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Ask HN: Are open vacation policies a scam?
83 points by somenomadicguy on Aug 22, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 102 comments
I'm working at a company with lots of dot-commie perks including an open vacation policy. It seemed great on paper when I joined, I actually took a 40% salary cut for the promise of more vacation and freedom to live abroad and work from everywhere.

At my company, however, it's feeling like just another typical silicon valley sweat shop. Nobody who isn't an executive seems to take any vacation days. For the most part "unlimited vacation" means being able to work from home because you have errands to run or you broke your ankle.

Every attempt I've made to take vacation days has been met with the resistance of, "You have taken more vacation than anybody else in the team". I've taken 4 days off for vacation, and 2.5 days off to ease the jetlag when I flew home to Turkey from San Francisco.

Recently I tried to take off 1/2 a day for my birthday, and I again was given this same argument. I politely reminded my boss that I make $50k/year less than anybody else in our engineering team, and that we have an open vacation policy.

After that conversation I began looking for a new position.

I'm curious, what are your experiences with companies who have open vacation policies? Are you "allowed" to take vacation days, or does it just feel like a scam to prevent you from actually taking time off?




Unlimited vacation isn't necessarily a scam, but I've rarely seen it work well. The one is exception is one of my current clients. In the four years I've been working with them, I've seen people come in late, leave early, and disappear for a week or two at a time, and I've never heard _anyone_ ever complain about it. It works for them.

But, in Massachusetts at least, when you leave your job, any vacation time that you've accrued is owed to you in dollars. With unlimited vacation, that means that you get nothing (since unlimited isn't something you accrue, it just exists).

In my experience with a couple of web jobs, even with non-unlimited vacation I've always been met with resistance trying to take time off. It was worse in companies where we "weren't a company, we were a family" type places. Guilt trips about saddling others with works, etc., when really it was poor scheduling and planning for 100% efficiency.

So: not a scam in a binary sense, in the way that the lottery actually will make you rich if you're lucky. I wouldn't count on it though.


They are not a scam, they are an accounting feature.

Your problem is not that you have unlimited vacation, it's that you are working for a company that is taking advantage of you. They could (& probably would) do the same thing with limited vacation policies.

Leave as fast as you can and let your peers know why you did it.


I definitely agree with you here. I worked for Nokia a few years ago, and traded $20k in salary in exchange for 3.5 weeks of guaranteed vacation. When I went to take my 11th day of vacation, they refused to honor my offer letter, so I said goodbye to my coworkers in that afternoon's stand-up, and found a better job.


If we all acted like that then maybe companies wouldn't try to pull those stunts. Bravo to you.


Unfortunately there's always more starry eyed college grads who will happily let themselves get steamrolled. Heck Silicon Valley is virtually built on that kind of abuse relationship.


> They could (& probably would) do the same thing with limited vacation policies.

But then, when you leave, they would hand you a check for accrued vacation.


Yes they are scams.

Next time they offer you "unlimited" vacation say that's very generous of them but you don't need unlimited vacation days you know exactly how many vacation days you need and that's 28 days.

If they don't reject it straight up they might try to haggle over that which proves the point.


While 28 days is at the high end, almost all developed countries (UK, AU, FR, etc.) require employers to provide 4+ weeks per year paid holiday leave.

Bigger companies will even force you to take it once you've accrued a number of hours, as it can be a liability on the books (as unused holidays roll over indefinitely).

The US is an outlier in this regard.


> Bigger companies will even force you to take it once you've accrued a number of hours, as it can be a liability on the books

Interestingly, in the UK, managers are also liable for health and safety to some extent. So if you get burned out because you haven't taken any holiday for the last 3 years, your manager has to be able to say "I made him aware he had holiday left and encouraged him to take it" or something along those lines, otherwise they/the company is also on the hook (possibly).


Compared to "unlimited" 28 days is not much at all.


Except it is not unlimited, but instead undisclosed limit, discretionary. In other words, the contract is lying or you haven't read it.

Being fired over taking too much vacation time given the mentioned policy is potentially lawyer fodder.


They'd probably just fire you for 'not being a culture fit' or similar.


It's unlimited in the same way an "unlimited mobile data" plan with a 10GB soft-cap is.


Except unlimited has no real liability and 28 days has a potential value of at least 28 days of someone's salary. From an accounting standpoint it's a big deal.


