can I ask my employer to pay my child care expenses when my schedule changes?

A reader writes:

I work in a satellite office — headquarters is about 2 hours by car, and in the past, I’ve rarely been asked to travel there, as all of my work can be done in the office where I’m located. However, I’ve just been asked if I could travel to the main office twice a month, as it would be “beneficial to the team.” This means a 4-hour (total) commute, which I’m dreading, as well as a logistical issue with childcare, as my partner travels quite often and I would need to hire a babysitter to get the children to and from school on the days I’m required to be away.

I’m considering asking if there’s room in the budget for my company to pay for a babysitter on the 2 days a month I’m away if my husband is also away. Also, I’m considering asking if I can come up for 1 day a month instead of 2. What’s the best way to phrase this? And should I even bother?

Don’t ask your employer to pay your child care costs. That’s just not a business expense; it’s a personal one. It would be akin to asking your employer to pay the increase in your mortgage if you bought a house closer to work, or asking your employer to pay for an extra hour of your kids’ daycare if your work hours were lengthened. These are not business expenses.

However, since this is a change to the arrangement that you signed up for when you took the job, you can certainly explain that it will cause some logistical problems and ask if it’s feasible to do it once a month rather than twice.

But before pushing back, make sure that you understand the reasoning behind the request. Do they want you in the office more often because there have been communication problems or other concerns that they think more frequent contact will solve? Make sure you understand what’s prompting the request before you push back against it, or you’ll look out of touch with their concerns (and potentially heighten them).

Good luck.

{ 171 comments… read them below }

  1. Just a Reader

    Twice a month isn’t that often. Surely the LW can find alternative arrangements two days out of the month.

    I’d do that before flagging to the employer that I couldn’t handle a very simple and not over-the-top request.

  2. JohnQPublic

    Check your benefits package too- I just found out that Flexible Spending Accounts could be used to pay for this type of expense.

    1. Anonymous

      That would be a Dependent Care FSA.

      And I’d go further to try to understand exactly the what benefit it provides to the team. Maybe it could be accomplished with a reoccurring conference call or some other means that meets their needs without actually having to travel.

  3. Mike C.

    So OP, would you then argue that a childfree person shouldn’t have any additional compensation for a surprise four hour commute?

    1. Lisa

      can the 2 days be together and have them pay for a hotel? Can you choose the 2 days around your husband’s schedule?

    2. Lilybell

      This! This question bugged me for some reason. It kind of reminded me of those situations when childless coworkers are expected to pick up the slack for those who take lots of time off for child-related reasons. I understand there are situations that can’t be helped, but I’m so sick of covering so my coworker can go to every little event at her kid’s school (it’s usually 3 or 4 times a week and the events are piddly things like donuts in the morning). I got a similar vibe from this one.

      1. Lisa

        I feel the same way about smokers. How come I can’t go outside 8 times a day for 15 minute breaks just cause I don’t smoke?

        1. KayDay

          Lisa, have you tried going out for a short break? I usually take a quick walk around my building (it takes 5-10 minutes, depending on how slowly I walk) once or twice a day. No one minds. But yes, there are also crappy managers who think that a smoke break is reasonable and a stretch your legs break is not >:(

        2. Ivy

          I like to take 15minute mental breaks which to me are the same as smoke breaks (without the -30*C winter weather). Mental breaks consist of AAM and pintrests :)

        3. twentymilehike

          How come I can’t go outside 8 times a day for 15 minute breaks just cause I don’t smoke?

          Yes! I had a friend once who felt the same way and worked with lots of smokers … everytime they took a smoke break, he’d go for a five minute walk.

          1. Michael Rochelle

            What’s funny about that scenario is that I’m not a smoker, so when a team leader saw me on “smoker’s row” with another team leader, she was asked not to ask me to go outside with her during smoke breaks. I was then told that smokers came in early or took shorter lunch breaks to offset their smoke breaks, but us non smokers knew better. It almost made me want to buy a pack of cigarettes just to hold in my hand so that I could join in on the “extra” breaks. Let’s not act like smokers don’t jump online, or take personal phone calls, or indulge in any other non-work related things while on the clock.

      2. Another Jamie

        I think you having to constantly cover for your co-worker is less about her being a parent and more about her having a crappy work ethic. I work with plenty of parents that are amazing at their jobs, and have worked with childless people that were flaky slackers.

        1. AnotherAdmin

          +2! I once had to spend an afternoon covering for a coworker (on a day when I was swamped) because she suddenly decided she needed to go home and pick green beans in her garden. Isn’t that what the weekend is for?

          1. Malissa

            That sounds like an excuse I would use to leave early on a nice day. But I wouldn’t do it during a busy time.

        2. Blinx

          One woman I who really respected was always on top of her game at work, also studied for her masters, and had 5 children (all still at home). I was floored when I found out!

          1. Ashley

            I knew a woman like that too :) she amazed me. She became a manager and I’d work for her in a heartbeat.

            As for the kids thing, I think that those that don’t have restraints of kids, school hours, etc should step up and help out with hours that are not easily covered by those with kids.

            I have a baby boy and I get SO irritated when those with no kids, no spouse or significant other brag about staying up till whenever they feel like playing computer games, travel all over creation when they feel like it, and them gripe about working weekends. Excuse me, I’d you want an excuse not to work weekends them start and family and struggle to find care for your kids on the weekends. I worked every weekend for 6 years by choice to make the parents I worked with not have to work weekends and pulled shifts they couldn’t because I didn’t have those obligations at the time. They appreciated it and I expect to have the favor returned but most people are extremely spoiled and not team players. I’m not only a mom and home, but during my shift I give 150% and am a mom at work basically doing everything to keep the place running. All people have to do is come in and go on autopilot. I’ve worked hard so I expect to have some of my hard work paid back.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              I’m sorry, but this is batshit insane. You are not entitled to have other people give up their free time to accommodate your life choices, and other people have commitments that are just as important as yours, even if they don’t involve child care.

