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Fighting for my right to work from home - help !

(30 Posts)
Metrobaby Wed 25-Jun-03 09:07:44

I've been in the fortunate position so far where I have been able to work from home on the odd day in my job. I'm careful not to abuse it and only work from home say if I have to take DD for a Drs appointment, or if I have an appointment etc. This has suited me well as I save on travel time (I work in London) - so am able to make up the time and do a bit extra.

However yesterday when I asked my manager to work from home today I got a rather tetchy email from her, where although she agreed, she said working from home was not generally encouraged and she'd prefer if appointments were made at the beginning or end of the day, and I come in either later/leave earlier. It sounded like my working from home days are over

I've had this new manager this year and always suspected she was not entirely happy with me working from home - although I have no idea why. My old boss (who is also her boss) - had no problem with me working from home. The ironic thing is that I am actually based in a completely different office to her, so I thought the trust was always implied there.

I'm seeing my manager tomorrow, and would like to bring this subject up as I would still like to work from home as it so convienant. Also due to me picking up DD I can't stay later to make up any time should I have appointments. I am also very worried as I was planning to ask for another working from home day next week ..... but don't know whether I should now.

Has anyone got any advice or tips please how I can persuade her or re-assure her about working from home?

SamboM Wed 25-Jun-03 09:13:58

Hi Metrobaby, I currently work from home (well I'm based there, usually out at clients 3 days a week). In my previous job my boss was pretty anti working at home and he admitted that he was such a control freak that he didn't trust anyone to work at home, though he would sometimes go days without even coming into my office so I could do whatever I wanted anyway!

I managed to talk him round by working from home whenever I had a specific piece of work that produced something tangible (eg a report) where I needed peace and quiet. I would then come in the next day and show him whatever I had done and say "there you are, it would have taken me 3 days if I'd been in the office with interruptions"

He soon came round!

sis Wed 25-Jun-03 10:49:29

Metrobaby, if your dd is aged under six years old, then you can ask your employers to allow you to work more 'flexibly'. In your case, this could mean requesting, in writing to be allowed to work from home on an as and when basis (provided that you give the agreed notice of this) or, aas I do, work a set number of days per week from home. Your employer has to consider your request and give good grounds, if they wish to refuse it.

So, it may be an idea to allude to the fact that you could put in a formal request but you would rather do it by agreement without recourse to the formality of law. I don't know about your doctor, but our GP will only see babies and toddlers late in the mornings (11 am!) or early evening - presumeably so that working patients get the first and last few appointments!!

Good luck and let us know how you get on

Metrobaby Wed 25-Jun-03 11:08:16

Sis - I never thought of making the request on the flexibility grounds. What a good idea ! My dd is only 2.5 years so I'll be covered

I always thought the law only considered say changing your hours slightly (which I managed to do as I work 8.30 - 4.30 3 days a week), or putting a request to go part time.

Thanks again.

SamboM - I do have a sneaky feeling my manager is a bit of a control freak too. Its a bit difficult to show her my work as she doesn't really have a full understanding of what I do, and hence is only interested in the final product. (I am a computer programmer btw so my finished programme often takes a few weeks, and is the only tangible thing I have to show).

Thinking about it, I think maybe my manager finds it difficult to accept me working from home as the other team of programmers she looks after are unable to work from home as they work in different technologies to me.

sis Wed 25-Jun-03 11:37:49

Glad to have helped! Hope she agrees without a fight once she realises that you CAN do your work from home unlike the other people she 'manages'!

