boss gives different perks to people with kids, asking for a raise when your company doesn’t do raises, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My boss gives different perks to people with kids

I have a situation where my manager is giving perks to one person, but denying the same perks when another person asked for them. We had a staff member out on maternity leave, and when she returned she was allowed to cut down to 32 hours. One of my team members requested a reduction to 32 hours, but our manager said no since she doesn’t have children. Our HR representative said that my team member needed to have children or a medical reason to be eligible for an adjustment in hours. This spread around our department like wildfire and now morale is very poor. The person who is working 32 hours generally does not work a full eight-hour day and routinely has other department members doing her work. This has added to the dissatisfaction since everyone sees this person leaving early every day, and many others have to pick up the work that she cannot/will not get done. Do you think the rule that there should only be two reasons that one can get reduced hours is legitimate?

Noooo. Is the rule definitely “only if you have kids” or is there any chance it’s been communicated badly and it’s actually “if you have dependents to care for”? That’s still not as fair as it should be — people without dependents could have entirely valid reasons for wanting a part-time schedule too — but at least it would be more fair than prioritizing people with kids above people who are caretakers for ill, disabled, or otherwise dependent parents/siblings/spouses/etc. Frankly, though, employers shouldn’t be judging people’s reasons for wanting reduced schedules at all; either a schedule change works for the role or it doesn’t.

The fact that your coworker with the reduced schedule is pushing her work onto others is a separate problem. You should raise that issue with your manager … or you and your coworkers could simply stop picking up her work, which might force your manager to deal with it since you won’t be solving the problem yourselves anymore.

2. Should I ask for a raise at a company that doesn’t do raises?

Should I ask for a raise, even if my company doesn’t really do raises?

All employees get an across the board raise every year that varies based on how well the company is doing (but less than cost of living), but every time I ask my colleagues who have been here longer than me (two years) about raises, they always say that the company doesn’t really do them.

I was hired to implement a new-to-the-company project, which I did with high praise from both the administration and the clients who benefited from it. I also pitched a new project last year, was allowed to implement it, and just finished it this year, also with high marks from both audiences. Next year I’m being asked to work on two different projects, outside the initial scope of my hiring. I feel like I can make a case for at least a small raise for myself.

So, is it appropriate to ask for a raise, even if there’s a less than 50% chance I’ll get it? If they say no, what does that tell me about the company, if anything?

Yes, you should ask for a raise and make a case for why you deserve one. It’s possible your company does occasionally give merit raises and the people you’ve talked to just haven’t known about them. But if your company says they won’t even consider a merit raise, that tells you that they don’t believe in compensating you according to your value — and you’ll need to go elsewhere if you want to be paid what you’re worth.

Read an update to this letter

3. Applying for full-time jobs when you want part-time hours

I wanted to ask about the etiquette of looking for a part-time (0.5 FTE) role. I’ve been looking for a part-time job in my field for almost a year now, and rarely see part-time postings. It seems like most people in these flexible situations move from a FT to PT role at the same organization. My old organization doesn’t have any PT employees and is not willing to change that.

Is it absurd to apply for full-time roles and specify in my cover letter that I’m looking for part-time hours? I’ve been taking the traditional route (job applications and talking with my network) for 11 months and am getting a bit desperate.

Typically if a job is advertised as full-time, it’s because they want someone for full-time work. Proposing half-time work isn’t likely to be a very attractive offer because instead of solving their problem (the empty role), it leaves them with an additional problem to solve (the other half of the role).

That said, there are two times when it can be worth it to try anyway: (1) when you have highly sought-after skills and are a strong enough candidate they might be willing to reshuffle things for you or (2) when the job market for the work is very tight (or you’ve seen the role posted a bunch, indicating they’re having trouble finding someone for it) since that itself can incentivize them to be flexible.

4. Explaining why I’m job searching after four months

I’ve been in a toxic workplace for four months. I left my last role after five years. Some reasons I’m looking elsewhere include:

– I was told the job would be hybrid and I currently have not worked from home at all. In fact they’d rather me not work at all and take a day off rather than work from home. I drove 60 miles for a dentist appointment that could’ve been four miles had I been allowed to work from home but they told me I should’ve just eaten into my limited sick leave.
– I’ve been warned by multiple people to expect to be screamed at by the CEO.
– I’ve also been given instructions on how to avoid being screamed at.

Needless to say, my mental health is suffering immensely. How do I explain this when I interview? It seems many of the rules I’ve learned contradict themselves. You’re not supposed to job-hop. You’re not supposed to stay in a toxic workplace but then you’re not supposed to badmouth an employer during an interview. I want to be honest and explain that this isn’t the norm for me but I’m not sure how to go about it. I currently have gone with “I’m feeling misled about their work-from-home policies.”

