Need a Holiday? Better Get Ready To Doff That Cap.
The other day, this Tweet caught my eye:
As well as making me laugh, it got me thinking about experiences I have had in the past with employers who think they can dictate when you get to take time off. I’m not talking about reasonable managers who go out of their way to find reasonable compromises. For sure, managers have a difficult job coordinating periods of absence within a team, but it is part of their job and it’s one of the reasons they are paid more than the rest of us.
No, I’m talking about those Little Hitler “jobsworth” characters who seem to get off on the power they have over you. When megalomaniac managers start asserting their influence in your personal life as well as your work life, we have a problem.
Language Is Power
Unfortunately, we still seem to be stuck with a work culture where employees are obliged to doff their caps to their employers. It’s partly about the language we use. Having to go cap in hand to “request” time off from work ensures employees know that they are still the underdogs.
The Oxford Dictionary definition of the word “request” is “an act of asking politely or formally for something.” This brings to mind a parent/child relationship, where the child defers to the whim or decision of the adult (and must always remember to say please and thank you). The problem with the word “request” is that deference and potential disappointment are baked into it.
Whenever you’ve signed an employment contract, you will no doubt have come across the section, “Holiday Entitlement.” The very definition of an entitlement is something to which you have a right.
Seeing this language in the initial stages of your employment – i.e. before you have signed a legal contract – gives you some confidence that you have at least as much power in the employment transaction as your employer – in other words, ‘workers’ rights.’
Often, this turns out not to be the case and we almost feel we have to apologise for taking time off that is rightfully due to us.
The Holiday Request “Process”
The process of requesting a holiday, just like everything else in HR, has become bureaucratic, long and laborious.
Online, there are hundreds of comprehensive, step-by-step articles with templates dealing with how to request a holiday, such as this one from the recruitment platform, Indeed.
Some of the examples read fairly assertively, but others include phrases that only just fall short of begging.
The God Connection
Another problem I have with the word, “request” when it pertains to things like annual leave, doctor’s notes, etc, is that historically we have been used to hearing the word in religious contexts, such as this:
Perhaps this is why writing a holiday request to some employers can seem akin to praying to God for a miracle. All the power is in their hands.
So, What’s The Alternative?
Just like TweetXan (whoever he may be), I think it’s about time for a new phrase. I very much like his “Holiday Awareness” suggestion. However, the risk of being sacked could be too great for us to fully adopt this practice.
How about Holiday Negotiation? Annual Leave Arrangement? Or Holiday Settlement?
Let me know in the comments if you have any other ideas.
I think this piece focuses in on one of the peripheral consequences for working people of living under capitalism. A system Marx correctly predicted would eat itself everybody within its sphere, and our entire planet as we’ve recently learned.
Reading this reminded me of the life my parent’s parent’s generation had to endure. They often worked 6 long days of up to 12 or in some cases 14 hours per day. If they didn’t attend church on Sunday to be warned of sloth and idleness by the vicar, who just happened to be the brother in law of the local squire, they were ostracized by their communities.
It’s worth looking into also the hop picking ‘holidays’ the london working class were given to believe were time off. They worked long days on hop farms for almost nothing during the only ‘Holiday’ week they were allowed.
For many death would have been a blessed relief except that the fore mentioned dog collared brother in law was employed to put the fear of christ into them from birth until the end. Suicide of course was illegal🤨!