This Secret Trick Leads to More Vacation Days at Work

And no, you won't have to call in sick.

The key to scoring more paid time off is as simple as understanding the difference between vacation days and personal days—and then being a savvy negotiator.

Here's the thing: Most organizations combine vacation days, personal days, and sick leave all under a singular "paid time off" policy. So, instead of actually specifying, say, 10 days of vacation, 7 days of sick leave, and 3 personal days—standard issue for first-year private industry employees in America, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—you'll just get "15 days of blanket-policy PTO." To break this mold, all you have to do is ask.

When you're on-boarding for a particular gig and going through salary negotiations, be sure to inquire about the organization's PTO policy. Chances are, they'll describe a blanket PTO policy. (According to a 2016 report from the Society for Human Resource Management, about 87 percent of organizations offer those plans.) If that's the case, simply ask if you can have "a more traditional policy," and cite those BLS figures: 10 vacation days, 7 sick days, and 3 personal days.

And yes, I know what you're thinking: Wait a second—13 days is less than 15! To which we say: It's "fewer," and also, "You're thinking about it all wrong."

Under a PTO plan, your sick days could conceivably cut into your leisure time. Under a traditional plan, your time off is complete unaffected by any potential illness.

So, when you're planning for time off, be sure to use your newly earned personal days before your vacation days. Personal days typically don't roll over year-over-year, but, in many firms, vacation days do: Of the roughly 650 million unused vacation days of U.S. employees in 2013, about 430 million rolled over into 2014, according to a report from Project Time Off. And remember: If you need more time, you can always call in sick and fake a cough. (But be wary: Your boss is well within their rights to request a doctor's note.)

Or you could just pack up and relocate to Europe: Denmark, France, and Sweden all require employers to offer a minimum of 25 days off, not including holidays, each calendar year. Or you could try to get hired by Netflix, LinkedIn, or Grubhub, which have started touting enticing unlimited vacation policies. And if as you're heading out on vacation, be sure to learn the Best Way to Pack a Suitcase. 

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Ari Notis
Ari is an editor specializing in news and lifestyle. Read more
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