That’s a perfectly good reason to use — and having one clear statement like that is better than going into all the other reasons, which could make it feel like A Lot of Drama. (That doesn’t mean the drama isn’t legitimate, but generally you want your interviewer focused on your skills and not on the drama of the workplace you’re leaving, and you also don’t want them wondering if there’s another side to the story.) But take the emotion out of the wording you’re using (“feeling misled”) and instead just say very matter-of-factly, “I was told the job was partly remote, but it turns out they don’t want people working from home at all.” That’s it — that conveys the important piece without the emotion.

You also don’t need to worry about explaining this isn’t the norm for you because they’ll be able to see that from your previous work history. You can still spell it out if you want — “I wouldn’t normally be looking to leave a job this quickly, but although I was told the job was partly remote, it turns out they don’t want people working from home at all” — but it should be pretty clear.

5. Thank-you notes when the salary is too low

I’m currently engaging in a non-urgent job search because while I like my current job, I would love to be on a bigger team and make a bit more money. I applied for a job last week and received a request for a phone interview within six hours — yay! I had the phone screen with the recruiter this morning. The conversation went really well — I’m excited about the role, it would be an excellent fit for my skills and interests, and the recruiter sounded excited about my candidacy. He asked for my salary requirements, which I turned around and asked for a salary range, which he was happy to share. The range given topped out about $10k below my desired minimum salary. I decided to share that, and the conversation fizzled pretty quickly. He said he would check with the hiring manager regarding salary flexibility, and then wished me luck in my endeavors.

Since the range wasn’t too off-base in the grand scheme of things, I am not pulling my candidacy and followed up with a thank-you note to the truly lovely recruiter. I sent a nice note and said some form of “if there’s flexibility in the salary range, I’d love to continue the convo!” Felt weird, but it was worth a shot, I think.

In the future, how would you recommend handling this kind of communication in a situation where the salary expectations are misaligned but not egregiously so?

Yep, that was good. You stayed enthusiastic but reinforced that you’d need a higher salary. Perfectly handled.

{ 368 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Re: #1: The OP states in the letter and confirms below that while the coworker’s schedule has been reduced to 32 hours/week, she is not working the full 32 hours (and is leaving early before her scheduled hours are over). So there are two separate issues — schedule flexibility being offered only to people with kids or a medical issue (but not people with other dependents), and a coworker not working all of their assigned schedule, leaving others to pick up the slack.

  2. Fikly*

    Big question for LW1:

    Did the person who cut down to 32 hours do so without a reduction in pay and/or benefits?

    1. MK*

      This was my first thought. OP, if your coworker took a salary cut to have the reduced hours, of course she won’t be producing as much; it’s not her not doing “her” work, because it’s not her work anymore, she isn’t getting paid for it. As for who should do that work, well, that sounds something the employer should have thought about, but the people taking it up need to clarify if they are actually required to do so. I had a similar case in a previous workplace, where person A got reduced hours and person B was “taking up the slack” and complained to the boss, who then told them they didn’t need to do that, they knew the work would be done more slowly with person A on a reduced schedule and were fine with that.

      1. baseballfan*

        I understood this post to mean the person had reduced her schedule, and reduced her pay proportionally as well as her assigned tasks to fit a 32 hour week, and is currently not completing even the reduced amount of work that she currently has. I believe the OP clarified in the comments that this person is working a 4×8 schedule and is leaving early with unfinished work on the 4 days that she is supposed to be working a full day, i.e. 8 hours.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Same. I mean, some workplaces are nuts, but I think it’s generally assumed that if someone’s hours are cut by 20% their task load is, as well.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      It didn’t even occur to me that that was a possibility – I’d assume that pay was proportionally reduced.

      What wasn’t clear to me was if she is supposed to work 4 x 8 hour days and is leaving early on those (working less than 32 hours), or if she’s supposed to be working 5 x 6.4 hours and is leaving on time. She could also be making up the time in the evenings at home (I’ve seen that solution a lot with parents, though I wouldn’t recommend it with a baby or toddler, it’s an exhausting way to live).

    3. June Twenty OP#1*

      As far as I know there was a reduction in benefits and pay – the person who requested to cut down to 32 hrs was also willing to take the pay cut and reduction in pay.

      1. Coffee Powered*

        In that case, I’m confused as to why the rest of the team is expecting this person to still do the same amount of work?

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          i’m not sure but I think the OP’s main point is the unfairness in who gets to work the reduced schedule in the first place

        2. anonymous73*

          As a colleague of reduced hours employee, I would expect my manager to have conversations with the team about who would be taking on the additional work. I think it’s less of an expectation for colleague to produce the same amount of work and more about crappy management and not knowing what’s expected.

        3. BEC*

          I read it to mean she was not even producing the amount of work she was being paid (less) to produce, even on the 4 days a week she was supposed to be working.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I have no problem with the reduced hours equaling reduced pay. What I would have a problem is the coworker not completing their 32 hours worth of work and dumping the rest on me…thus potentially making me either late to leave or making me have to leave my tasks unfinished.

