Working Over The Holidays: How To Negotiate Paid Time Off and the Holidays With Your Employer

Next to salaries, the holiday work schedule is another ‘sensitive’ topic for online workers and employers alike.

The Philippines have more holidays compared to most countries. Sometimes, we even move the dates of our holidays to offer people extended weekends. It is common practice for employees to save up the leaves to use them over the Christmas break, so they don’t have to work between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.

Most businesses in the Philippines are aware of this. They have internal policies to work with their employees on whether or not they need to work over the holidays.

For business owners outsourcing to Filipino virtual assistants, this arrangement can be baffling. Not only do they have fewer holidays, but it’s also part of their culture that you’re expected to work on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and the days between Christmas and New Year. So negotiating for days off, especially paid days off when we have so many holidays compared to them, can be tricky.

Even though it’s a complicated topic, it has to be done, especially when you’re just starting out as a virtual assistant or even as an experienced VA. Talking through and agreeing on what the policies should be on holidays and paid time off will reduce conflict and make your holidays less stressful.

Here are a few tips on making the negotiation process between you and your potential or current employer easier.

Never assume they know about our holidays.

Even though they have chosen to outsource to the Philippines, they may not know about:

  • our holidays or
  • the practice of paid time off and
  • overtime pay.

Some clients and employers don’t observe our holidays simply because they don’t know.

When they do find out, we’re being bombarded by questions on what they should do and what kind of compensation would be fair. That’s why we wrote this blog post to explain Philippine holidays and paid time off to them. You can share it to open up the conversation. In our experience, most employers are happy to honor these holidays. They offer paid time off once they know what it’s all about.

Compare holidays calendars and negotiate on what holidays you can agree on.

Now let’s say your employer wants you to work over some holidays because the business needs it. This is where you will need to have a frank conversation with your employer.

What holidays are important to you? These are the holidays that really need to be with your family. Holidays that you really observe.

What holidays can you compromise on? Maybe there are some religious holidays that you don’t really observe. Or some other holiday that you don’t really enjoy.

You need to point out what these holidays are as a starting point when negotiating. You can’t work on these holidays, but you can work on other holidays.

You have to be willing to compromise. Give some to get some. Your client will appreciate this because it lets them know what they can expect and make adjustments. They can accept the schedule offered. Offer higher rates if there are holidays that you are absolutely needed at work. Your employer might even offer days off outside our holiday calendar in place of other days off because it’s their holiday (like Thanksgiving).

Don’t be afraid to talk about holiday pay.

Once you have an agreement to work over some holidays, you need to talk about holiday pay. You need to ask. Don’t expect them to offer. In all likelihood, they’re just waiting for you to ask because they don’t know how to compute for it. Suppose you have already agreed on a salary or hourly rate. In that case, you can quickly calculate the holiday rate, which is explained here.

Write it all down.

Once everything is settled, write everything down and have it included in your employment contract.

You can recommend that it be included in the company policy to make it easier for the business when they hire more virtual assistants in the future.

This way you can avoid disputes and use the document/contract/policy to settle things.

Talk to your family and friends about your work schedule.

Your family and friends will probably expect that your days off will coincide with Philippine holidays. But we all know that’s not always the case. If you need to work over the holidays, let them know what your schedule is. This way, feelings won’t be hurt, and plans can be changed.

I agree that this is an uncomfortable topic. But it’s better to talk about it now than have it cause problems down the line. We have to speak up if we want to get the things we want and deserve.

To give you an idea of when you should put these ideas into action, here’s the Philippine Holiday Calendar.

Julia Sta RomanaAbout Julia Jasmine M. Sta Romana

Julia has been working for since 2012, first as a writer and now as its social media manager and content development specialist. She also founded the Davao Virtual Assistants Association, the biggest VA association in Davao City.

She’s a full-time wife and mom and volunteers her time as an internet rights advocate.

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