          2. Ashley

            Oh and the same people I talk about staying up til god knows when, come in 15-20 minutes late EVERY day, then take there lunch 15 minutes before I’m scheduled to go home which ends up making me leave late and barely get to day care on time… This person is a smoker and has one extra break than everyone else. Takes a break EXACTLY 2 hours after getting to work LATE, then lunch 2 hours after that then an extra break that no one else takes 2 hours after that. Doesn’t say anything just leaves everyone high and dry.

            I honestly think that people with no kids should be working the weekends and those with kids shouldn’t have to. End of story. I did it for 6 years because it was the RIGHT thing to do.

      3. Anonymous

        I work with a coworker who is neither flexible nor a team-player because she uses her son as an excuse to be home at certain times. “Someone has to be home for him when he gets home from school,” she says.

        Oh, did I mention he’s 15 and they live just down the street from the school?

        Maybe my opinion will change down he road when I have kids and when they turn 15. But right now, I know her son dictates my work life.

        1. Laura L

          Ha! I hope not. My mom (who only worked part time) stopped worrying about being there when I got home from school around the time I turned 10.

        2. Not usually Anon

          “Maybe my opinion will change down he road when I have kids and when they turn 15.”

          I hope not – unless the kid has a penchant for bank robbery if left unsupervised, by 15 they should be able to pour their own juice and rifle through the pantry on their own.

        3. Sam

          Kids are not an excuse. When you have kids, you will have to take unexpected time off and be restricted to specific schedules. Until then you have no right to gripe.

      4. Anonymous2

        Ugh! It bugged me too… Pretty ballsy to ask your boss to pay for your babysitter… It’s situations like this that make us without children resent those with children. Just FYI, OP.

    3. Another Jamie

      It’s an added personal expense caused by the new request. The letter writer is simply asking if it’s reasonable to ask the employer to compensate that expense. It could be an expense concerning a pet-sitter, a caregiver for an elderly parent, a conflict with a second job, problems with public transportation options, whatever. I think whatever the personal issue causing the added expense, the answer would be the same. I didn’t get any parent entitlement vibe from this letter at all.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Well, she’s asking about having her child care reimbursed, not the travel — and it’s pretty odd to ask for that. Totally reasonable to ask for the travel expenses to be covered, just not the child care.

        1. Josh S

          Would this be a reasonable way to frame it–it leaves out the fact that it’s child-care related, and leaves it entirely in professional terms?

          “Hi boss! I’m happy to come to the office twice a month. I wanted to ask though–the change in schedule and the distance I’ll be commuting on those day is causing quite a significant added personal expense to me. Would it be possible to increase my salary by $AMOUNT to compensate me for this significant change in my working situation?”

          1. Michael Rochelle

            I know you posed the question to someone else, but that request is still unreasonable. Unless that person’s duties are going to change substantially, all she may be entitled to is travel expenses. She’s fortunate to be able to work at home and not have child care cost be a daily expense as it is with many other employees that probably work at her company.

            1. Josh S

              Erm, she doesn’t typically work from home, but from a nearby office. Her kid normally goes to school/daycare, but the longer commute will sometimes necessitate an additional babysitter/driver to get the kid to that school/daycare during operating hours.

          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            It’s a better way of framing it, but assuming they’re paying her travel expenses, I’d be skeptical that they should be covering anything else.

            This also brings us back to it being important to find out what’s behind the request. If, for instance, they feel like she’s out of the loop and not communicating well with others and that’s why they want more face time, asking for more money to do that is unlikely to go over well.

            1. Just a Reader

              I can’t imagine increasing a salary so that someone could travel two hours away twice a month. It’s just not that big a deal.

              Many people, myself included, travel cross country several days a month or quarter as part of the job. I wouldn’t ask for a salary bump for that–I would ask for a salary bump as a result of rocking the opportunities afforded to me.

              1. Construction HR

                Yeah, no salary request.

                A “per diem” request might be in line though.

                The company did modify the work deal, albeit not significantly, but I don’t think inquiring about a cost reimbursement is out of line.

                .

      2. Mike C.

        You didn’t get that vibe because you’re not understanding that anyone who is put in this situation is inconvenienced regardless of family related expenses. Even if I’m a hermit with no connections to the rest of the world having a commute jump to four hours a day costs time which should be compensated for.

        1. Another Jamie

          I do understand that, actually. I just bristle to the vibe I’m getting from some of the commenters that seem to resent any parent-related work conflict. (For what it’s worth, I don’t have any kids.)

          I don’t think it’s fair to suggest that the OP would have any problem with a childfree person getting additional compensation for the inconvenience. (Again, I agree that the answer should still be “no” except for work-specific expenses like travel.)

        2. Long Time Admin

          I don’t agree. Employers don’t care how long our commute is, they pay us for our work (i.e., our worth to them). We choose where to live, and how we get to work is up to us.

          The OP should be reimbursed for the extra mileage for these mandated trips to the other office, but not the extra time.

          1. KellyK

            But legally, it is work time. Time spent traveling for work, outside your normal commute, is work time.

            It’s also not possible or feasible to “choose where to live” in relation to every place your employer might occasionally want you to be. (I could, for example, move closer to DC to split the difference between the Maryland office where I regularly work and the DC office that I go to occasionally, and then be informed that I’m going to need to go to our Charleston office once a month, or spend time at a customer site in PA.)

            Even if she’s exempt, it’s pretty inconsiderate to treat a 10-12 hour day as equivalent to an 8-hour day, unless the job was offered to her with the understanding that this would be expected and treated as a “commute.”

            I mean, if your company wants you in Texas tomorrow and you’re in Massachusetts today, you don’t have to take a vacation day for the day you spend flying because you don’t do any actual work that day.

      3. Jamie

        I don’t know that I would call it an entitlement vibe – but definitely naive.

        Some workplaces have really extreme perks, but if this isn’t one of them just the request would be met with a fair amount of incredulity.

        There were some very good suggestions about asking about work hours those days, to see if perhaps they can work with the OP…or if it doesn’t need to be on a specific day scheduling enough in advance that her husband will be home. Those are reasonable – and definitely ask about the travel reimbursement.

        But child care? That’s really outside the realm of what you want to speak with your employer about in most places.

      4. Ashley

        If I were them, I just quit and find a new job. If this person is really an asset to the company, they’ll reconsider this requirement.

