Student assistants leave vacation days unused, miss out on money

Like permanent staff, student assistants accrue vacation days. However, many of them aren’t aware that they can have a portion of those days paid out, potentially resulting in significant financial loss.

‘When I reviewed my contract, I mainly looked at what was expected of me,’ says student assistant Charlotte Broekmeulen. ‘We already get paid a lot, and we’re treated well, so I didn’t really look at the additional conditions.’ 

Over the past three years, the physics student has had about six different student assistant contracts, ranging from two to eight hours per week.

‘I had accumulated about seventy-six vacation hours in total,’ she says. She only recently found out about this through a conversation with other student assistants. However, she couldn’t simply convert those hours into extra pay. After one year, the surplus hours can only be taken as vacation days. ‘And two years’ worth of accrued hours had already expired for me.’

Surplus hours

Student assistant contracts follow the same structure as regular staff contracts, and thus, vacation hours are accrued. These hours are divided into two categories: legal and surplus hours. The former cannot be paid out, but the latter can.

‘I saw in my contract that I was entitled to vacation days,’ says student assistant Sophie Hoogcarspel, a psychology student. However, when she received an email stating that she could still take her vacation days, she didn’t know that having a portion paid out was also an option. 

‘I wouldn’t even know how that would work,’ she says. And taking actual days off, as regular employees do, never occurred to her. ‘I can’t just not show up for a lecture.’

Shame

In the end, Sophie misses out on about 60 euros. ‘That’s a shame; I work hard, and I don’t get paid for any prep work that I do,’ she says. ‘I would have liked to get 60 euros for that.’ 

Charlotte, who’s missing out on several hundred euros, also regrets the money she’s losing. ‘It feels like free money that I would get, but it’s not really.’ 

She finds it odd that she wasn’t made aware that she could have had the hours paid out. ‘I don’t blame the university; I think it’s due to bureaucracy,’ she says. ‘Better information would be nice; that would be fair.’

Better communication

The UG acknowledges that student assistants are not always well-informed about their rights. Although the agreements are stated in the contract they sign, spokesperson Anja Hulshof says she can imagine that not all students read them thoroughly. ‘They are, of course, not yet very experienced with employment contracts.’

Therefore, the university is working on improving communication about vacation hours. ‘We want to better inform students that they are entitled to this and that they should submit a request in a timely manner. This should be made clearer on, for example, the intranet.’

Dutch

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