They are definitely not scams, but it does all depend on the manager or motivation behind having unlimited, on top of the fact that unlimited vacation presents a real financial benefit to the company by limiting the liabilities against it.

My company has unlimited vacation and I didn't take any vacation from Jan 1 to May 28, then I took off 10 consecutive weeks for the birth of my daughter and a move from Seattle back to Portland. We also treat Dec 24 - Jan 2 as company holidays because so many people use their personal vacation days for that time of year and to prevent people from trying to work through the holidays and dragging others into it with them. I then followed it up closely with a few days off for a wedding I was in, a couple of fishing trips, a couple out of office days for unexpected things. I've probably taken more vacation this year than I have in my entire career excluding my honeymoon.

We have a system for placing vacation requests that allows anyone to see what a given stretch of time looks like as far as people being gone, and we can track how managers respond to vacation requests as well. I guarantee that if we found a manager pulling the kind of shit that the OP's manager was pulling they'd be dealt with, probably even let go without a second chance unless they were stellar in every other way. Also, all requests go through the system, so there is none of this whispering back and forth and getting you to withdraw your request. The back and forth happens and is recorded for posterity.

The only problem is, just like most other culture fits at a company, how do you know until it's too late? Also, would you personally feel comfortable using an 'unlimited' amount of vacation?

My recommendation has always been to treat unlimited vacation days like bonuses and options. They are perks, but the number you're generally after is the salary, so don't discount that too much in favor of some nebulous benefits that may not materialize.


Your company sounds awesome!


Agreed. Perhaps there are some honest companies but my experience is that developers at such companies end up taking less vacation than other places.

A few times, I had interviewed at such companies with unlimited vacation. I would ask about their vacations, and how many weeks they took off this year or last. Most developers would usually say they took 1-2 weeks off last year, to which I would ask that you get that everywhere, why not more? Then the answer is "oh we are so busy and we don't abuse this policy. But if we ever need to take more days off, we can".

This just seems like a warning sign. If a company is advertising unlimited vacation policy, I would expect more vacations not less. All my jobs had at least 2-3 weeks off. So I always assumed unlimited vacation means less than usual vacation time.


Serious question: wouldn't the contract state the details of what "unlimited" is?. If it doesn't, aren't they going to be sued sooner or later by someone like OP?


You may want to read "The limits of “unlimited” vacation" by Jacob Kaplan-Moss at https://jacobian.org/writing/unlimited-vacation/ as well as previous HN comments about that essay at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7613526 .

There have been other related HN discussions on the topic, at https://hn.algolia.com/?query=unlimited%20vacation&sort=byPo... . For example, the top comment at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5125973 is:

> "Unlimited vacation" translates to "no vacation" ... Unlimited vacation sounds nice, but in practice it doesn't work.


I work in Automattic. I had taken approx. 21 days of vacation so far this year. I intend to take another ~20 this year.

I actually feel lazy because of this, so when I do work, I try to really focus. The result is, in one day I can accomplish what took me a week in previous job. Mostly, because nobody is interrupting me ( we don't have an office )

We are hiring, here is my experience: https://piszek.com/2016/04/05/automattic/


So let me get this straight: they ignored your resume, ignored your real life ping for feedback on your resume and only got the ball rolling after you scored very high on a coding competition you weren't supposed to take?

I understand they probably get a ton of applicants, especially with all the praise for work/life balance, but what chance does someone have at applying and actually being seen without any special circumstances?

I hope this doesn't come off the wrong way, it's just that as someone currently looking for remote work, it's a bit depressing.


Nicely rummarized! :D

I actually see people get hired much faster than I was. I may have been a crappy candidate. Also, I was applying in a moment when people were seriously overloaded, so thats why I needed to wait.

But it sure is a lenghtier process then in traditional company!


I recently wrote a blog post about annual leave (vacation) entitlements around the world. [1]

I cannot believe that the US does not have a federal legislation on annual holidays, but instead leaves it up to the employers to negotiate that with their employees.

My wife once applied for a remote working position with a quote famous US company that actually wrote a book on remote working. They offered her a 'generous' 10 days vacation a year. Here in Australia, full time worker are by law to get 20 days annual leave and 10 days fully paid public holiday leave per year as a minimum.

My feeling is that if there is no minimum quota set, then it is open to pressure from above to ignore and abuse it.