            The question is where is the manager in all this undone work?

        4. Dust Bunny*

          Nothing says that she’s expected to produce the same amount of work, though. Presumably this was also cut back and she’s not even completing the reduced workload.

          1. Myrin*

            Yeah, going through these comments, I feel like I read a completely different letter from almost everyone else – it seems entirely clear to me that coworker is supposed to be working 32 hours (meaning 8 hours on 4 days) but isn’t and that she has a reduced workload but isn’t completing that, either.

            Where do all these commenters work where your working hours get reduced by one fifth yet you still earn the same amount of money? (Not that I would be against that; in fact, I’m a big fan of the four day workweek but, like, I’ve never encountered this and it would literally never occur to me to assume that’s somehow the case.)

            1. River Otter*

              I took reduced work hours as a salaried person, and yes, my salary was reduced proportionately!
              (salaried people who spend their working hours walking their dog bc it makes them more productive should take note that their employer might not see things that way)

            2. Coffee Powered*

              Oh I see! Thanks. I didn’t realise 32 hours meant 4 full days, I was reading it as 5 reduced days (we have a few people who do this at my company).

            3. AnnieB*

              My brother got this at his workplace! They decided to go to a 4-day week so he now works Tuesday to Friday for the same money. He’s in England. Yes, it’s very rare, yes he’s very lucky, and apparently yes – he’s as productive as he used to be!

      2. Claire*

        I think it makes sense to stop doing coworker’s unfinished work regardless, because the company shouldn’t just be shuffling off the extra 0.2 FTE on other employees, but it does make sense that she’d be completing less work with less hours (and it’s a common complaint I’ve heard from people going PT from FT that their company expects them to do the same amount of work in less time for less money). So I’d primarily approach that with your manager as a coverage/workload issue.

        1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          Right, if she’s making less money and correspondingly doing less work, they should be making more money for doing more work.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yes indeed! When I was knocking off at 4 to pick my kids up from school, my colleague would be arguing over changes she wanted to make to my work (not always justified, she was a terrible nitpicker!) and I often had to say, ok if you want to make those changes, go ahead, I have my kids to pick up. I was the only parent employee, the others would stay late because they didn’t have lives apparently.
          So I was deemed the slacker, whose work others had to finish, but in actual fact I was handling double the number of projects, translating double the number of words compared to that employee.

          1. Loulou*

            This is a pretty uncharitable comment. Great you got so much work done in less time than others, but I bet the people who stayed late editing your work without your input *did* in fact have lives and things they would rather have been doing.

            1. Cmdrshpard*

              It is possible, but also have known people who had lives but felt internal pressure and/or external pressure to work later/more and gave into it, that is not Rebels fault. Some people are better at drawing boundaries on their work/home time and saying sure this needs to get done, but I am done for the day. Some people are workaholics, and identify strongly with their work even though they have lives outside of work they choose not to prioritize it. Others might need 9/10 hours to do work that others could do in 6/7. If someone is faster they shouldn’t have to pick up slack/stay later just so a slower employee feels better about themselves.

              1. Loulou*

                Sure, I’m not necessarily saying the distribution of hours is Rebel’s or anyone’s fault. But it is certainly Rebel’s fault that she sees the situation as “I am a rockstar who got more work done in half the time than these nitpicky no-life losers who always stayed late.” Yikes.

                1. Cmdrshpard*

                  Sure was saying they didn’t seem to have a life the nicest comment, no it wasn’t I agree with that, but so is them labeling Rebel a “slacker” because they leave at 4pm, when they are actually doing more work than others. Not everyone can be a rockstart and that is okay, but that does not mean rockstarts need to be knocked down a peg.

                  Obviously everyone has a life of some kind, but in a certain sense, if you don’t use it, you don’t really have one, no matter the reason why. Do you really have a life of spending time with friends, family, or xyz hobbies is you don’t actually engage in those regularly because you are working 50-60 hours a week. Sure you hang out with friends once a month or every other month, but is that really having a friend “life”

                  I used to call reading a hobby because I would ready multiple books a month/week, in my leisure time. Now I’m lucky I might read 4/6 books a year, I don’t really call it/consider it a hobby. To me a hobby is something you enjoy that you engage in regularly, I wouldn’t consider someone a hobby baker who bakes twice a year, maybe they were a hobby baker when they had more time and baked once a week, but not anymore.

                  To be clear this is my definition of hobby, I’m sure there are plenty of people that consider things they do once a year hobbies, that is fine.

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              The nitpicker was married to a lawyer who didn’t get home till past nine, she said herself she didn’t have much motivation to go home to an empty house. All the other employees were youngsters straight out of uni who wanted to prove themselves and would stay late to do so. I was the only one who met (even almost doubled) the productivity requirements, and so the others stayed late to catch up.

