How to Take Time Off From A New Job

Is there anything more exciting than onboarding and getting started at a new job? Those all-important first 30 days are filled with new responsibilities, new people to meet and even a new place to go.

However, that excitement often comes with some uncertainty when you realize (after starting your new job) that you need to take some unexpected time off. If you know you have a vacation planned before you start your job, you can often include your days off as a part of your benefits negotiations or at least provide a significant amount of heads up. But what do you do when you start your job and an emergency comes up or you fall sick?

While every workplace will have unique circumstances, here are four things to consider when you need to take time off at a new job

Is This Really An Emergency?

First, it’s important to exercise prudence and make sure that you aren’t taking time off unnecessarily. Is this really a health or family emergency? If so, it’s completely reasonable to move through the next steps and secure some time off. If it’s not a family emergency, or it’s not a time-sensitive issue, you may be able to get by with leaving work early (or going in late) rather than being completely absent for a day of work. You also may be able to make up the time by working virtually rather than coming into the office, if that functionality is built into your workplace.

If it’s not an emergency and it’s not time-sensitive, it’s in your best interest to power through and not try to get out of work when you’re new. It can often cause stress for your coworkers and manager as they wonder whether or not this is the start of a pattern.

How Does Your Company Formally Manage Time Off?

When you’re sure you need to take time off, refer back to your benefits package to understand how your company managers time off. The answer to the following questions will impact how you proceed:

  • Does your company manage time off in separate categories such as vacation, sick leave and personal leave?
  • Does your company manage all time off as Paid Time Off (PTO)?
  • How quickly does your time off accrue? If you have been on your job for 30 days, do you have any time off accrued?
  • Does your company allow employees to “go into the hole” on PTO under certain circumstances by using PTO time that is paid but reflected on your PTO leave as a negative number?
  • What is your company’s policy toward vacation, funeral leave, jury duty and other extenuating circumstances?

Some companies carefully organize time off into separate categories according to how long you’ve been employed, which means if you take time off in your first 14 days you may not have any leave accumulated. In this situation you may need to take unpaid time off (which will affect your next paycheck) or you may “go into the hole” and be in the negative for your PTO calculations and make that time up as you accrue more time off

When in doubt, connect with your human resources manager to get the most accurate information available.

See also: How To Nail The First 30 Days of Your New Job

How Does Your Company Informally Manage Time Off

How your new company organizes time off formally is a matter of policy; how your new company organizes time off informally is a matter of communication and gut feeling.

Some companies (and departments) maintain a strict, traditional view of taking time off, whereas others might have a more flexible, modern point of view. It’s up to you to communicate with your manager and get an accurate sense of whether or not taking time off in the early days of your new job will be a significant issue.

What Can I Do to Over-Communicate With My Manager?

In many situations the question of taking time off at a new job is more about how you do it rather than whether or not you can do it. Your new boss and coworkers simply want to be reassured that they made a good choice in hiring you and that you are responsible and reliable. Whether legitimate or not, carelessly taking time off in the first few months of your employment can often give the wrong impression.

If you absolutely must take time off for an emergency or illness it falls on you to do what you can to over-communicate with your manager and team (in a drama-free way) that you did not plan for the inconvenience and that you’ll do everything you can to cover your responsibilities. After all, life happens, and it’s how you manage life that distinguishes excellent employees from subpar ones.

For example, while I worked for a government contracting company I was also managing an ongoing chronic illness. There were a few months where I used all of my PTO and “carried a balance” of 8-10 hours for days off I’d taken. If I had left the company with this balance, I would have owed the company money for these hours. However, I stayed until I had “worked my PTO back up” to a zero balance.

If there had been serious problems with my performance or attendance over the long-term, this could have been a significant issue that resulted in my termination. Instead, I over-communicated with my managers and human resources to make sure my responsibilities were covered and that I was not seen as taking advantage of this policy.

If you’re in a position in which you need to take time off at a new job and you don’t have the leave, use these tips to communicate with your team and the company’s leadership so that you can take care of your responsibilities outside of work as well as your responsibilities inside of it.