        I did this when my boss got to over zealous with assignments. But I meant what I said, I was ready to step down or leave my job and she changed her tune and begged me to stay. Now things are a lot more ‘harmonious’. But I still get irritated that she incessantly asking me if I can find a baby sitter that will come to my house so my hours would be more flexible for her to ‘use’ me as she would. She wants me to take my kid out of an exclusive top knotch day care to leave him at home with one person that probably expects me to pay them their entire wage just so she can get what she wants. Forget it. Not to mention my husband has a unpredictable schedule and is at home anywhere from 2-4 days a week so paying a at home baby sitter is a waste.

    4. Kou

      Well, yeah. Because they wouldn’t have the added expense of taking care of their non-existent kids. The issue for the parent does not exist for someone who’s not a parent, or even someone who had kids that drove themselves to school or walked themselves to a bus stop or something. Or if they had some other circumstance like the other Jamie said, then they’d need some other arrangement. If you have nothing in need of accommodation, why would you resent someone else getting the accommodation they need?

      I don’t have kids because I don’t want or like kids, but I don’t understand this attitude in the childfree community that people without are somehow being slighted by the needs of parents. You’re not in the same situation, you don’t need the same kind of accommodation. It’s not someone else getting a special privilege over you.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        It’s not really about accommodation; it’s about reimbursement of business expenses, and child care generally isn’t considered part of that category.

        I mean, if you have a baby, you don’t suddenly get a raise because you have additional expenses.

        1. OhYouKnow

          BTW, I worked somewhere where everyone who had a child that year somehow earned a better annual review than others and got a higher percentage raise. Just sayin’.

        2. Kou

          No, you’re right, I don’t think the employer is responsible for those expenses. I’m speaking to the weird resentment that comes from some people when others are given reasonable accommodation

      2. OhYouKnow

        “You’re not in the same situation, you don’t need the same kind of accommodation.” No, but an employer deciding that a colleague’s relationships have more value than mine with, well, anyone, is messed up. I couldn’t leave early to go to my mother’s retirement party or my brother’s graduation from med school but half the office can leave to go to the Halloween parade to see the kids they dressed themselves two hours ago. Take half a vacation day like the rest of us who are reproductively responsible.

        1. Kou

          That’s not the same thing, though. Whenever this complaint comes up, it’s never “why are parents allowed to do ___ when I’m not allowed to do it for my own needs/obligations.” It’s always “why are parents allowed to do ___ when I can’t do it just because I feel like it?” And it’s usually accompanied with a heavy dose of contempt for the very concept of having children and foul words for parents as if being a parent is a character flaw that should have consequences (see “reproductively responsible”).

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            While I agree there’s some of that going around and it’s needlessly hostile, there are also plenty of people who aren’t anti-child-rearing who do have legitimate concerns about inequitable treatment of parents and non-parents in the workplace, which I suspect are significantly heightened by some (not all) parents who do act as if having kids entitles them to different privileges, often at the expense of others.

  4. A Bug!

    Would it be unreasonable to request some sort of mileage compensation for the “travel”, at the company’s standard meterage rate? The cost of her gas to and from the head office is an expense she wasn’t anticipating when she took the job where she took it, and it’s an expense that’s a bit more directly related to the job than the childcare.

    (I realize that the company’s standard meterage rate probably isn’t even enough to cover gas and the vehicle wear-and-tear, but every little bit would help.)

      1. Josh S

        Actually, travel to and from work (ie your commute) is frequently excluded from mileage reimbursements at many companies, even if the commute is to different/faraway offices. The IRS does not permit commuting mileage to be counted as a business deduction, either, which is what many companies base their policies on.

        (I’m no tax expert, and obviously this is dependent on your company’s own policy, so your mileage may vary–pun intended.)

        1. Josh S

          Erm, other posts below that reference Dept of Labor rules seem to indicate I’m wrong here. So…time for me to go claim a bigger tax break! :)

        1. shawn

          They don’t HAVE to, just like you don’t HAVE to go or HAVE to work there. That doesn’t make it a good business decision, but there is nothing forcing them to pay/reimburse.

          1. ARS

            I think they do have to pay for the time in the car traveling (travel time is work time), but they do not have to reimburse for gas, etc. I don’t even know why she would ask about it if she’s not exempt. Just write it down on your time sheet and if anyone asks, you explain that’s the time you spent in the car traveling to and from the main office. However, you would have to ask about the gas reimbursement, and that may apply whether she’s exempt or not.

            1. The IT Manager

              Perhaps. It is two separate things: gas reimbursment = money; travel time reimbursement = lost productivy but does not require cost outlay if employee is not non-exempt earning overtime. It may well be easier to get permission for the travel time than travel costs, but it depends what system the company has in place already for this sort of thing.

              I am reimbursed fully for travel costs when I drive my own car for work (defined milage reembursement), but when claiming the extra time for overtime caused by travel the rules require that I deduct my normal commute time from my overtime. Under my org’s rules, LW could have the extra commute time be considered work. But if she normally commutes 15 minutes to her satellite office one way then maybe only three and half hours of her commute could be charge as work hours. This is a win for her because she still can leave home and arrive home at the same time when she goes to the main office as when she goes to the satellite office.

      1. Victoria

        Sure, they should compensate her for her travel expense… but that’s not a “workaround,” it’s an actual expense she’ll have, in addition to her personal childcare expense.

  5. Ashley

    At my job, we have an alternate campus that is an extra hour away from the campus I work at normally. I have to travel to this campus on occasion because I have an employee there. The extra two hours of travel come out of my work hours. I usually work 9-5, but if I need to be at the other campus at 9 am, I get to leave at 3 pm. I am a union employee, so I don’t know if that makes a difference. If I do have to work at the other campus for more time, I get to make it up later with comp time.

    1. Blinx

      We had an unwritten policy similar to this for exempt employees. What was official policy was the mileage. If your normal commute was 10 miles, and it was 50 miles from your home to the distant site, you were only allowed to expense 40 miles.