              An example of nitpicking: I’d found a great pun “Afro-disiac” to describe sensual African music/atmosphere at a night-club, in a press release to announce the opening night. The colleague said there was no pun in the original French, so my translation shouldn’t contain a pun either. I put the pun back in behind her back and the client was delighted, he even changed the French to have the same pun (since it worked in French too).

              1. Kal*

                That doesn’t sound like nitpicking so much as a difference of opinion. In a lot of situations and with a lot of clients, adding a pun during translation would have gone over badly. I mean, you could call it nitpicky, but by that measure all of translation is nitpicky.

          2. Sharkweek*

            Hmm, if the rest of the office, except for you, was staying late…I doubt the explanation is that all of your childless/free colleagues “didn’t have lives.”

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              While I obviously can’t speak to their office, I have definitely observed that on my team a lot of people seem to work late just for the sake of working late and I find it baffling. We have had some *seriously* rough patches where crazy hours were needed all around but our bosses have been very good about tackling some of the issue behind that (and part of it was due to being short-staffed which we are not anymore). But most of my team seems to just be actively making themselves available after hours and on weekends when there is genuinely no need for that anymore.

              I do not understand or like it, but I have been trying to keep firm boundaries for myself (even though I am actually one of the only ones on my team that *doesn’t* have kids) and so far it has not been an issue and my boss seems fine with it. I am one of only two people on my team who has refused to put Teams on my phone, and often I log in on Monday morning and see there have been some definitely non-urgent exchanges over the weekend. People can be very weird about working late.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                Thank you, yes, this if often the case. For my job, it was mostly pressure from a toxic boss that nobody dared stand up to except me. He placed great value on people staying late, and preferred those who stayed late to those who were productive. There was one other productive employee at one point, who also stood up to him, and he hated her too.
                I can’t understand why a boss would prefer an ineffective employee who has to stay late to get the minimum work done, to an employee who gets almost twice as work done in less time, but as I’ve said before, it’s all about flexing and power moves rather than actually getting work done.

          3. Chirpy*

            When my coworkers with kids all decided they needed flex time to pick up their kids (one legitimately did, single parent, but the other had a stay at home spouse), leaving me alone in the office, they told me I “didn’t have a life” so I didn’t need it. I therefore got stuck working alone every afternoon, and that’s when we always had creepy people coming in/calling. I also wasn’t allowed to leave early when I requested an occasional afternoon, because someone had to make up for all their slack. Because only kids count as “a life”, not anything I wanted to do – and it eventually became their reasoning for them getting to do whatever they wanted and dumping everything on me.
            I suggest you take a long, hard, objective look at how you think about your coworkers without kids.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              I’m sorry you were taken advantage of like that, but please, I don’t need your lecturing. There were occasionally employees with lives in that office, they were mostly pretty productive, and they mostly didn’t stay long, preferring to go freelance and actually reap the benefits of their great productivity by earning more money.
              When you hear colleagues agreeing with each other that “there’s not much to go home to” because their partners worked even later than them, what are you supposed to think? I mean, I had to pick my kids up, and I also had my volunteer work, and I had my yoga classes and my art history classes, and these colleagues didn’t seem to do anything. When I asked them about their weekend they would tell me they did the housework and shopping on Saturday and had tea with their mother on Sunday. Of course, they may have gone to a swingers night on Friday night and preferred not to tell me about that, but from my viewpoint, they didn’t have very much to do at all.

              1. RussianInTexas*

                That really not for you to judge.
                For me, sitting on a couch reading a book IS something to do, and for ME is important as your volunteering, art history classes, and yoga classes.
                You are not the judge of what constitutes a “life” for other people.

              2. Sharkweek*

                It doesn’t sound like you think very highly of your colleagues. Perhaps they sensed this and that is why they didn’t share much about their personal lives with you.

              3. Fikly*

                Your viewpoint isn’t actually relevant here. What is relevant is if they felt they had things to do. Because it’s their lives, not yours.

              4. Puggle*

                Wow. I’d argue that you do need a lecture. A lecture that you are not more worthy or special because you have children, do volunteer work, go to yoga classes or art history. I suspect that people don’t share with you what they have done on their weekends because they don’t want the judgement as to how to compares with your life.

      3. Perfectly Particular*

        I think the messaging from HR was off. It totally makes sense to me that your manager could afford to lose 1/5 of a FTE, but not 2/5. The new-mom negotiated and got what she asked – I don’t see this as then becoming a requirement to give the whole team flexibility?

        1. Snow Globe*

          That’s what I was thinking. It sounds to me like the manager was trying to be flexible to the new parent, and then is facing a whole department who want to start working part time, and of course that is going to be a problem – how would the department keep functioning?

