a note on taking time off in the UK vs the USA

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I grew up in the US, and until fairly recently in my work life, if I wanted a day off to head out to play, I had to ask.

And I also had to hope that it was cool with my supervisor that I’d take time off, and that my request got approved. I always felt a little guilty about even asking.

This is my own hang up, but my guess is this came from early childhood, where you needed some serious reason ( in my house ) to call off from school and there was ( Catholic? ) guilt involved whenever it happened.

And lastly, if you wanted to take a day or a week and there was something serious going on – a deadline, some big project, forget it. Your time off was not happening.

This is not how it happens, by and large, in the UK.

 

What?

Over here, your time off is seen as part of your compensation, something you’re entitled to without reservation. You might say this about your US by-law-mandated time off, but let’s look at that.

In the UK there’s no “asking” for time off; you inform your supervisor, and that’s that.

No reason necessary, no justification. No silly “Doctor’s Note.” Is it smack in the middle of a serious thing? No problem. Your benefit of a paid day off isn’t just for easy days, it’s for any time you’re supposed to work. So it’s cool. Whenever.

That’s the thing. Your time off is considered part of your compensation in a very real way, and just like ( almost ) no one would think to mess with your pay for hours worked or your health benefits as prescribed by the employer, no one thinks of interfering with this other benefit of taking time off, either.

As I’ve said, I’ve been very fortunate on this point since I moved over to the tech field. I’ve had more freedom to do what and when I want, but even with my seniority, luck, great managers, and comparatively laid back field, the difference overall is still pretty striking. It is definitely truth that for a long time I’ve always been able to ( mostly ) inform about days off, instead of request. But either because of my background, my previous experience, or whatnot…  even when I knew this was cool, part of me tried to argue that it wasn’t cool.

Before I switched to tech, I worked for a long time for the casinos in the Midwest. And believe me, getting time off was true to every US stereotype there is. Even as adults, you were mostly you were treated like school children, and I think it was this kind of attitude that eventually led me to do an serious career reset in the late 90s.

Seeing this difference here in the UK makes me smile, like the kid who sees how other kids are allowed to misbehave.  (^_^

 

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