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Paid time offs and holidays in a job

The Thanksgiving holiday is around the corner in the United States. With that, you may have heard of the ongoing controversy around major retailers planning to open stores for Black Friday sales on the day of Thanksgiving, which is typically a holiday that brings together families and friends.

Although the debate involves many aspects that range from worker rights and compensation to employer practices, one thing that can’t be missed is that taking time off for holidays and paid vacations makes a significant factor in determining job attractiveness. It is common, however, that people overlook such a benefit when they review a job offer.

Although it may not be a deal breaker, if you’ve the luxury of comparing two job offers or more, don’t overlook this benefit. Not only these holidays and vacations provide you an opportunity to recharge and connect with your family, they also are a good indication of the employer’s perception and strategy for handling issues related to work-life balance.

In particular, with many workers in the UAE being expatriates, it is particularly essential to ensure that the time off can add up to a decent vacation that is long enough to return home, if needed. Many employers also reward long-serving employees with more generous paid time off, so you will need to see if this benefit will grow as time goes by.

Here are a few points to look at regarding the paid time off and the holidays.

Companies typically have policies and procedures that regulate the amount, frequency and award of leave. With these, there is usually little room for negotiation in job offers. The knowledge of what employers are offering and what you – in your future position – will be receiving is essential, however. If holidays and leaves are essential to lifestyle, make sure you ask your hiring manager or human resources contact questions, including:

When do I begin to accrue my time off?

When will I be allowed to take time off?

Can I cash unused time off?

Your contact probably will have a written policy that you can review and compare easily to other employers. Keep in mind, though, these terms may change down the road. Still it makes sense to start off right.

By law, you’re entitled to specific holidays and some time off if you’re working full time. Review the UAE labour law or consult a labour office if you doubt that your employer — current or future – isn’t compliant. Knowing your rights is the first step in any successful negotiation, because the employer must provide the minimum required by law. But even beyond these basic rights, learn about the common benefits that other employers provide for workers at your level and experience. By doing so, you will be able to negotiate a package that provides you with the paid time-off that you deserve.

Don’t overlook situations that seem irrelevant to your current life circumstances. For example, if you’re not planning to have children immediately, you may not mind an employer who doesn’t provide an extended maternity or paternity leave. Still, a job starting today may be yours for many years to come, and having this option can be an added value down the road. In short, don’t overlook this major drawback with a job if you’ve a choice.

You will need to be aware of any restrictions that may exist in the approval process. Do you rather take short, frequent breaks rather than a long annual leave? Can you use your sick leaves if a dependent is sick? Based on far these preferences are important to you, try to gather as much information as possible. Although this may sound like a non-core issue in any job, it is a factor that can complicate your life afterward, if it doesn’t work for you.

Leaves in lieu and overtime

Related, make sure that if you’re required to work on holidays, you will be compensated either with more time off or a proper overtime pay – that is typically one and half times your salary. Although this is a common employer practice, it is important that you make sure you have this in writing, particularly if your job, by nature, will require you often to work on public holidays, late hours or weekends.

Rania Oteify, a former Gulf News business features editor, is currently a Seattle-based editor.