        2. Anya Last Nerve*

          I agree. I think HR was awkwardly trying to say they aren’t going to give reduced schedules to people without a compelling reason. The other person who asked didn’t say they need a reduced schedule to take care of an aging parent – sounds like they just want to work less. I don’t see anything wrong with a company being willing to accommodate a new mom so she can continue working (and she just got back from maternity leave so she may be sleep deprived and overwhelmed, so a drop in her productivity is not shocking to me) but not wanting to hand out reduced schedules to everyone for no reason at all.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            If enough people are on a reduced schedule they can hire an extra person to take up the slack?

            I really don’t see why only parents or carers should be allowed to have part-time work. It’s been proven time and again that the fewer hours people put in, the happier they are. Why shouldn’t the company seek to have happy employees?

            But of course, it’s never really about getting the work done, it’s about flexing and power moves isn’t it.

            1. Cmdrshpard*

              But it is not always simple math that 5 FTE costs that same as as 6 employees at .83 part time. There are certain fixed costs with each additional employees, equipment, office space, payroll processing costs. Straight pay may equal to the same amount, but benefits do not always reduce perfectly proportional. If the benefit cost for 5 employees is $100 per check, for 6 employees it might actually end up being $105 or $110.

              1. Glomarization, Esq.*

                Thank you. I’ve seen it more than a few times in this comment section where people don’t seem to understand that a company’s cost per employee isn’t just each employee’s salary.

              2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                Sure, I get that. But compared to a team of five staff members staying for an average of 18 months, after getting disgruntled over not being allowed to work part-time, surely it’s better to have six staff members who stay for ages because they really love the perk of working less than full time?
                I don’t know about elsewhere but here in France, part-time workers don’t have to be paid as much as full-time.
                There are companies where hardly anyone works full-time – supermarkets are notorious for this, because they get away with paying less than minimum wage for their staff. They argue that their cashiers are mostly mothers wanting to earn a bit of pin money, but of course a lot of them would prefer to earn more than that.
                So basically it’s OK for cashiers but not for office employees?
                My BIL is a pharmacist, and he’s at retirement age. He’s bored, he’d like a part-time job, but nobody will hire him part-time. So he takes a job, works for a few months, and stops, travels for a bit, comes back, takes another job etc. I’m sure the people hiring him would prefer him to stay more than a few months, and if only they would entertain the idea of letting him work part-time, they’d benefit from his wealth of experience for much longer.

                1. Cmdrshpard*

                  I not sure what you mean by “part-time workers don’t have to be paid as much as full-time?” I think you mean a part-time employee can be paid less per hour (or salaried equivalent) than a fulltime employee doing the same job? So fulltime person earns $18 an hour times 40 (avg US fulltime) for $720, but a part-time person (doing same work) earns $16 per hour times 20 hours for 320. That I agree is wrong.

                  But if you mean part-time workers don’t get the same fulltime pay and benefits as fulltime workers that makes sense. In my company work pays 100% insurance for fulltime employees, of you work part-time they pay a prorate portion equivalent to what you work. You work 50%, company pays 50% insurance, you work 75% company pays 75% insurance etc… If the 40hr pay is 720, the 50%/20hr pay is $360.

    4. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Additional question based on my own work history:

      Was the reduction in hours accepted with no change to pay because the person’s compensation was out of line with FT/40?

      I negotiated reduced hours ILO them bringing my salary up to the same levels at which the remainder of my department was paid. Didn’t know how to negotiate when I came in, didn’t know the market, and it stuck with me until probably 7 years later when legal reviewed Llama Groomer 2’s job offer letter and compared compensation with mine. Legal had a hairy canary and I got a nearly 50% raise. It still wasn’t equivalent, but it was enough that it wasn’t AS likely to cause an issue. Then I found out why I got the 50% raise and it was still short – so I basically said “I need this figure or reduced hours because you’re paying me 3/4 the salary for all of the hours”.

  3. PollyQ*

    #1 — IANAL or any kind of expert, but a number of states prohibit discrimination based on “familial status” or parenthood. They’re generally designed to prevent discrimination against parents, but I bet some of them are written generically enough that they would also prohibit discrimination against non-parents.

    1. The Seven*

      I thought the same thing too but I could be wrong. Either way, framing it as having or not having children is not good. This was used against me in my current job, pre-pandemic, people with kids were allowed to work from home one day a week, I was not.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        The whole reason we have laws about this is in the old days, employers paid men more than women because “he has to support a family”. :/

    2. Temperance*

      That’s typically for housing, and it’s mostly to protect parents. Not people who aren’t parents.

