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Desperately need some advice.

(19 Posts)
ali23 Wed 30-Jul-08 09:01:46

Hi there.
Basically I'm looking for some advice as my head is frazzled. I have a 15-month od DD. When I was pregnant and prior to going on mat leave, I requested that when I returned to work that I could work one day from home. I work in an environment that is male dominated and very traditional. On consultation with my boss, he agreed on the premise that I OK it with each of my immediate colleagues. I done this. He told me NOT to go through HR, that it would be a private agreement and he would honour his word. I knew him, trusted him and understood that he was 'old-school' and would take it badly if I tried to formalise it through the proper channels. So we went with it. I returned to work in January and my assistant manager revealed he knew nothing of the arrangement and made his negative feelings known. However, the arrangement stood and it worked well with no hiccups.
However, last month my boss resigned suddenly. The former assistant is now my boss. Yesterday he told me the working from home wasn't an option. He 'had no problems with my productivity - quite the opposite' but wants me in the office. My new assistant (confusing, I know) offered a very veiled threat by saying that if I was to go through HR and appeal that life would be very difficult on the desk for me. I don't want to say what I do but I work with guys in an industry that is traditionally female free. My former manager, at 56, had never had to deal with a pregnant employee before. Anyway, I don't know where to turn. It's all very well to invoke the proper procedure but the harsh reality is that I know my day-to-day life will be made very awkward. I asked if I could drop a day and be paid pro-rata and was told the same thing - 'it wouldn't be in my interests to do so.' We have just recently had a spate of redundancies and it was mentioned that if I was to be seen as part-time I'd be first out the door if/when there are more lay-offs.
I'm really upset and struggling to get my head round it all. Sorry for such a long post. Thanks.

flowerybeanbag Wed 30-Jul-08 09:47:15

ali23 what a horrible situation.

Firstly your options.

1) If they want to withdraw your flexible working arrangement this is a change to your existing terms and conditions so they need your consent to do so. You can refuse consent to this change and continue to work from home as you have been.

If you do this they might attempt to discipline you. You could then appeal any disciplinary action, and could take it further if need be.

Benefits to this are that HR would have to become involved if they want to discipline you, and from your point of view I'd say that's a good thing.

Downsides are as you have mentioned.

2) You could put in a formal flexible working request. They would not be able to turn this down reasonably as the arrangement has been successfully in place for several months.

Benefits are again HR would probably then have to be involved, downsides are the same as above.

3) You could attempt to deal with it yourself. Try to ascertain exactly what the problem is with you being at home, and try to address it.

Benefits - you won't get people's backs up as much by the sound of things.

Downside - it doesn't sound very likely to work, although might be worth a try first anyway.

4) Look for another job. I don't know what you do obviously or what else it out there, but worth considering at least longer-term.

Benefits - you would hopefully end up in a better environment.

Downsides - you may not be able to work one day from home initially, although I get the impression you are working full time, which will be easier to find than part time probably.

5) You could raise a grievance about this situation. It sounds like bullying, potential sex discrimination and an attempt to deny you your statutory rights.

Benefits - again, it would get HR involved, it would mean you had 'ticked the box' of bringing an internal grievance which you must do first if you end up bringing a tribunal claim, and it might get some of these issues addressed, for you and for others going forward as well.

Downsides, as you've mentioned. You would quite possibly be burning your bridges.

I can't tell you what to do. But those are some things to consider. I think you should think about what you want to achieve. What realistic outcome would you like from this less-than-ideal situation? Think about that then think about the best thing you can do to achieve it.

Good luck. Do come back if you have any questions about any of those options or anything else. I'm sure others will come along with their experiences which might give you a bit of an insight into your options as well.

mum2taylor Wed 30-Jul-08 09:54:05

Ali thats awful and a disgrace that you are having to deal with such behaviour in this day and age! angry Dont back down on this though...sounds more like a power trip from your new boss more than anything else and il bet the one day a week working from home makes little or difference to them as a company. {{{{{HUGS}}}}}}

Kerry197 Wed 30-Jul-08 09:56:06

Sorry to hear that, Ali. I, too, used to work in a male-dominated industry, and although all the men I worked with liked to believe they were very 'PC' - in reality, you didn't need to scratch too hard before the old-style male showed through!

I found myself in a similar situation, and eventually had to sit down and think it through from a 'rest of life' standpoint. You have to think whether or not you have the emotional and physical energy to fight this one at the moment - and whether any end result will be worth it. Basically, having a baby changes everything, and I realised that I not only could not, but did not want to, work in the macho, swaggering industry I had been in (media related) where you could only 'prove your worth' by drinking loads and working 10 hour days.

Have you considered a career change..? I took out a career loan, and retrained as a primary teacher. It works better with childcare, and the holidays are good! I'm not saying that it was easy, and we had to take some financial pain for a couple of years, but it was well worth it.

Also - you have to consider your future. Are you, for instance, intending to have another baby in the near future - and if so, what kind of reaction/support do you think THAT will bring?!!