WideWebWitch Wed 25-Jun-03 12:47:06

Metrobaby, New Ways to Work might be useful. They're a charity helping people to achieve work/life balance. Could you try asking your manager outright what her objections are to your working from home? You could then tackle each one or at least come up with a written plan for her showing her how you can overcome these. If your work isn't tangible until you've finished your task, could you break your day down into tasks that she can understand so she gets an understanding of what you do hour by hour? This might not be her problem though of course. What about preparing a 1 page document to show the benefits of working from home? i.e you can actually work for longer productive hours since there's no communting involved, her costs are cut (OK, onky very slightly but worth slinging it in maybe) because you're not using office facilities etc (I'm thinking of equipment etc but it may not apply), you are contactable in the same way as if you were in the office, your work will be uninterruped (as Sambo said), etc etc. Anyway, I think I'd prepare as strong a case as possible and ask her to come back to me once she's considered the proposal. If you make it as factual as possible it might help overcome some of her objections. Good luck with your meeting tomorrow, let us know how you get on.

Metrobaby Wed 25-Jun-03 15:46:07

WWW - thanks - I think I will ask her what her objections are outright, and will go from there. I'm hoping its not some silly rule that has come from our head of IT.

I do get on with my manager so thats a help - plus knowing I have the back up of the law is nice to know too.

BTW - does anyone know of a link to the legislation concerned (hopefully written or explained in simple english), for a non-legal person such as myself?

sis Wed 25-Jun-03 17:02:11

Here is a link to the DTI page on work/life balance legislation dti guidance which gives link to user friendly guidance.

Metrobaby Thu 26-Jun-03 15:46:45

Well I saw my manager this morning and it seems that working from home is not encouraged due to "health and saftey issues" !!??!! The co is worried about liability should something happen to their workers whilst they were working from home. Sounds like a complete cop-out to me, especially as she admitted that there are people within the dept(with different bosses) who do work from home reguarly - and not even due to childcare issues !!!!.

Anyway my manager agreed that I could only work from home only if my DD had appts - but was quick to point out that this would prob only happen on the odd occassion. (I didn't have the guts to tell her then that over the next 3 weeks, I'll need 3 days working from home ...)

I got the impression that my manger (and obviously our dept heads), have no idea that there is legislation in place to allow flexible working now. I didn't know how to even make her aware of the fact.

Hmmmm - bit of a stale mate I think.

WideWebWitch Thu 26-Jun-03 18:31:10

Metrobaby, couldn't you send her a memo reminding her about the legislation? Could you talk to the HR dept about it? Sounds like a load of pants re health and safety - she just doesn't want you to and hasn't got a good reason. Could you write saying "since your objection was only on H&S grounds I've checked this and found out xyz about why there aren't any so I assume this resolves any issue with my working from home. Plus legislation blah blah" sort of thing and copy it to HR? I know it's easier said than done though, sorry it didn't go well.

aloha Thu 26-Jun-03 20:36:14

Good idea WWW. Don't let this lie Metrobaby. It's worked fine up to now so don't let them take it away from you.

tigermoth Fri 27-Jun-03 08:16:02

metrobaby, I had a similar situation at my last place of work. In my contract it even stated that I could work from home up to 8 days a month - I had a 60 - 90 minute drive to work each way, so I really appreciated this. I never worked a full 8 days from home ( usually averaged 4-5 days a month) and fitted it in around meetings and team commitiments. Things were fine for about 2 years - the company was happy I was no abusing my right - but gradually I found it more and more difficult to ask for this 'right' that I had. I had a new line manager who made me feel I was asking for a huge favour every time I raised it with him.

What happened, I think, was that other people with young children in my company wanted to work from home and the company got scared about saying yes to more widespread flexibility. Consequently, there was some bad feeling between the other employees and my bosses, so I became a problem to them. Also, I don't know if this was an excuse or not, but the company was being taken over by a much bigger organisation, one that didn't promote flexible working practices. I was told the company needed to organise itself along the new company's lines - gradually they made all the part timers redundant for instance. I just wondered if in your case, metrobaby, the powers that be might have similar large scale plans that could affect how they view your flexible working?

Have you talked to the other people in your company who work from home? Perhaps pressure has been put on them also to reduce this arrangment?

If not, it's worth knowing how they and their line managers make it work, so you can quote this to your own line manager.