      1. Dr. Hyphem*

        In fact, I seem to recall reading somewhere that when a case went forward about discrimination against someone’s familial status because they were denied housing on the grounds of not having children, the judge explicitly stated that familial status discrimination is only about protecting parents, it is okay to discriminate on the grounds that someone doesn’t have children. (I believe the context, which *may* make a difference was that it was for “family housing” on a university campus, and the plaintiff was married with no kids and trying to get into family housing on the grounds that they were a married couple)

    1. Observer*

      maybe she didn’t use all her FMLA and using it intermittently 8 hours/week?

      You mean that only parents can take FMLA? If that’s what HR thinks they are incompetent, since FMLA explicitly also covers spouses and parents.

      1. Amy*

        But you do need to have a reasonable need to care for the spouse or parent to qualify for unpaid FMLA

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Or a medical condition, which makes me think that’s what HR was trying to communicate.

          Could have been worded more eloquently but the base message is correct.

        2. Observer*

          But you do need to have a reasonable need to care for the spouse or parent to qualify for unpaid FMLA

          No different than for a child. FMLA is not about covering standard child care. And HR did not say “dependents” but “a medical reason unless you have kids.”

          1. SMurphyNOLA*

            Not exactly. FMLA can be used any time in the first year after the birth or adoption of a child. There doesn’t need to be an additional medical condition. It doesn’t have to start immediately after birth. It can be taken intermittently if the employer agrees. After the first year after birth or adoption then there does have to be a medical reason to care for the child.

    2. June Twenty OP#1*

      Thanks for your thoughts!! But sadly, no, she is working and getting paid for 32 hours. We don’t care that she’s working 32, TBH, the issue is the other person asking and getting told no for unclear reasons. The dumping work on others is the icing on the cake and now everyone else is in a rage and angry about the situation. If everyone had the option for flexible schedules/hours like this, morale wouldn’t be so poor.

      1. Peachtree*

        So, she’s leaving early because she’s working her 32 hours? Or is she not doing her 32 hours? Because if she’s working 32 hours and then leaving on time … that’s something that you all need to stop worrying about, tbh. She is doing her contracted hours and the issues are with management not assigning work properly!

        1. June Twenty OP#1*

          Nope, not doing 32 hrs and asking others to cover work. The staff wouldn’t care if they didn’t have to cover work for this person.

          1. Ewing46*

            It sounds like your coworker has had her hours reduced, but her workload has not changed and her manager has put it on her to “figure it out”. That’s poor management, that’s not on your coworker.

            1. Venus*

              You are making an assumption that the coworker is a hard worker. It would be a problem from the coworker if they were using their reduced schedule as an excuse to work much less than 32 hours and expecting others to do that work.

            2. baseballfan*

              I didn’t get that at all. My understanding is that the hours, pay and workload have all changed proportionally, and this person is not completing her current (updated) share of the work.

            3. Anon all day*

              There is no support for this view other than the bias that an employee can do no wrong and everything is the employers fault. The literal comment you’re replying to FROM THE OP states that the coworker is t even working the full 32 hours.

              1. KRM*

                There’s 2 issues here. 1-is the employee being given the same workload for 32 hours as for 40? and 2-why is management not speaking to her about leaving early and leaving work undone? These two things may go together, but it’s on management to sit down with the employee and figure out what’s happening and how to fix it so that work isn’t being offloaded onto others (not without their buy-in, for sure).

          2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Would there be penalties to all of the department if you all just told her “sorry, too many tasks currently on my workload, I can’t add that to the list”? If everyone refused to take on the extra work when she doesn’t even put in the 32 hours she agreed to what would happen?

            And honestly, where is the manager in all of this?

      2. SMurphyNOLA*

        FMLA is not required to be paid. So her being unpaid for the hours she’s not working isn’t an indication that it’s not intermittent leave that’s protected under FMLA. FMLA for the birth or adoption of a child can be taken any time in the first year, though employers are not *required* to allow someone to take it intermittently and this may be where some of the “must have kids” thing is coming into play because it is specifically the act of having or adopting a child that triggers this one year timeframe (as opposed to generally having to take the leave immediately following a qualifying event or having an ongoing medical issue for yourself, spouse or dependent that requires intermittent leave).

        I’d check back with HR to clarify if they mean children or dependents, as mentioned by Allison. Also, people seem to be ignoring the “or a medical reason” as another reason for reduction in hours.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          I agree. A 20% reduction in time (even with subsequent pay cut) may be required to reach a threshold of need because of the hardship of having multiple people on reduced schedules. That might mean it follows FMLA standards, or there’s another internal metric. But I’m reading OPs take as “one person got it so it should be available to everyone” and HR is saying “parent or medical reason” because being a parent isn’t inherently medical – so they are trying to communicate “family and medical” which is the entire basis of FMLA. Again they botched the explanation there but having such a threshold in place is not inherently unequal distribution.

          1. ALLCAPSRESUME*

            I think this is a two separate issue thing and needs to be seen as one.