      I had to travel to a distant site a few times a month for meetings. Some of them I teleconferenced to, but really, I hate teleconferencing. If there are several people at the distant site are together on a speaker phone, it is often difficult to insert yourself into the conversation (especially if the speaker fills spaces with ums). Many times it was worth it to meet with team members in person, share lunch, get to know them.

  6. Victoria

    Two thoughts:

    1) Will the employer consider the travel work time or commute? It sounds like the LW is assuming that her employer is going to treat the four hours of driving as her personal commute, which doesn’t seem reasonable to me. It’s worth discussing this significant change in work expectations.

    2) As an aside, my organization has what seems like an unusually generous policy regarding child care and travel: For any of us who are primary caregivers, the organization will cover 50% of the travel expenses for a secondary caregiver (so the child and caregiver can travel with the employee).

    1. KellyK

      My understanding is that if she’s non-exempt, the extra commute has to be considered as work time. (If her usual commute is half an hour each way, then only three of those hours count as work time, since the other hour would be spent with or without the travel.)

    2. Eric

      Indeed. If the OP is not exempt, then under FLSA:
      “An employee who regularly works at a fixed location in one city is given a special one day assignment in another city and returns home the same day. The time spent in traveling to and returning from the other city is work time, except that the employer may deduct/not count that time the employee would normally spend commuting to the regular work site.”
      http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs22.pdf

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.

        Although if it is the new “normal” that she is expected to work there twice a month, and not a “special assignment,” would that still apply? I’m sure there are people who work at multiple locations regularly and don’t get to be paid for their commute for one but not the other…

        1. Evan the College Student

          Actually, my mother was interviewing for a job several years ago where she’d be “based” at one site but have to travel several times a month to a second site. They said her mileage would be reimbursed up to the distance between the two sites whenever she was going to the second.

    3. Meg Murry

      Yes, the OP should ask for clarification as to whether she is going to be expected to make the 2 hour drive, work an 8 hour day (or 9 with lunch) then drive home or whether she can get to the main office later and leave earlier to account for the commute time.
      I know the OP said her husband travels often, but does he have any say/flexibility in his traveling time? If so, the OP should propose that she always travels on a set schedule (like the 1st & 3rd Tuesday, for instance) so as to minimize the interruption to her family and make it easier to plan.
      Also, OP, when you were hired did your job list a travel requirement? For instance my job description says “required travel – up to 10%” which would equate to 2 days a month. Either way, I would ask to see the corporate travel policy to determine whether going to this office counts as “travel” (some companies define travel as x miles from the home office) and what the reimbursement policies for said travel is. My company explicitly says “no” to childcare, so you should look and see what your policy says on reimbursible expenses (milage, meals, etc)

  7. KellyK

    Having them pay for babysitting is a personal request and seems odd. However, they should certainly pay for mileage and ideally would pay for any travel expenses you incur by traveling that you wouldn’t on a “normal” workday. For example, my company’s travel policy includes a meal for single-day travel if it’s more than 12 hours, which it sounds like these trips would be. If there’s no written policy, it’s still worth asking, though I wouldn’t ask for anything that I didn’t incur specifically because of the travel. That is, I wouldn’t ask for lunch, because I have to eat lunch anyway, but refunding the drive-through meal I stopped for because I wasn’t going to get home until well after dinner-time strikes me as reasonable.

    The main thing I would recommend asking for in this situation is advance notice and some input on scheduling those days, so that you can either avoid conflicting with your husband’s travel or you have enough time to arrange for childcare.

    1. KellyK

      The only way I’d mention childcare costs would be if they didn’t consider it reimbursable travel. Say it costs you $80 to drive to the main office (a ballpark based on the IRS’s 55 cents a mile and 75 miles being about a two-hour drive). Between that and childcare, you might very well lose money working that day.

      But even at that, I wouldn’t expect them to cover the childcare costs; I’d just point out the costs and say it wasn’t feasible for me to do the travel unless mileage was reimbursed.

  8. AJ-in-Memphis

    I don’t know if anyone else has posted this but — we have a Flexible Spending Account plan (FSA) that covers certain medical and dependent care costs. FSA plans are deducted pre-tax and are like a pre-reimbursement plan – basically you pay for the child care expenses, turn in receipts to the FSA providers and get reimbursed (or in some cases use a debit card to deduct funds from your FSA account). While this is not free child care, you will save money because the money in your FSA account is not taxed. Just a thought. Some companies will pay for or provide child care, but I work for a non-profit so child care is not a work related expense, it’s considered a personal issue.

    1. KellyK

      Different FSAs might work differently, but for ours you have to specify whether you’re deducting for medical or for childcare, and you can’t change it mid-year. Depending on when her open enrollment is, she might be able to do it eventually, though.

      1. KellyK

        That is, they’re two separate funds, and you have to designate an amount for each. I kind of made it sound like you have to pick medical *or* childcare, not both, which isn’t the case.

  9. Krissy

    I do not think it is an unreasonable request–as Alison stated.. before any push back find out the reason for the request. Business needs usually trump personal ones. It may not even require a full day in the office whereby the OP can be back at home to p/u her kids.. It can’t be that difficult to find alternative arrangements for 2 days( having someone p/u the kids for and babysit for a few hours). I understand the 2hr drive time but its nothing if for some reason they decided to close the local office…that’s a whole set of other problems..

  10. MARIA

    It is the OP’s choice to have children and she did not check with the company before having them. No grounds to ask for extra compensation… and commuting for 2 hours?I commute for 1.5 hours daily to and from work. She should be compensated for gas and for her time, that is it; it seems like a very odd request to me.

    1. KellyK

      Seriously? I mean, I’m sorry your commute is long, but just like it was (in theory) the OP’s choice to have children, it was your choice to take a job that far from your house.

      There’s also a major difference between a normal commute and *added* travel. The normal commute is something you can consider when deciding whether or not to take the job. This is a new requirement which is tougher logistically especially if it overlaps with her husband’s travel.

      1. Jamie

        This. I have a similar commute and that’s no one’s problem but mine – part of the deal when I took the job. But if things changed and time was added to it because of work travel I’d put in for mileage.

        The difference between your normal commute to the office and extraneous business travel is what makes it reimbursable or not – not the distance.

