No Money for Raises This Year? Ask for Bonus Vacation Days (Part II)

In Part I of this post, No Money for Raises This Year? Ask for Bonus Vacation Days, I proposed the idea of asking for additional vacation days off from work when you are expecting a raise.  Do you value vacation time off from work over more money in your regular paycheck?  When your employer’s compensation budget is tight the chances of getting your fully deserved raise, or any raise at all, is at risk.  Asking your company for more vacation days may be the best solution to both situations.

To convince your boss and HR that bonus vacation days are a mutually beneficial reward, review these bullet points to help prove that you have thought this through and serious about your request.  Tailor these to your particular situation and place of work since every company is different.  Be sure to include the results from the vacation day cost versus value calculation that you performed in Part I.

Negotiating for Extra Vacation Days versus a Raise this year

How To Negotiate for Bonus Vacation Days

  • Vacation days are not the same as a raise as they cost the company virtually nothing in the form of salary and taxes.
    > Here is where you show off the calculation you made earlier, comparing the monetary cost of a small raise with the intrinsic value of a similar number of days off from work.
  • Granting bonus vacation days to you means that more money is available to give your co-workers larger raises this year.
    > Explain how you understand that since the budget for raises is limited, your creative solution can deliver a cost-free reward to you (one you value as someone who appreciates work-life-vacation balance).  At the same time it frees up money so other equally deserving staff members can get an increase in salary.
  • Additional time off from work will not affect your high level of productivity.
    > Since you have shown in the past how you get your work done on time and do not let vacations negatively affect productivity, the same will apply to the few additional days you are requesting.  Remind your manager of your proven work ethic and get-things-done attitude.  If must, offer to work extra hours the week leading up to and the week upon your return from an extended vacation period.
  • This is a one-time only request that applies to the next calendar or employee review period.  It is therefore not outside the box of raise and bonus compensation policy goals.
    > What I’m saying is that only excellent performance, however that is measured in your organization, will lead to future raises and bonuses whether in the form of cash, vacation days, or another form of reward.  With the elimination of the concern that your request is a permanent change, your boss is more likely to give vacation rewards a try by approving it on the spot.

With the points above on the table, you will encounter some objections and may need to negotiate and compromise on your initial proposal.  Be flexible as to the exact number of vacation days you’ll receive instead of a bonus as well as any stipulations on how you must track and use them in the upcoming year.

Handling Objections to Extra Vacation Day Requests

Based on my own work experience, I have outlined the most common objections that you may hear.  I recommend that you review each one and be prepared to address them during your conversation in person with your manager or HR representative (the decision maker).  All of these legitimate reasons can be overcome if you approach them with a professional and positive attitude and if you work for an organization that is willing to embrace creative solutions for rewarding top talent.

  • The HR system (HRIS) at your company is not capable of overriding vacation policy for one employee to account for additional paid vacation days or PTO hours.
    Solution: Track the extra vacation days on paper personally and trust that your manager will approve their usage at a future date.  To protect against the possibility that you may have a different manager in the future, get the details of your bonus vacation days in writing.
  • Staff members on your team or elsewhere in the company will feel that it is unfair you are receiving extra vacation days; that is if they find out.
    Solution: Since your manager is concerned about morale, promise not to share information about your bonus vacation days with others inside the company.  With most jobs, salary and benefits are negotiable at hire time and kept private.  Getting a performance raise and the amount of that raise isn’t something you would normally share with your co-workers.  The same level of discretion will be applied to vacation day rewards.
  • No one has ever asked for extra vacation days before and therefore no official policy exists, so it just can’t be done!
    Solution: Challenge your manager to think outside the box by explaining the importance of vacation time to meet your current work-life balance goals versus the value of other forms of compensation and rewards.  Try modifying your initial request by limiting the number of bonus vacation days or how and when you can use them to put your manager at ease.  This is also the time to reiterate the points above about your performance, work-ethic, and the multiple benefits of this cost-free reward.

Despite my best advice there are going to be situations where your employer is a stickler for policy.  I wish they all would offer the creative flexibility that people in your shoes thrive on to meet work-life balance goals for travel, family, and enrichment.  You still have to deal with the reality of the corporate culture and HR policies at your workplace.

The only way you will know which type of employer you work for is to review this advice, outline your own points for discussion, prepare for the typical objections, and give it your best try.  You may be pleasantly surprised to find that your request for a couple of bonus vacation days is easy to say “Yes” to, especially when your manager wants to reward you but is having trouble getting budget approval. Accept the final result with a positive attitude regardless of whether you succeed or fail.

Summary Notes

Be aware that your manager may agree to your extra vacation day proposal, but decide not to loop-in the Human Resources department or payroll staff.  It will be under-the-table, but your ability to take these extra vacation days is still the same.  It just may not show up on your paycheck stub or visible on the HR web portal as earned PTO/Vacation Days  Taking one of these special days means informing your manager and keeping track off the record.  I cannot advise for or against this unofficial approach as it all depends on the type of employer and the nature of the relationship between yourself and your manager.

Hopefully you work for a company that is willing to consider granted bonus vacation days as a sign of their belief in work-life balance, flexible corporate culture, and employee happiness.  Post a comment below if you have successfully requested vacation days as an alternative to a raise (in good or bad economic times) or if you ran into inflexible corporate policies at your workplace.


  • […] VacationCounts Skip to content HomeResourcesSocialAbout Scott PetoffAbout VacationCounts.comContact Us ← Leave the Office for Lunch and Take a Vacation Break for Work-Life Balance No Money for Raises This Year? Ask for Bonus Vacation Days (Part II) → […]

  • >