I suppose the bottom line is: do you want to work in that place, with these people?

Hope it works out for you, whatever you decide.

Kerry

RuthT Wed 30-Jul-08 10:00:31

In addition to flowery's summary I'd reflext on

Do you know why your new boss is not happy with the arrangement?

Are your colleagues still supportive?

What is the detrimental effect on you of working from the office instead of home?

The answer may help you make a decision about which way to handle it. If you understand why your boss is not happy it may help influence him etc

flowerybeanbag Wed 30-Jul-08 10:06:32

I just came back to make the same point as Ruth! Understanding what is motivating your boss to behave this way will help you decide how to deal with it.

Just to add though, his motivations for behaving this way might not be entirely (or in fact at all) to do with your current working arrangements. If they are working well and there are no issues with your productivity, think wider and more long term. What does he want? Does he want to force you to leave? Why? What else could it be?

Try and get an understanding first of what he is saying is the problem, but also whether there is any other agenda here. Often there is.

ilovemydog Wed 30-Jul-08 10:09:21

Purely from a practical stance, I would do everything possible to get in writing that they are pleased with your performace.

Then, once you have this in writing, you can successfully argue that flexible working is not a burden on the company.

Would it be possible for you to arrange a 'performance review' or some such? Or perhaps email your boss and say, 'thanks for meeting on (x) when you stated that my performance was....'

Personally, I am suspicious about agreements that don't go through H/R as this means it can be withdrawn at any time.

You don't have a right to flexible working, but rather to request it, and the company can only refuse based on specific criteria.

But I would do a bit of ground work before putting in the request....

Oh, and also, as your previous boss resigned (and therefore doesn't have anything to loose) could he put in writing your informal arrangement? he could state that he wanted to keep it informal for 'team morale' or some such...

RuthT Wed 30-Jul-08 10:44:17

I think it says a lot about how your boss views hr - not postive but at least he percieves they have power.

Although I hate being on the recieving end of it consider going to see a HR person in confidence and say you are dealing with it but would appreciate some coaching and explicitly do not want them to do anything about it.... (yet) Depends if you know you can trust them not to do anything.

If they meet with your boss they are likely to have some insights into his motivations.

In my experience working away from office concerns are based on the fact that they don't think you are working and an attitude of 'i can't ask for it so why should i give it to you' and a concern that it means they are doing more as a result

flowerybeanbag Wed 30-Jul-08 11:18:26

Just thought of something else. Ali you do have childcare for the day you are working at home don't you....?

Apologies if you do, but if you don't, you can see why he and colleagues might not be happy with the situation even if your productivity is fine.

squiffy Wed 30-Jul-08 12:52:55

<hijack alert>

Flowery, would you mind popping over to this thread and checking whether I have given the correct advice?

<hijack over>

ali: this would make me livid and you would have a fairly good grievance case against them I think (based on the brief outline you have given), but as the others say, you need to understand why they are doing this? Knowing their motives gives you more options. Also, sounds as if they are completely unaware that involving HR might get them into trouble. Sounds as if they haven't realised that they can't actually do what they are tryign to do. nor that you can complain about them. They can't force through the change without your agreement - conducting your work as if there has been a formal change in your terms (ie spending a day a week working from home with approval of former boss) can in effect cement the change, just as if they had been formally adopted and notified to HR (depends how long this arrangement has stood).

If you did put in a grievance then the biggest issue you have is that it would be a 'he said, she said' type of thing, unless you can (either honestly or surreptitiously) get email or written evidence to show that the working form home thing was approved - albeit informally - by your previous boss. Once you have that then you probably have all you need to knock them back but you need to be careful and would have to go through the HR channels. If you did this you would make enemies, but then you would also protect yourself against subsequently getting the chop from them (If you say they have bullied you then they are going to think twice before putting you on any redundancy list).

But making enemies is never much fun at work. Much wiser to work out what they are upset about and defuse that

By the way, flowery's last question is fairly fundamental - if you don't have childcare when you are workign from home then you are in a dodgy position.

Kerry197 Wed 30-Jul-08 13:45:55

Just to weigh in again - as I mentioned before I was in a very similar situation. When I returned to work after maternity leave, I also asked to work one day from home (I was an editor, and regularly worked from home on an informal basis...) but when I asked for the day to be formalised - it caused mayhem. Every man who shared my department claimed that they were being 'discriminated against' as fathers of young children, and that if I was successful in my bid - then they would all be asking for the same thing. My manager (who had been sympathetic at first..) then backed off.

After that, the atmosphere was poisonous - so although I couldn't do anything formal through HR, I decided my mental health and wellbeing were being eroded and left of my own accord. I just didn't have the resources (mental or physical) to fight them at the time.