        1. anon o

          I have a similar commute that I didn’t know about when I took the job – I had a 15 min commute and then our office moved so now I have 1.5 hr commute. Just bad luck. I’m looking for a new job but in the meantime doing the commute because I enjoy paying my rent.

          My company is generously paying for my transit pass because I used to cycle to work and it was also a huge budget change for me to have to buy a pass or a car. I wonder if this is a similar situation: job site/circumstances has changed so stay or go and for now try to get travel reimbursed. Good luck.

          1. Blinx

            Some companies have a policy that if they move you permanently to another site, they will pay moving expenses if it is more than X miles.

        2. Kelly O

          Exactly.

          This is a twice a month visit. We have meetings with our managers at the corporate office, and the managers who drive are reimbursed mileage because it’s outside their regular commute. Technically they’re still going to and from work, but it’s the whole idea of extra business travel that makes the difference.

          The OP should have some sort of employee handbook or guide to explain mileage reimbursement, and if not it’s a great question to ask.

          (The childcare? No, not so much. Much as I wish it were different, most employers don’t offer any sort of childcare assistance outside of a Dependent Care FSA thing, and not every company offers that. Believe me, a good third of my take-home pay goes just to childcare… I would totally take advantage if it were otherwise.)

      2. Vicki

        She didn’t take a job “far from home”.
        She took a job with an office nearby. All of her work can and has been done in the nearby office.

        The job terms are changing.

      3. Maria

        Exactly my point; it’s my choice to work where I do. My employer doesn’t really care where I live because this is not business related. So i do what i have to do to get in on time; whether i lived two blocks away or a hundred. i i decided to move 2 hours away i would ask my company to pay for the extra gas.

        The OP mentioned that she *rarely* gets asked to do this trip; this implies that she knew that traveling was part of the job and has done it before. It so happens that this time her husband is traveling as well, so she needs to hire the babysitter. I don’t think that she should be asking for reimbursement in this case- it’s a foreseeable request.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.

          I hadn’t thought about this before, but that’s a good point. It’s not like they’ve never asked her to do this before. The occasional going to the other office WAS part of the original deal. They’re just clarifying how often it will be now, and perhaps stepping up that frequency.

          If it were once a week, maybe ask for mileage reimburse. But it doesn’t seem like twice a month to make a trip that *is* ultimately part of the original agreement is too much to ask.

        2. KellyK

          But it’s still travel. If you knew when you took the job that you’d have to fly out of state for a week every couple months, that doesn’t become non-reimbursable because it’s foreseeable.

          Similarly, if you have a regular office where you spend most of your time, and you’re sometimes called upon to travel to a different site, that’s work-related travel. Even if they had said, “We expect you to go to the alternate site twice a month,” when she took the job, the mileage should still be reimbursable.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Agreed that the travel should be reimbursable, but she’s not even asking about that (and for all we know, it’s a given that it’s covered) — she’s asking about the babysitter expense.

  11. Anonymous

    At my previous job we could put down babysitting as an expense (up to a certain amount) for special meetings that were out of our regular schedule (say 6-10 pm). We were also allowed to claim mileage.
    I worked for an organization that was related to children’s education, so it made sense we supported working parents as we were working in that sector.
    I only ever claimed childcare expenses one time. However, in the OP’s case, I think it is best if she asks if she can come in a bit later to the worksite when she is going to head office, if coming too early in the morning is a problem. That way she doesn’t have to worry about getting a babysitter for 1 or 2 times a month, which would be a hassle as sitters generally want regular hours and not a 2 hour stint once a month.
    I do know some workplaces that have partnered with certain daycares/child care places that offer emergency childcare for their employees. It’s part of the benefits package. But since that’s not likely to be the case, maybe just asking about mileage and some flexibility around arrival time could solve the problem.

    1. KayDay

      “babysitting as an expense (up to a certain amount) for special meetings that were out of our regular schedule (say 6-10 pm)”

      I’m not sure why, but this just feels more reasonable to me than childcare to come into the office. It’s just a gut feeling, however; my logic is admittedly a bit spotty. Perhaps because it is outside of normal work hour, so it is completely reasonable that employees would be fully dedicated to childcare at that time, as opposed to working from home, where the employee should be primarily focused on work (although I realize you can do both at the same time). Perhaps it’s because it’s very common for remote employees to have to go into the office occasionally (although I realize that this wasn’t the OP’s original agreement).

      1. Jamie

        I just see this as a nice perk that her employer offers…the same way some employers will offer free gym memberships or car allowances. Not something most employers do, just a generous extra.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yeah, agreed. The reality is that you’re expected to be available to your employer during the normal workday. Child care isn’t their responsibility.

        They should of course reimburse for the travel expenses, but there’s nothing here indicating that they won’t; her question was only about the child care costs.

  12. Malissa

    The first question to always ask in a situation like this is, “Can you explain to me the benefits of this arrangement for the team?” This needs to be done in a very non-defensive way. This line opens up the conversation as to why they feel this is necessary and it also give you room to ask around about cutting hours shorter in the main office to give you more travel time or even opting for less days to see if it works.
    I’m inclined to say that since this is new request there is something they main office wants from you that they are not getting now. So the best bet is to roll with it for now and feel out the situation and then make suggestions.
    Ask for mileage and travel time for this extended commute, that’s reasonable. Don’t ask for extra money for child care. If the expense is so much that it really starts being a hardship, that’s the time to visit that subject, but be prepared to walk away from the job if they say no.
    Anybody who travels for work has extra expenses. Unless other people are naming their expenses and getting compensated for them it really is unreasonable to ask for special treatment in this area. I know I would never ask my boss for extra compensation for traveling because I have to hire somebody to come in and take care of my little farm while I am gone.

    1. Kelly O

      And don’t forget, whatever they do for you, they would reasonably expect to do for all the other employees in your situation. So it’s not just you and your individual expense, but all other remote employees doing the same thing. It could potentially add up quickly (especially if they also have requests for compensation for people who need to kennel animals, which could be reasonably inferred as a similar expense.)

