You’ve been searching for a new job for some time, so when that job offer finally comes through, you are quick to accept. The salary is satisfactory, and you have been told the basic benefits—health insurance, 401 K, three weeks vacation. What you may not be aware of are the organizational policies. You assume you can learn them once you actually start the job. How big a deal can policies be?
Many new employees are surprised by vacation-related policies. For example, you may have three weeks of vacation, but can only use what you have accrued, and it will take months to get to even the one-week level. Or you can’t take vacation during your six-month probation period. Or you are hired in March, and requests for time off were submitted by others in January, so you won’t be able to take vacation time during the holiday season.
Others policies also can have an impact. If your commute is fairly long, and public transportation can be uncertain, is there flexibility around start and stop times? Is it possible to work from home if some type of problem arises (lets say your car breaks down)? Can you use sick time if your child is ill?
Can sick time be used for routine doctor appointments (like physical exams or getting your flu shot) when you aren’t actually sick. If you need to use vacation time for issues like these, can you take vacation time by the hour, or must it be taken in half or whole days? Is unused sick time carried over from year to year? Can you carry over all unused vacation time or is it limited to a few days, or is there a “use or lose” policy?
Is there a dress policy (formal or informal)? Will you be required to wear business attire every day, or is the workplace more casual? Can you use your workplace computer for personal purposes? Can you take it home with you? Generally, the bigger the organization, the more policies that will be specified.
If you are going to work for state or national government, there is probably a policy manual available online. If you become part of a union, there will be a union contract that spells out the organizational policies. If neither of these situations relate to you, you might request a copy of Personnel Policies or a summary of benefits from the human resources department before you actually accept the job.
At the very least, ask if there are personal days in addition to vacation time that can be taken at any time. Also, if you have an important family event (perhaps your parent’s 25th anniversary or your sister’s wedding) that will require time away from work before you have accumulated enough leave time, be certain you have discussed this prior to starting your job. Some places will allow you to borrow on future leave time or take leave without pay. Others won’t.
Almost all employees have arrived at a new job and found some policies that they didn’t like, or were surprised by, or that had a negative impact on their job or life. These may not be avoidable, but a heads-up may help you be more accepting and adaptable and learning policies in advance can help with your future planning.