            The first issue is the idea the reduced schedule discriminates against non-parents when that does not seem to be the case. I think HR did a poor job of communicating the benefit and threshold for the benefit, but I think they probably mean “about the same threshold as FMLA” for determining is someone is eligible for a reduced schedule. I think it’s key that this person isn’t just a parent, but someone who just came off of maternity leave. If they are in the US this means they probably gave birth less than 12 weeks ago and could easily still be experiencing postpartum medical side effects or physically healing from giving birth. HR dropped the ball here because a paid temporarily reduced schedule as an accommodation is an incredible perk. Or even just allowing someone to drop the PTE and keep their benefits. So the reason the other person gave for wanting a reduced schedule really does matter here. If HR/the company are onboard with providing reduced hours as an accommodation, they really need to clarify and codify the policy. First, it kills the abstract notion of “parents” getting favorable treatment and second it could be an incredible selling point to people who are considering joining the company.

            The second issue is this person pushing work onto coworkers in a way that suggests they are not working the full agreed reduced hours. That is a management issue. Either management needs to evaluate their performance or the team needs to formally reassign work duties.

    3. Vistaloopy*

      Came here to say exactly this. And if she is using FMLA, then what HR said about needing to have children or a medical issue for this particular benefit is exactly right.

      1. Sotired*

        No, still wrong. HR said need to have children. That may or may not qualify for FMLA and other things do to. If true, HR really blew it

        1. Clisby*

          The OP explicitly said: “Our HR representative said that my team member needed to have children OR A MEDICAL REASON to be eligible for an adjustment in hours. “

      2. Nynaeve*

        Even if she’s not using FMLA specifically, a reduction in hours and associated pay can be offered as a reasonable accommodation. If the company allows RA requests for lack of childcare, for example, that’s actually a pretty progressive, good thing. And presumably temporary. If the baby is new, she could be on waiting lists for daycares, or at the very outside edge, eventually the child will enter Primary School and the need for reduced hours will resolve itself.

  4. Rrr*

    Serious question – how do you actually simply stop picking up somebody else’s work? Because I’ve found that once you do something to “help out,” by choice or not, that’s it. I would like to avoid this in my next job, but without being seen as a jerk. Also, very importantly, without refusing to do what a manager says, which is cause for firing usually. I don’t mind “helping out” if that’s where it stops, but it never does and the “help” is never returned.

    1. SwiftSunrise*

      You can try saying something like “I’m can take on co-worker’s tasks A, B, and C, but that means I won’t have time to also do my own tasks of X, Y, and Z – how would like me to prioritize?”

      You’re not outright refusing, you’re just making the case that you don’t actually have the time to do everything, so something has to give.

      1. Beth*

        This is what I’ve done. Assuming that of course your manager isn’t asking you to work more hours allows you to respond with “Of course I’d be glad to help out! I can fit that into my workload if I pause work on either A or B for the moment–what do you think the best option is?”

        If they’re trying to tell you to work more hours for the same pay, they can spell that out. It’s often easier to push back on requests to work extra hours when they’re explicit–you have plans in the evenings, you have dependents you need to get home to, you can ask your spouse to chip in extra this week so you can help through the crunch period but you can’t take it on long term, etc.

        1. Smithy*

          I will add to this – if you respond with these very reasonable and concise options, and the response back is vague, angry or unhelpful – then that also tells you a lot.

          Putting aside the angry reaction – if a supervisor’s response to the statement “Happy to help out, but that means currently pausing A or B – what do you think is best option?” And the response back is a question or something noncommittal like “What do you think a good team player would do?’ – I think this starts to give insights on weakness in your manager or undesirable expectations your manager may have.

          If it’s more of a weakness, then that requires more managing up where instead of asking a genuine question you basically have to present your proposal “Happy to help out this week. It will mean I need to pause my current work on B, and if starting next week more help is needed – we’ll need to further revaluate my workload.” If it’s more a case of undesired expectations (or bring back an angry response to posing any questions when asked to help out), then it may be clear there are expectations around long hours/stretched thin workloads regardless of bandwidth or burnout.

          I say all of this because if you presented normal push back to helping at a former workplace and received any of the above negative responses – it doesn’t mean the pushback is wrong. Just that problematic workplaces or managers can respond poorly. And how poorly is just an indication of them.

          1. ferrina*

            Agree totally. I’ve had a couple unreasonable managers who would shove as much work as possible on me- whether or not it was feasible (they also denied my requisition request for a Time Turner). Their logic was always wishy-washy; “be a team player”, “why are you complaining? It’s not that much?” or my favorite “I could do this in half the time, but it’s not my job” (I asked them to show me how to do it faster, then they suddenly changed the subject). These are people who just don’t care if they burn you out or if you have a stress-related heart attack, as long as they don’t have to deal with actually managing.