I had to fight for any right to work from home in the end - my line manager was a S*** about this. He even said my working from home would count against me on my attendance record.

And as for flexihours and these new laws.... well this is what happened in that company (2 years ago admittedly). All employees had to fill in a questionniare stating if they would like to work more flexible hours. The questionnares were handed in and that was the end of it. 6 months later I asked the HR manager what the consensus had been. She said hardly anyone in the company wanted to have more flexibility. I queried this - many people had young families and most drove to work through the local rush hour. Staggering leaving and starting times would have cut travelling time a lot. She maintained that 'everyone' (ie over 150 people) but me was happy with a 9 - 5.30 day. On yes, really?

I think the company had to be seen to consult on flexible time, but that was all. Now new laws are in place I suspect the company will have to do more, but they will drag out the consultation period for as long as they can.

Tinker Fri 27-Jun-03 13:24:56

metrobaby - I am constantly staggered by the amount of s** people have to put up with at work from crappy bosses. What is wrong with these people? Please don't just accept this. Lots of luck

sis Fri 27-Jun-03 20:05:54

Metrobaby, my employers asked our health and safety adviser to come to my house and do an assessment (although it took place AFTER I started working from home!) - so it might be worth trying to find out if this would be possible with your employers. The assessment should not really take more than an hour, so you could even offer to pay for it if necessary.

AS others have said, there is often a fear by employers that allowing people to work from home will open the floodgates etc.. but in my experience (I advise employers on employment) - this just does not happen. I think, the best bet is to allude to your rights - mention that someone told you about the right to ask to work flexibly - and then say that you really don't like the idea of getting all legalistic (feel free to get all girly at this point) or say that you know someone who took their employer to tribunal and won but the stress was just terrible so you don't really want to go down that line. Usually this has them scampering for info and being all cooperative because, hardly anyone relishes the idea of going to an employment tribunal.

sis

Metrobaby Sun 29-Jun-03 14:31:39

Tigermoth - you have hit the nail on the head - my manager's main concern I suspect is opening the floodgates for the rest of her team. The other people in IT who work from home have arranged this with their respective line managers. Since posting this, I have now come across 2 more additional people (not in my team however), but in IT who work from home. 1 of whom is is actually working 4 days next week !! Annoying as he has no family commitments. The other people I know who work from home are line managers themselves.

Presently I don't mind if my working from home is restricted to dd's appointments - however I can't help feeling that my manager feels like SHE is doing ME a favour by allowing me to work from home. I also can't help feeling it will be a black mark as it were against me.

To make matters worse, I have found that I will have various appts for dd and myself which will mean I will have to take 4 days working from home over the next month. I just so worried now about asking for my days due to my managers unsupportive attitude ....

Metrobaby Sun 29-Jun-03 14:35:55

Sis - i forgot to add that I think the H&S assesment is just a deterent because of the fact that the other people in my dept who work from home have not had such assesments. My manager also mentioned that the my company (who are a large worldwide company) - just don't want to run the risk.

I guess I feel uncomfortable at bringing up the legalaties as I don't want ir to be seen as a threat - but maybe have no choice

WideWebWitch Sun 29-Jun-03 15:55:54

Metrobaby, what an awkward woman she is. The Observer today has a whole section on work/life balance, some of it might help your case (although I've only skimmed through it, I think there were some good and current statistics - always helps a case with big companies I find!) - it might be on their website if you don't get that paper. You don't have to be confrontational about it especially if you make most of it polite, professional and in writing. Good luck anyway, keep us updated.

sis Sun 29-Jun-03 19:53:55

Metrobaby, yes, H&S is often used as an excuse but I thought that as that was all she came up with, by taking away her one excuse, you'd be in a stronger position to get her to agree to want you want.