  13. Cody C

    In a previous post Allison said it would be okay for a person who broke their leg on their own time making their own decisions to ask the company for reasonable accommodations in helping get to work upto and even paying for a car service so in my opinion it would not be unreasonable for the OP to ask for reasonable accommodation for this new development in her job even though having children was her decision and I presume happened on her own time.

    1. Mike C.

      … and I presume happened on her own time.

      If not, can the company get the dependent claim for tax purposes? :D

    2. Jamie

      I don’t think you can equate an unforeseen accident which results in short term disability with having children which will be a factor for years on end.

      And I’m someone who thought it was odd to ask for the car service.

    3. Anon

      I think the people who thought the car service request was reasonable (myself included) were envisioning the guy who broke his leg as working in the kind of Manhattan shop where most employees take car services home most nights anyway because they were working so late – i.e., maybe he’s a big firm corporate lawyer or an investment banker. In that context, he’s just asking to take it in the mornings as well, and the business probably already has a group rate so the marginal cost would be relatively small. I think most of us assumed that if he worked for the kind of place where car services weren’t commonly used, it wouldn’t even be a request he’d had thought of, much less a reasonable one.

      Similarly, if this letter writer worked at a place with an on-site daycare at the site she’s visiting, it’d absolutely be reasonable for her to ask if her kids could use that day care on days she was going to that office, ya know? It’s about the relative convenience/availability of the perks.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yeah, that’s right. My response to that broken leg question was that it would vary by employer, and that with employers like the ones you describe here, it could be very reasonable … but that at others it might not be, so it was a case of knowing your employer.

        But I do think it’s a different situation anyway. That was, as Jamie says, a short-term disability where many employers would be sympathetic and want to help … versus routine child care, where most employers expect that you’ll handle that on your own.

        1. Cody C

          Ok but here is my hang up he wants the company to incur a cost on his behalf for something he did on his OWN time not an oji. I can see them sending a car but why is he wanting them to pay for it? When I broke my collar bone and couldn’t tie my shoe for a month my company let me wear Velcro sandals but they didn’t buy them for me. Off my soapbox now

  14. Liz T

    I’m not getting people’s objections here. It’s not at all like asking for a raise because of a new mortgage–that would be a change that the employee made. This, however, is a change that the employer made. I’m sure that the OP chose this job and negotiated schedule/salary/benefits based in part on his or her parenting situation. While I agree it’s not definite that the employer will say yes, I don’t see the harm in asking.

    Why is it unreasonable to say, “Please reimburse me for the expenses incurred by this change,” but totally reasonable to say, “Why are you making me do this?”

    (I do not have children, if that’s relevant.)

    1. Malissa

      Because there is a difference between asking for expenses that would be normal for this kind of request, i.e. time and mileage, and asking for expenses that have arisen from personal choices that the employ may not have know about.
      If my employer asks me to travel they expect to pay for mileage, meals, lodging, and time. I don’t expect them to pay me for the expense of somebody coming over to my place everyday to feed the 12 chickens, 2 ducks, 7 cats and 2 dogs that I have chosen to have reside with me.
      My animal menagerie was something I accumulated knowing that sometimes I would have to pay to have them cared for, whether it’s work related or not. Asking for special accommodation because they haven’t figured out how to open the feed bags themselves is absolutely ridiculous.

      1. Jamie

        I have never been so jealous of anyone in my entire life.

        I want your life – with a side of goats and sheep.

        1. Malissa

          The only reason that there isn’t sheep here is because putting a fence around a pasture to contain them is a bit tough on the rocky ground.
          I’ll trade my life if you can find me one about 1,400 miles south of here. ;) For some reason I just don’t like snow any more.

          1. KellyK

            I’d suggest Maryland, but we do get some snow. And the downside of having it infrequently is that you get completely out of practice driving in it. But we do have a lot less in the way of rocks, and a few people near me have sheep. Cows and horses too, for that matter.

            1. Jamie

              I lived in Maryland for a couple of years – my youngest was born there – and I remember my eldest having snow days in Kindergarten because of a dusting.

              Being from the Chicago area I found it funny that .25 inches of snow can bring a city to it’s knees.

              I thought the weather was perfect there. Not brutal but still had all the seasons. Beautiful part of the country.

              I would vote for Chocolate Teapot Inc. being headquartered there.

              1. KellyK

                We do truly have perfect weather, all things considered. I personally find the summers to be brutally hot and humid, but they’re certainly not as bad as the “real” south.

                I definitely second the vote to put the Chocolate Teapot HQ here.

      2. KellyK

        You mean you can’t train the dog to open the bags? ;) Granted, any dog I’ve ever had would figure it out, but would eat all the food themselves and not feed any of the other critters.

          1. KellyK

            Ha! Cat food was our last foster dog’s absolute favorite snack. Apparently stolen kibble tastes way better than your own kibble.

            1. Jenn

              I think it’s because cat food smells and tastes stronger than dog food because a cat’s sense of smell isn’t as strong as a dog’s.

              1. Elizabeth

                Which explains why our cat loves the really nasty smelling fish-based food and turns his nose up at the not-so-bad beef & chicken-based cans.

            2. Esra

              Stolen kibble tastes so much better. Ideally, the cat would have to sit and watch helplessly as the dog ate it.

              1. Chinook

                But in real life, my cat goes to the dog’s dish and waits for the dog to be watching and then he slowly bats a piece of food out of the dish and then plays with it, while the dog whines and looks at me, wondering why I don’t stop the mean monster.

          2. Jamie

            Mine too, what’s up with that?

            Although our newest cat (adopted from work – she wandered into the factory and got into all kinds of trouble with machines so she now works out of the house) will check out one of the dog’s food bowls (the one who will go after her food) and she will take a long leisurely perusal of it’s contents before she’ll step back and let him eat. And he lets her! All 97 lbs of him in complete obedience to a 8.7 lbs cat.

            The animal kingdom just like at work – it’s all in the attitude.

            1. LPBB

              My sister would feed both her cat and her dog at the same time. The would always wait until the cat had eaten, and usually his cat went after his food, until he started eating. If the cat didn’t feel like eating at that moment, the dog would start whining until my sister would bodily grab the cat and hold him in front the food bowl for a minute so the dog would eat.

      3. Liz T

        So what about the employee who broke his leg?