My tip? Move to Iran or Cambodia ;) [1]

[1] - http://blog.hrpartner.io/holiday-leave-around-the-world/


> I cannot believe that the US does not have a federal legislation on annual holidays, but instead leaves it up to the employers to negotiate that with their employees.

It's odd considering US federal employees have leave policies that most closely resemble what you see in the rest of the developed world. It's the private sector that seems to be in a race to the bottom in the last few decades.


Federal employees accrue 4 hours of paid annual leave per pay period (two weeks) for their first six years of federal service. That comes out to thirteen days a year.

After six years, it becomes six hours a pay period. After I think fifteen or seventeen years, it becomes 8 hours.

So while federal leave maxes out close to what the rest of the world has, it takes a long time to get there.


True, but I think a key thing for us is that annual leave (which has a carry-over cap) is accrued separately from sick leave (which has no cap). That is, our annual leave is actual bonafide vacation time. In many workplaces in the U.S., employees have no paid sick leave at all.


That's also by law in Australia. Ten days sick leave. Twenty annual leave.


Thanks for clarifying the point re: federal government department employees.

What are avenues for US based employees to seek arbitration in cases like the OP, where leave entitlements and agreements are abused? What if someone had to take time off to, say, care for a sick family member and they had 'n' days leave owing to them and their employer would not let them take it? Can there be some non legal industrial mediation, or must they take it to court?


Anything like this and and you are on the bad side if your work. I.e. no promotion ever. Best bet is to Glassdoor and leave.


Most of those employees are covered by collective bargaining agreements negotiated by a union.


US federal employees have leave and holiday policies that are set by law. It has nothing to do with anything negotiated by a union.

Full-time feds get 10 paid holidays a year, 13 days sick leave with unlimited carryover, and 13, 20, or about 28 days of annual leave (as we call it) depending on years of service. Maximum carry-over on annual leave is 240 hours.


One thing that's worth noting is that most US white-collar jobs DO come with at least 5 and more commonly ~10 paid holidays per year. They're in addition to the vacation days quoted and are so taken for granted that employers don't bother mentioning them.

(Things are different for many blue collar workers, since Americans expect services to be available even - or especially - on holidays.)

I've yet to hear of a white collar employer that didn't grant New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day. Presidents Day, MLK Day, Columbus Day, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and New Year's Eve are also common (the latter three because at least half your employees will take them as vacation days anyway, so they're not very productive.)

At an office with a decent culture, upper management will often grant an additional couple of paid holidays just because of timing (and because heck, they want to spend a long weekend with their families too!). If Christmas falls on a Weds or Independence Day on a Tues, you'll also get Monday off. If that holiday falls on a Thurs, you'll get Friday off too.

The holidays obviously don't make up for the ridiculously low number of vacation days we get, but they may be part of a miscommunication for non-Americans working for US companies, if in other countries the number of paid holidays is typically explicitly stated in an offer. If you're ever uncertain about what holidays you'd get in a job, ask.

But 10 days being "generous" is bullshit anywhere I've worked.


The place you are working at is just bad. I've worked for a lot of great unlimited vacation companies. As long as you get your work done no one cared.

On a side note, I've always hated unlimited vacation. I almost think companies put it in place so they don't have to pay out unused vacation time when you leave.


That's probably 99.9% of the reason, but it doesn't matter if the employee sees a benefit from the offering.


Like so many things, it comes down to culture. If you're offered a job somewhere with an unlimited vacation policy, before accepting ALWAYS ask at least two different people how much vacation most people take.

I've worked at unlimited vacation companies where nobody took more than a week per year and others where most people took at least four weeks (generally non-consecutive).

I've also worked twice at places with finite vacation policies where as long as you were responsible and productive they'd let it slide (or wouldn't even count) if you took a few extra days here and there.

I've also had friends who worked for large companies and got four weeks of vacation tell me they couldn't take more than a couple sick days per year anyway because their boss had to approve vacation dates. Any date they proposed was denied because the "timing" was "bad" for their projects.

Pick your employer for its culture, not its official vacation policy.


Sounds like this could be screened for by asking multiple people about average vacation time taken and then asking the boss if they've ever denied a vacation request?


