, from my personal experience only, at the companies I've worked at).

It's simultaneously true that some companies will claim it's impossible when it's not, and that it's effectively impossible at some companies. Keep in mind, it can create all kinds of weirdness if you have a company of 10k people, and 9999 of them have a standard "X years tenure = Y days vacation" scheme, and one person has something different. And consider what happens when you reach the tenure date that should increase your vacation on the normal schedule; do you now get what you negotiated plus the extra, or just go to the new level without the bump?

Based on my experience, it's a LOT easier to ask for a one-time bump (e.g. "I have a three week vacation already scheduled for two months after my start date, and I won't have enough vacation time") than an ongoing increase ("I want a week more vacation per year than the standard, in perpetuity"). The former can usually be handled fairly informally with the manager (you still want it written down, of course); the latter has to be entered into the HR system and persist across promotions, manager changes, and so on. If they agree to make permanent but DON'T have a way to enter it into the HR system, you're going to have ongoing problems with things like the balance not showing right on your paycheck, any new manager you get not knowing/understanding, etc.

Anyway, there's no harm at all in asking for this, but just realize that it isn't as universally possible as some people seem to think it is. Maybe if you're a truly indispensible, high-level hire, the game changes. But for most of us, it can create a high enough burden on the company that they won't want to deal with it.
posted by primethyme at 4:43 PM on September 14, 2016 [3 favorites]

When I was hired for my current job, the two negotiations with previous candidates both failed because they wanted more leave than the company policies allowed, and they weren't willing to take salary or other perks instead. Hopefully the place you are talking to has more flexibility, but be aware that at some places this is a bigger deal than other normal parts of a salary negotiation.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:50 PM on September 14, 2016

Find out if the company has a vacation purchase option. My company allows you to purchase 1 week vacation per year. Basically, 1 week unpaid leave, and payments are spread out over the year.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 5:12 PM on September 14, 2016

I always ask for more vacation time! I like to do it over the phone and say something like, "Is there any flexibility on vacation time? I've always had 4 weeks and the extra week is important to me." Over the phone, you get a better sense of how this company deals with vacation time -- as noted above, some companies are very flexible on this, some aren't, and you'll see this in the person's reaction. I wouldn't go in saying it's a dealbreaker unless it really is.
posted by chickenmagazine at 6:37 PM on September 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

Per pushing paper's comment, keep in mind that vacation policies can change. I've been at my current company for 5.5 years. During this time, the amount of vacation that could be carried over year to year changed (downward) and the ability to purchase an extra week of vacation time was eliminated. We also switched from getting sick leave + vacation to having flex time. Also, personal holidays were taken away and replaced with an extra company-selected holiday.
posted by elmay at 6:36 AM on September 15, 2016

In many companies there is a status barrier between roles where all things are negotiable, and roles where candidates take what they're offered, plus a few percent salary if they ask. It roughly corresponds to whether termination comes with a severance package or a cardboard box.

Negotiated non-standard benefits certainly involve a cost in HR and administrative effort. They are also far more _visible_ to other employees than salary, which is often the real reason they are discouraged. But I assure you that the hiring rules and company handbook become very flexible if someone important enough wants a candidate badly enough.

So, when you ask nicely and they say no, it becomes a twofold question: do you think your hiring manager would go to bat to get you hired if you hold out, and do you think the hiring manager has enough clout to get it done?

(I wouldn't blame you for walking away from 3 weeks, especially if like many companies you pull PTO time from the same pool. I'm stuck there myself and it sucks if you're in a life phase where you have to spend most of it on family obligations.)

(Signed, someone still annoyed that our company policy is no-remote and no-work-from-home, but they went and hired someone who lives on ANOTHER CONTINENT)
posted by The Prawn Reproach at 7:56 AM on September 15, 2016

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