Are weeks of vacation negotiable?

Most of the people I know work for employers that give employees a set number of weeks of vacation based on how long they’ve been working for the company. For example, at my job employees get 2 weeks vacation per year for their first 4 years and then it goes up to 3 weeks per year for a few more years, bumps to 4 weeks per year after that, etc.

I realize different companies probably have different policies, but I’m wondering weather in general this is ever negotiable. Is it at all common for a prospective empoyee to ask for additional vacation to start? Would it seem weird if a prospect told the company that they were getting 3 weeks vacation at their previous job and they’d need or want that much to start at a new job, even if the new job had a different policy?

My gut instinct answer: IT DEPENDS. In general, I would guess that the larger the company, the more likely they are to have a one- size fits all policy with limited room for negociation. Of course, a smaller company may be more flexible in principle, but have less room to permit PAID vacation, or might require you to only take vacation when other people aren’t. On the other hand, if they want you badly enough, anything is possible.

For an example of one time it worked: A friend and former bell choir director of mine was interviewed by a church far away. She didn’t want the job (didn’t want to move, etc). and so said things like “I couldn’t handle being this far away from my parents and only having two weeks vacation. I need four weeks–which must include being able to take off four Sundays-- and it has to start this year, not next”. The Church said “Ok. We can do that. Anything else you want?” She ended up being offered a job she couldn’t refuse–and didn’t.

I agree with points made by Eureka, and I guess I would add that if the company’s representative has had any length of experience in the field that they wouldn’t be suprised by someone asking for more vacation, even if they can’t grant it.

So I think that if a person is in a fairly good position to ask for extra vacation, go for it. All they can do is say “no”. I don’t think it would reduce the chances of getting a job by a reasonable employer.

Companies of all sizes ask grant it sometimes if they really want somebody. Very few people have the guts to ask for it though.

The higher up the food chain you’re interviewing, the easier it is to negotiate vacation. I know people who’ve walked in asking for four weeks the first year, and have gotten it.

I’ve found that it is usually negotiable when interviewing for a position, but it is difficult or impossible to change after being hired unless there are dramatic lifestyle changes. Vacation is another cost the employer will factor in the negotiation, and it is best that they know what you want coming in the door.

I work in the civil/environmental engineering field, and good experienced employees are desirable, at least at this time in the economy. Our company has a policy of two weeks vacation, three weeks after five years, four weeks after ten years. Most experienced interviewees have three weeks with their current employers, so it is the de facto standard to grant this at the interview if we want to have any hope of attracting an experience employee. Our company dropped this convention for a year or so, and only re-implemented it when they realized they were losing prime employee candidates.

I work with one engineer who was courted by our company; he has two small children and wanted to be there to see them grow up. He insisted on four weeks vacation, but adjusted his salary accordingly.

If you have certain perks in your current position, there is no harm in bringing this up at the interview to test the water. The interviewer will know what you are doing and will let you know whether they can accomodate you or not. My experience has been that it is good practice and good manners not to bring this sort of thing up at the beginning, but rather to establish whether you will be a good fit with one another. Once this gets established, then the negotiations take place. I’ve never been comfortable in any interview situation where either the interviewer or the interviewee focus on salary before anything else. But, every situation is different, so YMMV.

As stated above, it depends. First, on how much they want you, and second on how much you are willing to give up for a new job.

Most of the companies I’ve received offers from have set vacation policies and there’s little room to negotiate outside those policies. However, there was a bit of wiggle room about how those policies were applied.

For example, one company granted you 10 days paid vacation days in your first calendar year if you started prior to July 1. If you started after that, you received only 5. I was scheduled to start July 5 and would have given up a lot of days I’d built up in my previous job. They gave me the full 10 as if I had started earlier in the year. Likewise, if you’re a summer intern getting a full time offer or worked in a temp to perm situation, you may be able to get your vaction calculation start date set at the time you started with the company rather than the date you started as a full time employee.

As noted previously, it depends, Key factors include:

  • Size of the company. Larger ones are more likely to have standard policies, generally speaking.

  • Level of the position. If you’re interviewing for a position as a VP, perks are easier to negotiate than they are if you’re interviewing for night-shift janitorial work.

  • Demand for you. If you’ve been recruited, you have more leverage.

Speaking as someone on the hiring side, we usually do have flexibility in the total compensation package. The mix of salary, hiring bonus, additional vacation and the like – company car in some industries/positions – can be adjusted to suit the individual. Some hiring managers aren’t interested in that, viewing the offer of a job alone to be suitable reward. Some are.
Other things to consider when negotiating a job offer are:

  • when will I get a review and merit increase? If you’re getting paid less than you want, getting an early review can help make a difference.

  • can I get training or travel? If the employer will pay for classes, seminars or speaking appearances, that is worth something.

I have minimum vacation requirements and made it clear to potential employers that it was a deal breaker for me. Some have met my requirements, others didn’t, and I decided to accept accordingly.

Everything is negotiable, you may have to give up pay or some other things, but I don’t know employers who will hold it against you for asking.

My husband has always negotiated for at least 3 weeks and always got it, till his current job. He works for a NASA contractor and the terms of the contract dictate vacation, period. However, they let him work comp time to earn extra days off, and since he came from industry, he’s used to working long days, so earning comp is easy for him.

I’ve been a Federal employee just about all of my working life. Time off is earned based on longevity. I’ve maxed out - 26 days a year. Oddly enough, even though I haven’t had a real vacation in years, I always manage to take most of my time off every year. This year, I’m on track to carry over 7 or 8 days into next year. My goal is to amass enough to be in Use or Lose status, but I don’t see that ever happening. I value my mental health days.

One important thing is to negotiate this before hiring and get it in writting in the offer letter.

This can become very helpful later when you go to take your extra vacation, the HR system says you’ve used all of your days, and nobody remembers striking the deal when you were hired.

I’ve done it.

The job I presently have offered me a good package before I was hired.
But, I determined that I was worth more so I requested more money.
They informed me that I would already be in the higher end of the pay-scale for the job-level I would have.

So, I asked for three weeks vacation per year instead of two.
And, I got it.

After five years with the company, vacation automatically is increased to three weeks per year; so now I’m on par with everyone else with equivalent senority.

I’d have to ask my Mom, (she used to be a VP of Human Resources for a rather large company) but I’m pretty sure a little more than a decade ago they made it legal (or they made something legal the details are vague) to offer perspective employee’s senority benifits IF they’ve had previous years experience at the former place of emplotment.


If John Doe had 25 years experience at ACME oil company and decides he wants to work for Hal-Burton; He can negotiate for 25 years seniority at Hal-Burton. This not only includes vacation time but also being fully vested in the company as well.

(401k, you name it)

Not sure why that used to be illegal.