My company has quite a good policy:

- 29 days a year (fairly standard in the uk, legally required to have at least 28) - No formal approval needed. (Check with your team etc) - Can buy up to 12 days extra a year IIRC for the cost of a days salary.

The no formal approval is especially nice, I take a long weekend short notice a couple of times a year during busy periods (busy in my life not work that is) and it's fine 95% of the time, and when it's not it always for good reason.

Being able to buy extra holiday is good too. There's salary sacrifice to do so so it's considered fair to everyone.


Framing unpaid days off as "buying an extra holiday for the cost of a days salary," feels depressing to me. I would personally have a hard time working for an employer that used this kind of language around their time off policies. I already own my time. If I don't work for a day I'm not buying time back from my employer, I'm just not selling it for a day.


That was my own wording of the policy, I'm not sure what the actual policy is. Unpaid leave isn't a legal right, atleast not in the uk, so offering up to 12 days as you like seems like a good deal to me.


Oh yes. Even though buying extra is effectively unpaid leave in most cases, it has so many advantages AFAIK. It's far less hassle with HR/managers. It's really useful if you're getting married or have a big trip planned. Both of these kind of boil down to that it looks way more professional to declare how much holiday you plan on taking at the start of the year.

Finally, depending on the way it's taxed, declaring it at the start of the year means it gets factored in to the monthly tax, and you don't need to get a rebate later.


Pretty much yes. Wake me up when some company announces you have 25 mandatory days off a year + unlimited extra days. Then we start to talk.

Also please post your experience on Glassdoor.


Hey, zorked, wake up :-)

Balsamiq offers mandatory vacation: 20 + 9 holidays + unlimited. I hope that is reasonably close to your 25 mandatory + unlimited. I think it's great - plus they are an amazing bunch of people with a smart & likeable boss.

Source==> http://money.cnn.com/2015/12/15/pf/mandatory-vacation/


Mandatory vacation is an emerging trend in tech, you just won't see it at startups.


...in the US.

As others have noted, almost everywhere else in the first world not only expects but legally requires far more vacation time than many US firms offer their employees.


Good qualifier.

I spent some time earlier this year scoping out the tech scene in Wellington, New Zealand and Melbourne, Australia because both have so much more emphasis on living a good life. I wasn't able to find much startup activity in those two cities. I'm not sure if it doesn't exist or if I was looking in the wrong neighborhoods.


Was looking in Melbourne also, but there doesn't seem to be that many online postings for such a big city. Did you look in Sydney and if so, was there more?


I didn't look in Sydney, but only because I haven't been there yet.


Open vacation policies don't work because it becomes difficult for a person to actually take a specific number of days without worrying about what others will think. If I could come up with a vacation policy, here is what I will do:

- Fix a "Minimum" number of vacation days that everyone can take. Encourage everyone to take those days split over the year. This can be 20, 30, 40 whatever depending on what you come up with for your company. But anything less than 20 business days for me is crap.

- Unlimited sick days. Yes, I will know if you try to abuse it. But if you are genuinely sick, stay home.

- Add another 5 personal days. Use this for running errands, voting, kids days off whatever.

- Flexible work routine. I am not completely into 100% remote as I do think there is a value in collaborating in person or show your face once in a while. So I will say flexible 2 days WFH allowed depending on team, project and other relevant situations.

I would take these over a BS "unlimited" vacation.


Why separate vacation days/sick days/personal days? Why not just one bucket? I would much rather have X number of PTO days. If you are sick and have PTO days you have to use those first, but not dock your pay for sick days after that or a personal half day personal errand. This would work well for most salaried professionals.

In the U.S. if you are salaried, your pay cannot be docked for any week you worked anyway -- except for very specific reasons -- and I've never heard of company that would dock a salaried person's pay if they actually did call in sick or have an emergency and they used all of their sick time.

https://www.tracksmart.com/Advice-Center/Pages/payroll-benef...


Because if taking a sick day cuts into vacation time, it incentivizes people to come into work when they've got the flu and get everyone else sick too. Which is worse for the company than just granting a few sick days without affecting vacation time.


That's a valid point. I'm thinking inside my own bubble where there is a distinction between "being contagious but still feeling well enough work" and "being too sick to work". In the former case, I would work from home and in the latter I would have to take a PTO. I guess the one big bucket works better for people in professions where they don't have to be in the office.


