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Job Change: Take Vacation or Cash Out Vacation?

Posted By Jim On 06/19/2008 @ 12:34 pm In Career | 7 Comments

Whenever you change jobs, there’s always some vacation days left over that you can either take or cash out (some employers won’t give you an option, this is for those who do have a choice). For me, the choice has often been pretty clear: take the days off. You’ll be paid for both but by taking vacation you get a few more benefits.

The only argument I can think of in favor of cashing out vacation is one where you want to start work at your new job ASAP and you’ve signed some sort of non-compete agreement with your former company. In that scenario, you would be in violation of that agreement if you worked for your new employer while still on the payroll of the former one. Outside of that scenario, unless you all can think of one, that’s the only argument for cashing out vacation. (There is one more, if you have a lot of vacation and you want to be paid in the current pay cycle rather in the next one… but that’s even rarer than the first scenario)

Here are reasons to take the vacation:

Medical Insurance

If you take the vacation days, you still get medical coverage for the time you’re on vacation. If you get paid out for those days, your medical insurance ends on your final day. This may not be a big deal if you start your new job immediately. If you want a few days off in between employers, it pays to “take vacation” and have medical coverage.

One thing I never understood was why my medical insurance expired on the last day of employment yet I continued to pay, out of payroll deductions, for medical for the entire month.

Accrued Benefits

Depending on how your benefits math is calculated, you may want to schedule your final day during the beginning of a month. At my last employer, our vacation days were accrued on a monthly basis. When I left on February 28th, I didn’t get the vacation days I had accrued for the month of February (ouch). This may be the case for the accrual of other benefits as well, such as pensions, so you might want to take a few vacation days to pull you into the next month.

Holidays

If you’re a few days away from a holiday, it’s better to take the vacation and get paid for those holidays (duh). I knew someone who switched jobs around Thanksgiving. Using his vacation from his first employer, he was able to stretch is last day past Thanksgiving. He also started at his new job on the Monday before Thanksgiving. End result was that he was paid by two employers for that nice two day holiday… very clever!

One thing to be aware of is whether you signed any sort of non-compete agreement (as mentioned earlier) while you were employed with your former company. In the case of my Thanksgiving friend, there was no non-compete agreement in place (not that the first employer knew) and so he could technically be employed at the two companies simultaneously so all was okay.

There you have it, some reasons why you should take your vacation rather than taking a straight payout. Of course, this requires some delicate discussion with your HR department or your direct manager. I’ve found that people are reasonable, will appreciate some forewarning, and won’t mind you taking vacation. If your HR or your manager doesn’t seem reasonable (and everyone who has an unreasonable HR and/or manager knows they’re unreasonable), give the least amount of notice possible. It’s all business.

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