However, parental leave, family friendly policies,etc. are getting better all the time in most industries, Ali (even the male dominated ones..) - so go for it if you want to fight the b*****. Hope you win!

ali23 Wed 30-Jul-08 22:10:21

Thank you for all the advice which I've taken on board. Kerry, you know exactly where I'm coming from. I am a reporter and in an almost identical situation to the one you were in. The work from home issue has worked well for six months. But my new manager has never been happy about it at all. His own wife was denied the right to working from home and I feel he has a chip on his shoulder! Also, like Kerry, there are a few fathers of young kids on my desk and he keeps saying that if they all asked to do this it would be impossible - even though none of them have. It's all incredibly stressful.
As for childcare, I have it for most of the day which has always been known. However, the 'core' hours when I am required to be live are covered and copy that is timeless, ie, doesn't have an immediate deadline, I work on for the remainder of the day. Often - and I mean often - I work in my own time to ensure all my work meets deadline which it ALWAYS does. On Sunday night (my day off) I worked from 8pm until 12.30am to ensure I was up to speed with a few features for this coming week and on Monday night (my work from home day which officially finishes at 3pm) I spent three hours of my own time in the evening on further jobs for the week ahead. As a result I produced more copy than any of my in-office colleagues on both Monday and Tuesday.

RuthT Wed 30-Jul-08 22:46:35

This is hard when you don't know the people but I think if I were in your shoes I would talk to my boss first. I would set a meeting date face to face and say something like...

I really am concerned about the proposed change in my working arrangement and I'd like to further understand your thinking on why it needs to change. I think we can probably come up with some workable alternatives but at the moment the one suggested is not workable for me

During the conversation I would do some probing...
I really need to understand x why the existing arrangement is an issue for you, it seems to have been for some time.
It does feel as though thier is something missing as I can't see the clear reason why it needs to change.
Without understanding that it is hard for me to see why I should go through the pain of changing my childcare arrangements.

The reason I would try him first is that no one else will truly solve it for you. If you pass it to HR then you may get the outcome of the hours but your colleagues and manager will feel betrayed and you will be left to live with it. At least if you have the conversation you can feel positive that you tried your best to resolve it informally. Also I'd ensure that I make a note of times/dates of conversations and a summary of content.

I'd then ralk to my colleague.

If it fails then go to HR unless you are willing to swallow the change.

ilovemydog Thu 31-Jul-08 09:50:41

Ali, interesting though that your boss's wife had flexible working rejected...

I think there is this idea that 'flexible hours' means a jolly at home, when in fact, you're working more hours than your colleagues.

Agree with Ruth that a, 'what's this really about chat is the best way forward, but at the same time, keep stressing how productive you are.

A bit odd though that as a journalist, you are being asked to put in an apprearance, as the industry standard is that journalists keep unsociable hours!

flowerybeanbag Thu 31-Jul-08 09:54:31

Agree with Ruth. Have that meeting to get more information and further clarification of what the issues actually are, which you don't have at the moment. Make it difficult for him to insist on this. Then take it from there.

ali23 Thu 31-Jul-08 12:06:49

Thanks, again, folks for some great advice.
Ironically, today is my day off and I received a call at 9.30am to ask if I could write something for tomorrow, which I've agreed to. It's a day off - hence no childcare arrangements - and the work will be completed on time, as he clearly knew it would be.
Also, the whole working from home issue arose in the first place because when I was pregnant I had informally asked my former boss if it'd be possible to go to a four-day working way. The work a day from home solution was his idea as he knew that was the day I struggled to get childcare.
Will speak face to face with my boss again and ask about the real issues behind this. He is just very authoritarian. It's a bit like teacher and pupil all over again and i suspect as a new boss he wants to be seen to flex his muscles a little.
Again,thanks you for the advice as it has given me some good ways to go forward. Will keep you posted.

ali23 Thu 31-Jul-08 12:09:18

ah, excuse the typo. It should, of course, read, "a four-day working week". Lack of sleep is a feckin' killer but that's another thread!

ilovemydog Thu 31-Jul-08 13:18:43

Sounds like flexible working is working - at least for them! smile

It's good though in a sense that he feels that he can call you on your day off - hopefully he will realize it's as a favor and that he needs to return it....

Kerry197 Sun 03-Aug-08 19:57:53

Ali,

I was laughing when you said that of the fathers on your desk, 'none of them had asked' to work from home... Recently, I was at an industry function, and met up with a few of my ex-colleagues and we were talking about this whole, vexed, childcare-working-from-home-thing - and I told them I felt betrayed by them for their lack of support during that time. Both of them admitted that (and I'm quoting here..!)that they'd 'rather have their balls chewed off by a rottweiler than stay at home with their kids all day', as it was just 'too much like bloody hard work', and they'd rather be in the office..! They also all admitted that they knew their (working) wives did a 'double-shift' compared to them. Lazy, lying, good-for-nothing hypocrites - I'm glad I don't work with them any more.

I decided to leave because I intended to try for a second baby quite soon after the first, and I knew a second pregnancy would go down like the proverbial lead balloon. You need to get this sorted once and for all before you decide when/if to go for a second child - because the situation will only get worse for you in you go back with TWO babas to organise.

Good luck to you - let us know how you get on.

K.

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