I get 25 plus bank holidays here in the UK. I got 30 plus bank holidays at a previous job. Everyone takes all of the available days and nobody questions it. I've started to see adverts for unlimited leave here too now. Would be interested how that plays out. I'd want to be taking at least 40 days plus bank holidays if I were to accept such a job. The lack of time off you get in the US is insane. It is the only absolute stopper for me to even consider moving there to work.


You are scammed and being used.

Taking 6.5 days off and 1/2 day off on your birthday sounds completely reasonable for every company with no "unlimited vacation". Do you have "unlimited vacation" written in your contract?


Sorry sounds like you were scammed. I don't think that is too strong a word.

There is a conflict between what they like to offer to attract talent vs. what they offer culturally. I have not experience unlimited vacation, but at my limited vacation shop I just took 6 weeks off (on the last week now) albeit some was unpaid, but I am getting market rate so that has to be a better situation.

A good way to get a lot of vacation is to take breaks between jobs and make sure the jobs are paying you what you are worth.


Your company does not have unlimited vacation based on how you have described the situation. It's unclear to us how much time you've been with the company. Let's say you've been there just 1 month and didn't mention upfront you'd be taking those 6.5 days off, then that feels like minor abuse of the policy on your end. Let's say you've been there a "significant" period of time of > 3-4 months, then they are shafting you.

In my experience unlimited vacation is only as unlimited as the person asking for it. Many people are too timid to actually ask for the days off. It seems like you've already done the asking, and this is more of a company culture problem and you are right to consider leaving or having a frank talk with your supervisor about what unlimited means. Perhaps you can change it to be 5 weeks a year with them and they'll feel better with a bounded number for you and you'll feel better being able to take off when you want.

Recently interviewed someone and was mentioning the work/life balance and unlimited vacation and their response was "Come on...unlimited vacation is a scam" I then explained that I had already taken off about 3 weeks this year with another 3 planned, and that it's "unlimited" if you ask for it. Maybe my situation is unique, or maybe people are too timid, I'm not sure. I'm glad I'm working at a place where taking vacation is part of the culture for long term success.

I'd also encourage anyone interviewing with a company that has unlimited vacation to talk to a non C-Level or founder employee about what vacation they've taken so far this year and their opinion of how well the unlimited policy works at their company - hopefully you can get a straight answer as this is just as important as monetary compensation.


Peoples answers here are good. Just to add you also want to watched out for pooled sick vacation leave. It incentives people to come in when you're sick and spread colds, norovirus, flus.


Worst kind of policy. It does not even work in the short term if you count the productivity lost in the whole team later. Long term, it can make people chronically ill.


If it's unlimited, show up the first day, and then go on vacation. When you no longer get a pay check, you know how "unlimited" it was.


It's almost always unlimited "with approval from your manager".


As has been noted elsewhere, 'unlimited vacation' is usually at best an aspiration, at worst a scam.

Has anybody tried asking up front what the average number of days actually taken is? And if you asked and then took the job - were they telling the truth?


Yes and yes.

The theme in the comments here seem to show that this policy, like other tools, can be easily abused.

At the right company it is freeing. For example, my productivity doesn't fit nicely within the box of the standard work week. So if I'm not feeling like I can get anything worthwhile done, I might take a day to recharge the batteries. Need to stay home for a contractor? No problem. Need time off to travel? Awesome.

The challenge is there is this nagging feeling of taking advantage of things that was instilled in me from working at shitty companies in a service industry notorious for bad hours (ad agencies) most of my career. That said, I've heard that mandatory time off is now on the table to help alleviate some of this "guilt" myself and others feel.

I fully recognize my experience is not the norm. It is also very hard to screen for companies that actually stand behind their policy. I had a hard time convincing a candidate I was trying to hire that it was in fact as good as it sounded and we were not lying. Hard to do when so many people are scarred from shitty experiences.


Sorry you've had such a bad experience. My experience varies as others have mentioned in the thread.

I've worked at companies where we had accrued days off and it was a nightmare. Any time we took vacation was met with scrutiny.

I've also worked with unlimited vacations companies as well. A past employer made you feel quite crappy about taking vacation days.

That said, I've worked for two companies (including my current) who have unlimited vacation and stay true to it. My current company gives me quite a bit of freedom. Being a manager, I personally make sure that my colleagues take time off. I currently have an engineer who is on a 10 day vacation in which we highly encouraged him to not check email, jira, or anything else.