I agree that the resorting to the law is something that is unlikely to help relations with your employer but it could help your confidence in any negotiations to know what your legal rights are (as a last resort). Although, it seems unlikely that your manager would enter negotiations unless she absolutely had to. I also think that hinting at knowing what your rights are often makes employers sit up and pay attention rather than just dismiss matters which they may have otherwise done.

As www says, don't forget to put things in writing, or, at the very least, keep notes of who said what and when for future reference. i know it is tedious, but it is also very effective!

tigermoth Mon 30-Jun-03 07:30:53

metrobaby, I wonder if a slightly different approach will help you avoid feeling like the line manager is doing you a favour? I say this only because I can look back at my own experience of this.

Every time I asked my line manager if I could work from home, I made it clear this was because, first and foremost, I had a suitable piece of work to do. ie one that needed peace and quiet without anyone's intervention. I also found out if all the other staff in my team were coming in, and picked a day when the studio was not too busy and fully staffed. If my line manager queried why I wanted to work from home - as he inevitably did - I would list these work reasons. If my child had an appointment, I would avoid saying this, unless I really had to. And I never implied I needed to work from home because of a breakdown in childcare arrangements etc. If possible, I would change my child's appointment for a day when the office was fully staffed.

I was lucky in that my doctor could see my son at the beginning or end of the day, and I didn't have to work at home strictly during office hours - I just had to be contactable.

I did things this way becuase I wanted to show my line manager that this was a working arrangement - not a favour he was doing me because I had childcare problems.

I have to say it didn't make the relationship much better between my and my line manager, but it made me feel less guilty about working from home, and gave my line manager less ammunition to use against me.

tigermoth Mon 30-Jun-03 08:07:01

just wanted to add, I know your employer has agreed to you working from home on appoinment days, so right from the start is putting the childcare aspect first. I wondered if there is any way you can amend this agreement, so it becomes one where you work from home on days when you have suitable work to do? This might bring your agreement more in line with your childless colleagues who work from home. I know this could be very difficult to do, but if you can get HR and your line manager to acknowledge it's principally a working arrangement, then you might not feel so singled out.

Tazzie Tue 01-Jul-03 11:51:37

Metrobaby - I also work from home so thought I'd fill you in on my experiences to date and hope it may help/give you some hope. Please prepare yourself for a long message.

I have a DS aged 9 months and a DD 28 months and work full time with two days working at home. I have a long commute about 1 hour 40 mins so the main benefit for me of working at home is avoiding the commute and seeing more of my children on those days. On an office day I leave home at 7.10am and get home at 6.45 and my children go to bed about 7pm so you see if I didn't work at home I would never see my children during the week. I work at home on Tuesday and Thursday so every office day is followed by an at home day.

On the work from home days they go to nursery which is key to the success of the arrangement. I really think some people at work think I loook after my children and work from home at the same time!!!!

My arrangement has always been informal and really I forced it when I returned from my first maternity leave because I knew I had to do it so I said that unless I was allowed to work at home 2 days a week I would look for a position elsewhere in the organisation (2000 employees based in London) where it would be allowed. My line manager was pretty sympathetic and I was allowed to do it for a trial period but it just continued until I took my second maternity leave (about 11 months). I did however work like a trojan constantly feeling I had to prove myself taking on heaps more work than my collegues etc. The informality of the arrangement has always felt insecure to me.

I returned from my last maternity leave 3 months ago to a new line manager and division head who agreed to me continuing working 2 days from home but not doing the same kind of work - not a major problem but they clearly wanted to give it another trial run. Luckily I have worked on a project which has been perfect for working at home so have been super efficient and my division head has now agreed to me making a formal application under the flexible working legislation to have it included in my terms and conditions.

It does sound like its been an easy ride for me but it has been a lot of pushing and proving myself and it is not ideal but then where is the ideal solution to working and having small children.

I am not sure whether any formal applications have yet been made to my employer but our staff handbook now contains guidelines and an application form for flexible working. If you work for a large international company then I would have thought your HR department would have put measures in place for applications for flexible working.