        Again: I’m not saying that the employer necessarily owes this to the OP, but I’m surprised that everyone thinks it’s stupid for her to ask.

        1. Liz T

          Sorry–for him or her to ask. I stupidly gendered this just because it’s about childcare, as though men aren’t involved with that!

        2. Malissa

          In that case the big difference was that was concerning the employee being able to come to work at all because of a temporary situation.
          In this case it’s not a temporary situation. The employer is asking to change what could be considered a normal working condition.

        3. Kou

          That specific person worked for a Manhattan finance company, and in that place/industry car services being hired by the company is actually really common. I think the general consensus was that, in that unusual instance, it made sense to do, but it wouldn’t normally.

      4. Blinx

        That’s a very good analogy. When I traveled on business, my employer paid for transport, meals, and lodging. It never crossed my mind to ask them to pay kennel fees for my dogs!

    2. KellyK

      You know, that’s a good question. I couldn’t really put a finger on how it’s different (though there were definitely mixed opinions on the car thing).

      I think the general theory is that reimbursable business expenses are direct things, not indirect ones, and that if you have kids, you have to make some kind of arrangements for their care anyway, regardless of whether you’re working a long day or not.

      I think there’s also the idea that payment for work should be for the time and expenses that would apply regardless of the individual personal situation. It seems weird to get more compensation for business travel based on whether or not your husband is available to watch the kids (or whether you have kids at all).

      1. Liz T

        It’s not compensation in terms of payment–it’s reimbursement. You’d bring in receipts or whatever.

        1. KellyK

          Right, but I don’t think that changes the point that it’s odd for a company to reimburse indirect expenses that vary depending on your personal situation.

        2. fposte

          And that, IMHO, is why it’s a problem. I can see an office saying that employees will get, say, a $25 bump to cover inconvenience every time they have to travel, but I think it’s asking for a trouble to give it to Bob because of his babysitter and Ted because he had game tickets but not Carol and Alice because they were just going to be home watching TV anyway. It’s the office’s job to compensate you for working, not for the expenditures of your personal life that working incurs.

          That being said, I could actually see the OP asking her boss if the company would consider an offset for the expense of the unusual hours and travel; I just would make it about what everybody goes through, and not just what s/he has to pay for.

      2. KellyK

        Though if it were short notice and a major hardship, I don’t think asking for incidental/personal expenses wouldn’t be out of line.

        If I need to have a dog-walker come by because my husband and I are both working late, oh, well, I knew when I got dogs that they can’t be potty-trained.

        On the other hand, if my husband had a week of work travel planned next week, and my boss came into my office today and said that some major thing had come up and they needed me to travel all next week too, I might say, “Wow, it’s going to cost me $300 to board my dogs for the week, maybe more if I can’t get in at the usual place. Is there any way I can get any part of that reimbursed?” I wouldn’t be miffed if the request was turned down, because it’s still my issue, not theirs, but if work is putting me in a bind, it’s worth asking.

        I’m also not in a position that requires much, if any, travel. If travel were an expected part of my job, especially if last-minute travel were expected, then I wouldn’t ask.

      3. KarenT

        I think the distinction for me is just plain old business convention.

        It’s reasonable to ask for mileage and meal coverage, but not for childcare. It’s reasonable to ask for reimbursement for entertaining clients, but not the new suit you had to buy to wear to said meeting. When you travel for work, you can expect your employer to pay for meals and hotelling but not personal inconveniences like dog walking, babysitting, or a movie you watched in your hotel room.
        If the OP works for a family-friendly company, there may not be any harm in asking but I would say that generally she should expect to cover the babysitting costs.

        1. KayDay

          Yeah, I agree that it’s more business convention than anything…I’ve always found it odd* that I can get my meals covered when traveling (I have to eat anyway), but my employer wouldn’t reimbursement for getting a pair of pants laundered. While I have to do laundry anyway, there is a big ($30, to be exact) difference between doing all my normal laundry and having to pay for the hotel to wash a single pair of pants I need for an work-event the next day.

          *I wouldn’t find a small meal allowance to cover the additional cost of eating out in an expensive city odd, but the full cost? That seems unnecessary. Just don’t tell my boss.

          1. K

            We have a specific laundry clause in our travel policy– something about covering the cost of laundry if you are gone for more than 5 or 7 days.

            1. KellyK

              So do we. I think the general assumption is that you can pack enough clothes to not have to do laundry at the hotel, unless you’re traveling for an extended period of time.

      4. Kimberlee, Esq.

        I think it’s not only business convention, but paying for things that are the same across the board, versus different for different people.

        Reimbursing miles is fine, because everyone has to travel. If you’d told any other employee that they now had an extra 8 hours of commute a month, you’d expect to reimburse them all in the same way. Same with the leg guy; *any* employee would have difficulty with the commute. But not every employee would require babysitting, or kenneling their dog, or whatever. You reimburse the actual expenses you’re causing as a business; whatever choices that person made in their own life is their business!

        1. jmkenrick

          What baffles me is why people want to open the door to this issue with their employeer.

          An employeer can factor where you live and your commute time into their hiring decision when they’re hiring remotely. Do you really want them to start factoring in how many children you have and how much childcare they would need? It seems to me that the more you ask for personal expenses to be covered, the more you’re inviting the company to butt their head into your personal life.

  15. The IT Manager

    So why is it that the LW’s company should pay childcare expense and not the husband’s? Or why not split it since they’ll only need childcare if the husband is away on days that she has to make the long commute to the headquarters? I mean would her husband’s company be paying for childcare every time he travels if he were a single father.

    That was a devil’s advocate question. Really, though, like Alison said child care is considered a personal expense and it’s seems an odd request to make to me. The other options, though, including the extra commute time as part of the work day make sense to me if it can be accomidated and would solve the problem.

    1. KarenT

      I’m in full agreement that costs or anything else attached to childcare too often fall on mothers, I think in this particular case the LW is suggesting her company (and not her husband’s) pay because her company is the one that changed its expectations surrounding schedules.

      1. A Bug!

        Yup, I agree. I’d imagine that part of the reason mom took that job was that it would allow her to meet childcare needs, which travels-for-work dad isn’t able to do reliably.