I think it really depends on the company, the stage they're at (small, medium, etc.), and the growth they're experiencing. The two companies I worked at where it was not a problem were both stable companies growing at a modest rate and were larger in size. IMO, this helps spread around the workload better when employees take vacation. At smaller companies, since most are wearing multiple hats, it makes it harder to lose someone for a few days.


There needs to be a website listing companies that have "unlimited vacation" with a place for people to submit average number of days taken.


This is a great idea.


I don't think all unlimited vacation policies are scams. At my office we get told we need to take more vacation if we don't take at least 3 weeks. And I have never once seen a vacation request denied.

It sounds like you've got a job where they are using unlimited vacation as a way to limit vacation even further instead of using it to promote a great work life balance.


<3 Are you hiring for remote DevOps engineers? I'm cheap, and have 20+ years experience.


My two cents: don't say you are cheap (even if you are). It makes it sound like you are not worth a lot. The employers that are willing to hire you because you said you are cheap are mostly the kind that will scam you with stuff like open vacation policies.


Perhaps, but I spent most of my career heavily negotiating for high salaries which set impossibly high expectations. I've been working in IT in one form or another since I was 12, and I just no longer have the will or the energy to perform at a super senior level. I just want to live my life in Europe, make enough money to support my daughter and have some adventures, and deliver at a level that doesn't require 60 hour weeks or soul-crushing stress.


Hey, be cheap, don't waste effort on negotiation if you are ok with less money! I think that's totally reasonable. Just don't broadcast it that way. It attracts the wrong kind of attention.


Yes, I do see what you mean. I guess I look at it as a white male statistically I'm far more likely to oversell myself, and I've certainly done that before. Now I might overcompensate for that. I would much rather set low/mid-level expectations, than sell myself as a "rockstar" (god I hate that term) and set myself up for burn-out.

Being cheap is funny. In San Francisco at my last job I was around $175k before the expected bonuses which never materialized, as they tend not to @ start-ups. To no avail I tried hard to sell myself on "$100k and I only work 9 months per year", but there's such a false notion that "bodies in the seat mean productivity". I ended up finding a gig around $110k, which provides me a far better lifestyle in the cheaper part of the Balkans/Near-East than I could afford in any US city where I would want to live.

This is part of the problem: golden handcuffs.


Second this. Maybe emphasizing your preference for achieving some work life balance is another angle to consider.


Just checked and we are not right now. We actually don't have any remote engineers right now. We did just hire an additional person for DevOps.


Maybe you could rephrase it in some other way like "I don't have huge salary expectations".


"Unlimited vacation holidays" Just doesnt work well. Most people dont know how much they should get, and are looking at co-workers. In the end nobody takes holidays... I would just leave work and mention the 'unlimted holidays' in your contract (I hope it is in there). Greetings


What a silly company. Quit.

One consultancy I worked for had a nice policy: 30 combined sick/holiday/vacation days off per year. If you never got sick, great. If you needed a personal day, take it. If you didn't mind coming in on Memorial Day, that's one more day to use later.


This is a really AWFUL policy. I recently started a new job that has this same policy and I am struggling whether to stay. Everything else is great. However, in 27 years of working, I've never had to worry about sick time.

Now, I am afraid to take ETO time as vacation because what happens if I get sick? I had a coworker come in with walking pneumonia because he was running short on ETO.

NOT having separated sick time is bad because you can't plan when to take vacation time because of the unknown, and you're going to show up to the office and spread your viruses because you can't take a day to rest and recover.


Maybe just do what we did: reserve ten days out of your 30 for sickness?

The point of the policy is that you're responsible for budgeting your own time. If you need less sick leave, take less sick leave. If you need more, take more.

If you're a sickly type, you might want to buy a disability policy of some sort that supports you for weeks or months.


The combined policy sounds like another way of saying "we don't trust you to not use sick days for vacation."


No, it's the opposite. "We trust you to use your paid time off as you deem fit."

Traditionally, companies budget sick time for their employees, yet insist that you bring in a doctor's note to "prove" you were sick. You consider that a trusting relationship?


That sounds awful. I have never had an employer ask me for a doctor's note (across industry, private research, and working for a university).