But your best ammunition is that it has succesfully worked for you in the past so I think your employer would have difficulty making a business case against it. Furthermore the legislation clearly ring fences you from other employees so your employers cannot argue that your arrangement will open the floodgates.

I hate that I am always feeling grateful for the arrangement that I have but the thing is I couldn't work without it and I am sure that in only a few years it will be so standard for people to work at home it just won't be an issue.

I have two other friends with work from home arrangements and I think it can help to explain to your employer about other people you know with arrangements in place especially if they work for well known organisations.

Good luck

Metrobaby Fri 04-Jul-03 15:54:09

Thanks everyone for taking the time to write all your detailed posts.

Following the advice, I spoke again to my manager yesterday about it. I offered to show her what I would produce, and stressed on the time savings working from home. She is mostly worried about me setting a precedent for other people and (in her words), "does not want to encourage it". She will only allow me to work from home if it concerns DD directly (eg if I have to take DD to a drs appointment) - but for no other reason.

I've thought about it long and hard, and decided to accept things the way they are for the time being. This is mainly because I plan on being pg(hopefully) with No2 this year, and figured that I'd push for working from home then - and will definately this time mention the legislation if I come across the same arguments.

Fingers crossed hopefully I will be posting again on this thread in a few months time with lots of 's

Thanks again for your all support mumsnetters!

sis Fri 04-Jul-03 20:18:52

Thanks for the update Metrobaby - hope that your longer term plans work out

tigermoth Fri 04-Jul-03 21:08:54

yes, thanks for the update, metrobaby. You never know, your line manager may leave in the next year or so, and your new one might be more sympathetic to a working from home arrangement. Hope things work out!

Metrobaby Fri 19-Sep-03 09:19:40

I thought I'd give an update on this situation. Since writing the original post I found out that 2 other members of my team have been allowed to work from home. One girl who is allowed one day a week. Neither of them have any children or are pg. Yesterday, I asked my team leader once again if I could work from home on Monday as I had to see dd's nursery. Once again, she refused and said she'd rather I leave work early to make the appointment. I did explain that by doing it her way meant I couldn't make up the time and that by working from home I wouldn't have any shortfall in hours. However she said that it didn't matter, and this was preferable to working from home as it isn't encouraged.

However, I am feeling very very disappointed in this and can't help feeling that my request is not being treated fairly as there are others who are allowed to work from home - not just within my larger IT dept but within my team to boot. I must confess a couple of weeks ago, whilst she was on holiday, I saw the head of my team (who I used to report to). I asked him about the policy of working from home as I explained I didn't want to cause any embrassment my team leader or to him invariably, by requesting to work from home when i felt I needed to, if it was considered a no-no. Like I suspected he was very reasonable about it and said that he has no problem with it if there is a reason (such as drs appts etc). He also agreed with me that in these cases working from home is the best solution as it causes the minimum disruption. When I used to report directly to him he used no have no problem at all with my requests.

I now am beginning to feel that I have no choice as I know that very soon I will need to be seeing the dr a lot more for antenatal visits etc. The professional side of me is reluctant to take off any more time than necesary - which I feel is being wasted all the more because my team leader doesn't agree with working from home. I am also beginning to wonder whether it is best to ask for 1 day a week working from home and then using my own discretion whether I take it or not. I am fairly certain that if I ask my head of team, and esp when I announce my pg, that he will have no problems with it. However I get the distinct feeling that my team leader will be fiercely against it. I am planning to see HR just to confirm working from home policys but making no complaints or mentioning any names. I am sure HR will also be supportive and will prob encourage me to make an application under the new legislation that sis mentioned below.

To summarise I feel very let down by my team leader. Despite what she says I do think she has an issue with trust. I also feel that am not being treated fairly. I really really don't want to go over her head by seeing my head of my team, or by mentioning about the legislation but I don't know what else to do. Sorry for the long post - am feeling very sorry for myself at the mo

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