        Man, if “I need to hire a babysitter to cover this extended work day” is a poor excuse for getting compensation, I can’t even imagine how “my wife’s job needs her to work longer hours this day and this day so I need more money for the babysitter” would go over!

        1. Rana

          I guess I was thinking more about whether there’s some way for the couple to coordinate their schedules to accommodate the new working conditions, and that ought to be a discussion that both partners have a stake in. That is, it’s not the mother’s sole responsibility to fix (or her employer’s), but rather the responsibility of the family as a whole. It may be that his employer would be perfectly fine not scheduling his travel on days when the wife has to do this commute, meaning no babysitting is needed at all. But someone has to ask first.

  16. Ackee

    Even IF your employer grants it, imagine when your co-workers get a whiff of that arrangement! Your employer might be forced to backpedal as he/she is flooded with, ‘if she gets that, why can’t I get this or that?” And don’t get too taken by how much in love your co-workers seem to be with your kinds; that will swiftly dissipate, even among fellow mothers. My sister deigned to take her son out of public school and put him in private school because the public schools were notoriously poor. As a result, she had to ask her boss to let her arrive 15 minutes later than usual because she could not drop him off any sooner and there were no school buses. The manager agreed. When her co-workers/friends who were thenselves mothers found out, the backlash was swift. She had to pluck him out again from the private school and take him back to the public school. One co-worker snapped, “If public school is good enough for my child, it should be good enough for yours.”

    1. Anonymous

      Schooling aside, it’s sad how a 15 minute variance in arrival time is a big deal in some workplaces. I understand assembly line workers, for example, absolutely have to be at work for the line to run, but in this case, if the woman can afford private school, I can only assume it was likely a white-collar occupation (not that trades people don’t get paid well, but they don’t have that kind of rigid scheduling either)

      1. Ali_R

        Wow! I had my children in private school last year and there certainly were blue collar/assembly line type parents. A mail carrier, grocery clerk and transportation worker come immediately to mind. All very rigid schedules.

        1. Anonymous

          And that’s three out of how many? All I’m saying is that in all likelihood, there’s a parent with an office/self-employed job in the mix.

      2. Anonn

        You assume ‘white collar’ gets paid better. A considerable amount of my ‘blue collar’ friends get paid far more than the average office job worker around here due to overtime, risk pay etc. Yes, some blue collars get paid low wages but not all of them.

        1. Jamie

          This is true. The guy doing PMs on million dollar mfg machine can be making a good 2-3x some of the people in the office.

    2. Anon

      Seriously? Did she make up the 15 minutes after work or at lunch? Because if so (and frankly, even if not), that sounds like a seriously disfunctional office.

    3. Forrest

      Your sister gave up on bettering her kid’s education because her coworkers were upset? After her manager approved her coming 15 mins late?

    4. KellyK

      Wow. Her coworkers’ reaction is completely and utterly unreasonable and ridiculous, especially over fifteen minutes.

      In that situation, I’d be sorely tempted to dig my heels in and tell the snippy coworkers that *my* decisions regarding *my* child were *my* business and none of theirs.

  17. Ackee

    It’s a bank and she shortened her lunch hour by 15. But it had nothing to do with the 15 minutes, but all to do with jealousy and pettiness.

  18. mel

    But… there are lots of people who work and have kids, and they usually have to pay for their babysitters out of their own pocket.

    The way the OP is worded almost makes it sound negotiable. “They asked if I could” is different than “they told me I need to”.

    I just think it’s puzzling that neither the OP nor her husband have any idea WHICH days they are traveling, and don’t seem to care enough to figure it out.

    It’s only two days. Even a grandparent or an aunt might be willing to take on a few hours of babysitting a month. At that point, it wouldnt even be an expense.

    1. Rana

      That assumes that they have family in the area, or that said family is capable of taking on child care duties, neither of which is necessarily the case.

      1. Rana

        But I agree that the vagueness of their schedules puzzles me a bit, too. I’m trying to think of a business where employees might be asked to drop everything and fly out the next day with no advance warning, and there aren’t that many coming to mind.

        1. KayDay

          My BF’s company sends people on last minute business trips regularly. I think it’s nuts. Often, however, the employee knows that they will have travel somewhere sometime in November or December, but they won’t know when exactly they need to leave and/or how long they are staying. Occasionally there is no warning, but that’s much more rare. When I complained about it to a friend of a friend (who works in HR) she said it was actually very common at the companies she had worked for. I think it’s ridiculously bad planning.

        2. KellyK

          My husband has had last-minute travel on occasion, including one “Can you leave tonight?’ situation.

          It’s not so much poor planning on his company’s part as it is an issue with coordination between various other companies and government agencies, all playing whisper down the lane and not necessarily knowing or caring which of the others might need to be kept in the loop on certain things.

        3. Suz

          When I used to travel for my job, almost all of it was spur of the moment. My job was troubleshooting production problems at our manufacturing sites. When something breaks, you need to get there ASAP. It’s not the machine will give you 2 weeks notice when it’s going to malfunction.

    2. KellyK

      I just think it’s puzzling that neither the OP nor her husband have any idea WHICH days they are traveling, and don’t seem to care enough to figure it out.

      I didn’t get the impression that they don’t know or care to figure it out, only that now that she’s traveling twice a month rather than once in a blue moon, there’s the possibility for conflict.

  19. Editor

    As someone who supervised employees at a branch office, I would encourage the OP to go to the other location when asked.

    It may have benefits you don’t understand. You could ask about the goals of the off-site meetings. When I was supervising employees who griped and complained about being out of the communication loop, and then who griped and complained about having to drive to the other location on work time and attend meetings, I got tired of the griping.

    My boss and I worked to get these employees more familiar with the main office, get the main office people more familiar with the branch needs, boost the branch’s feeling of being an integral part of the enterprise and discuss new policies and benefit packages and so on with everyone. Then, when the branch suddenly became temporarily uninhabitable, it was easier for the branch employees to cope with moving to the main office because they’d visited — as the branch problem wasn’t an event we expected, the ability to fit in at the main office was a bonus for all of the branch staff.

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