Google it; it's not at all uncommon. Perhaps it's less common however in a tech/research profession such as yours, where it's probably considered too much of an insult to intelligence. I mean, it insults anyone's intelligence, but people with fewer options just have to put up with it.


I can't agree with you more. It's surprising to learn anyone working in tech has to do this.


Combined time off policies have the very real downside of encouraging sick employees to cone to work.


And if you have separate sick leave? Same issue: if you use up your 10 days of sick leave, are you going to stay home or come to work? Most people will just come to work unless they can afford to take the unpaid time off. At least with combined time off, you have options. I guess I would also ask: if someone is sick for 3-4 weeks out of the year, should they not consider skipping vacation that year? Otherwise, it's a hardship for their employer and colleagues, who have to essentially do their job for them for many weeks.


Tell your boss he's a liar, name the company, and get out, is what I'd like to suggest.


I'll write about this after I've secured new work. Sadly they know I'm stuck there because it took me a year to find a DevOps position which would allow me to work from outside the United States.


You've got considerably more leverage whilst working. Pity you'll be taking vacation days to job-hunt. Build in some pre-start leave with your new employer.


Your setup appears to be an hour focused culture, not a goal focused culture.

They may be a bit schizophrenic about this, and promise nice leave based on hours put in and when an often non-expressed goal in not met (indeed, not formalised internally) is not met get very managerial, imagining management, especially hours focused culture, is leadership.

If they're not letting you take leave on your birthday, hell I give that day off for anyone if they ask for it or not, then they're an hours focused culture faking a goal focused one.

You're right to get out.


It's funny you should mention this. We just started tracking the time to completion of all zendesk tickets (everything we do is ticket-based) to deliver weekly reports to $uppermgmt.

Sigh, yeah, it's a sinking ship. Sadly. My team is the best team I've ever worked with, and my boss is the only boss I was ever excited to work for. I Don't blame him, though, his hands are just tied now that the penny pinchers run the show.


And this is why I'll never work for a service business with billable hours ever again unless I'm desperate.

If your time is the product and you are the biggest source of overhead (see every agency of every industry out there),then getting more hours out of you for the same or lesser pay is the primary lever for management to pull to grow revenue and margins.


Any time something is sold to you as unlimited, you should do a s/unlimited/secretly limited/g. Data plans, storage, vacation days, tap water, etc. You can't hold them responsible when any of these are suddenly cut off because of excessive usage, but they can always invoke some form of fair usage policy and you don't have a contract to back it up.


Open vacation means that you should definitely take vacation. Normally when you leave a company, they have to pay out your vacation time. This is great for companies or fields that turn employees quickly (like a lot of these tech companies).

If you don't take the time it takes to feel comfortable with not getting that closing payout, then you are compromising your value.


I don't know whether they're typically introduced with malign intent, or with good intentions that inevitably go bad, but I don't really think it matters much -- open vacation policies are a terrible idea from the employee's point of view... and in the end probably a terrible idea from the employer's point of view too.


I like having accrued annual leave and sick leave for the exact reason that they are tangible numbers that I can reasonably say I own. If it was "unlimited" as you say, it seems more like the company or team owns them, and your expected to conform to expectations on their limited use.


i wouldn't trade salary for it. i don't think it's a scam but i wouldn't be surprised to find some employers use it to take advantage of workers.

at my shop we are encouraged to take as much time as we need and managers even regularly encourage us to take more time off.

sometimes i feel like it's a trick and i don't take as much time off as most people do. they do track how many days you take off but you can come in late whenever you want and use 1/2 day pto if you don't want to stay late. or, if it's nice outside, take a personal day for the hell of it.

the only consideration is we have to be sure to have someone covering any ongoing work so we still meet deadlines.


I considered offering it at my company, but decided against and went for a fixed policy where we encourage our team to take all the days. Open policies are pretty much always a scam. What boss is actually going to be happy letting you take 60 days off a year?


Take the job. Work for six months, then take vacation until you're let go.


Yes a scam. We should have minimum vacation days not maximum or unlimited.


Has anyone here applied for an unlimited holiday job and told them when accepting that you plan to take 40 days (or whatever) off? I'd be interested to know how they responded.


Are people at the company actually taking at least 3 weeks of vacation every year? No? It's a fucking scam. This test works every single time.


Yes, there's always quite a difference between the showcase and the backoffice.


Yes it's just a scam.




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