Employer Backtracks On Their Vacation Policy After Realizing Employee Has 10 Weeks Saved Up. – ‘I have already received 2.5 months extra in salary.’
by Trisha Leigh
In countries other than the US, employers and employees understand the importance of work-life balance. Companies provide a good amount of vacation days and expect their employees to take them in a timely manner.
OP lives in the Netherlands, and typically travels quite a bit, using all of his provided vacation days.
When covid happened, though, he didn’t see much point in using them all because they couldn’t go anywhere, so OP’s started to pile up.
For context, this takes place in The Netherlands, which has a very different working culture and legislation than the US.
Recently I got a message from HR that I still had a lot of holiday hours open, many of which would lapse as of July first, as a matter of law. I was aware of this, but in the past I was always able to sell them for money.
In the COVID years I’ve hardly been away for mostly obvious reasons, and I’m getting 32 days per annum.
He figured this wouldn’t be a big deal, because in the past his company had agreed to pay him extra salary in exchange for the days not taken.
In other words, my vacation days had piled up and my current balance was a grand total of 390 hours, and that’s excluding the new 32 days from 2023.. So, that’s almost 10 weeks of holidays.
Of these, I had to finish roughly 200 hours, or 5 weeks before July 1. Possible of course, but hardly ideal. Not for my employer, our customer, or for myself.
Which is why I thought it wouldn’t be a problem to “sell” these hours for extra salary, as I had done before.
He didn’t figure he should take an additional 5 weeks of vacation on top of the current year’s 4 weeks, because it wouldn’t be fair to anyone.
But I was quite wrong.. HR told me to contact my manager, who denied my request. I explained to him exactly how many days I had still open. He’d ask the CEO but the CEO sent me a message about how they care about work-life balance and mental health etc.
For the record, I fully agree with this stance in principle, and frankly, I think the measly amount of holidays people in the US get is shameful. And the culture in which it’s sort of “not done” to actually take your holidays, I find outright toxic. I’m glad I’m working in a country and for an employer where this situation is much better.
But on the other hand, one has to be practical. Covid was inflicted upon us all, and you can’t compensate for a lack of holidays taken in the past, with taking copious amounts of holidays now or in the near future.
I love to travel and to socialise, but I/we couldn’t go anywhere or do much, and I didn’t see the point in taking holidays just to sit home more. In fact, my work provided me with some much needed structure during the lockdown times.
And working from home meant that work was actually much more stress-free than it was in the office.
His employer didn’t see his logic, and ordered him to take the extra time, citing work-life balance. They didn’t want to pay him for the days.
So anyway, I brought up my situation and my reasoning but it was still denied. I was just told it’s good to take off some days, and to go on holiday, and so on.
Again, I’m not opposed to this at all, but the scale of the “problem” seemed to have just escaped the manager and the CEO. I had and have already planned on traveling for 2 weeks (to Sicily and Greece, if anyone’s interested, maybe also mainland Italy again), but after that I’d still have 3 weeks which I’d need to finish..
I also have a long weekend planned to Iceland, but that only takes several paid holidays because of the weekend in the middle.
So, OP figured that he would just work 4-day weeks until he’d used up all of his time. He told his boss and their client of his decision.
It is then that I decided to start complying maliciously. Instead of trying to argue the point again with my CEO, I planned a meeting with my line manager and the account manager of the customer I am working for. I told them I wanted/needed to take every Friday off basically until July or my days would lapse.
I didn’t ask for permission because whilst paying out holidays is voluntarily, they need a very good excuse to deny leave requests (such as denying requests for key figures last minute when you’re in the middle of a big project with deadlines etc), but my request wasn’t one of those, and obviously they’re not allowed to deny a payout AND my leave request anyway. It’d be super hypocritical too.
So as a good and diligent employee, I wanted to make sure that our customer was aware of my sustained de facto reduction in capacity and wanted to discuss how we could best bring up this potentially touchy subject with them.
After all, this structural reduction of capacity is different from a normal 2 week vacation or just some days off here and there, which is a pretty normal situation here, even for contractors.
Once this made its way up the chain, his employer suddenly was fine paying OP for his not-taken time!
Since they’re a key account and I’m working for them as a senior DevOps/Cloud Engineer, I had anticipated to have a slightly awkward meeting with my manager and the account manager discussing the details, after which I already half expected they’d U-turn at some point and decide to pay out my vacation days after all.
But they exceeded expectations because when I entered the meeting, not a word was spoken about my 2 denied requests for converting my holidays, or about the framing I had given this meeting about how and who wanted the honour of telling the big customer they’d be losing 20% of my capacity (and my employer would get to charge 20% less).
Instead, the account manager just asked for how many days I still had open, which we were easily able to see in the system. He then proposed to just pay out all my open holidays from 2022 and before (so 10 weeks instead of the requested 5), so the “backlog” would be cleared and this situation wouldn’t occur again.
Happy days, I have already received 2.5 months extra in salary and I still have all my 32 days from this year, so I have more than enough days for my holidays and for general R&R, so my work-life balance is really not in danger.
I bet some Redditors from the US are jealous, if nothing else…
It turns out other countries are even more strict about employees taking time off.
They say OP’s company might be doing a couple of illegal things.
They value work-life balance in Australia, too.
There are always bosses willing to skirt the rules.
As an American, this sounds unbelievable.
I don’t know about my fellow US residents, but I’m thinking about moving.
I mean woof.