how soon after starting a new job can you take a whole week off?

A reader writes:

How soon after you start working is it reasonable to ask for a whole week off? I’m pretty junior level, but it’s to see a family member who is terminally ill. But even if that weren’t the case, I’d still like know what employers think about taking lots of time off near the start of employment.

It depends on your employer, your job, and the reason.

In general, taking a week off soon after starting a job — any time in the first, say, four or five months — isn’t generally something you want to do. Your manager is too likely to think, “She just started, she’s still being trained, and she already wants a week off?”

There are a couple of exceptions to this though:

1. If a parent or sibling is seriously ill. (Or a spouse or child, in which case most people will take additional time too.) This becomes iffier when it’s a more distant relative; most employers aren’t going to be as understanding about taking a week off soon after starting to visit an ill grandparent or cousin. There are exceptions, of course … but a week is a long time to be gone when you’ve just started, and most people will expect you to use that only for very close relatives. (You can argue whether or not that’s reasonable; I’m just telling you what’s typical.)

2. If you cleared the time off before accepting the job. In that case, the reason for the time off is irrelevant; you negotiated that as part of your offer, and it’s fine to do. (And if it’s something like a pre-planned vacation, always bring it up before accepting an offer. It will come across a lot better than if you mention it after you’ve already started.)

Also, if you’re unsure how to handle your particular situation in your particular workplace, you can always talk to your boss about the situation and ask what might be feasible. If nothing else, you’ll get a sense of how your manager views this stuff, and you can decide how to proceed from there.

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