            1. Smithy*

              Absolutely. I bring up the vague, weak and bad responses not to be pessimistic about the response Rrr or the OP might receive, but rather sometimes when we’ve had bad reactions in the past – we can blame ourselves for not phrasing things “perfectly”.

              If we had the perfect words, then we would have received a helpful or better answer. But because of a fault with what we said, then that’s why the response was negative. And that is 100% not true. An inexperienced or weak manager may not give a great response – but trying again with more direct managing up may result in those positive desired boundaries. Not that this manager would be all time awesome, but that’s far different from someone with unrealistic expectations or who reacts with anger.

              A mediocre response doesn’t immediately mean a place is on fire. But again, see this as information around how to try again. And if the responses do hit that “on fire” reaction – again, it’s information. Is it information that you need to quit without a new job or just start looking until the right opportunity emerges – that can also be a range.

          2. noncommittal pseudonym*

            My least favorite manager, when I said I was slammed and really couldn’t take on managing one more project because my flaky colleague had dropped the ball again, responded, “Well, you know, Noncommittal, there’s always the weekend.”

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              My response probably would have been a very curt “No, there isn’t”.

              Yes, I’ve been the person who did everything and then some. Burned out bad, and got shat on anyway. Nevermore.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      In OP’s situation I would probably push back as a group. I’d probably go in with the question about what is the long term plan for covering the coworker’s reduced hours because the team needs to know when they can get back to ordinary coverage/their own jobs. If the response to that is some version of “I hadn’t even thought about it because you were all working so hard the issues were invisible to me.. so carry on doing that”, then going forward I’d make sure myself and other colleagues just stopped trying to cover the gaps and let management know they were going to have to choose between priority A and priority B because we “don’t have the coverage we used to and need to choose a priority”.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Agreed. I asked above what would happen to the whole group if the all “just had too much work” to pick up the extras coworker wanted them to so she could work less than 32 hours.

        But to echo a lot of other people, when I’ve had reasonable managers pushing back with I can do A or B but not both, which has the higher priority has worked well.

        With unreasonable or unrealistic managers, I don’t really know if anything will work.

    3. BRR*

      I say that I was able to help out on that one occasion but I’m not able to regularly do X on top of my normal workload.

    4. Minerva*

      I had a co-worker who “ask for help” on a particularly tedious but required task, and then I caught them working on their side hustle while I was doing the work they asked me to “help” with.

      They asked for help with the same task the next month and I just gave them the biggest smile and said “I’m really sorry, I had gotten a little ahead last month, I just can’t do this with you regularly. Maybe ask Manager if they can help if you’re still having trouble” Co-worker did not want Manger involved as Manager had already given them a talking to about said side hustle on work hours. Co-worker never asked me for help again on that task.

      So yeah, frame it as “I would help if I could” and make it clear management will get involved if they can’t handle their workload. If you have good management they will take care of it.

    5. anonymous73*

      Be honest. “I’m sorry but I don’t have the bandwidth right now”. If they take that as you being a jerk, then that’s on them. If it becomes an issue then you go to your manager. If it’s your manager piling on the extra work, you tell them what you have on your plate, and then ask them to reprioritize any additional work they try to give to you. “I’m currently working on A, B and C. If I add D, how would you like me to reprioritize my current tasks?” I’ve always been a team player, and will help out in any way I can, IF I can.

    6. Mockingjay*

      Or, redirect all requests to manager. “Sorry, you’ll have to run that by manager. But I can tell you I’ve already got a full load myself.” And if manager asks you to help out, you don’t have to offer prioritization. It’s okay to tell your manager that “I’m on a roll/at critical points with A and B and I’d really like to finish them.” It’s a conversation about workload, which includes who is the best suited to help out. You might be the convenient choice (the first person a coworker approaches), but that doesn’t mean you are the right choice for a task.

      And if you see a pattern of frequent requests, that’s something else you can bring to your manager. “Hey, I/we’ve had a lot of team coverage requests lately. Can we get the team together and brainstorm how to manage these requests consistently?” Make it about business functions instead of personal annoyance – “Boss, how do we keep things rolling when people are out? If we’re cross-trained in essential tasks, any of us can help out without being overloaded.” Spread the coverage load.

    7. Important Moi*

      Serious reply, you have to know the environment, the project and what political capital you have.

      I ‘ve just not done the project and when asked said “I thought that was Rrr’s responsibility.” End of conversation. Sometimes the work gets done (by someone other than me) or the project just disappears. No damage to me.

    8. Beth*

      One approach I’ve taken has been along the lines of replying “I’m really swamped today. I’ll see if I can get to it after I’ve finished my current work” — which, of course, does not happen.

    9. Purple Cat*

      it depends on who’s asking you to pick up the work.
      If it’s a co-worker saying “can you help me out?” You can say, “No, sorry I have too much on my plate right now. Ask Manager, I’m sure they’ll help you allocate.”
      If it’s your manager, you can say “I was focusing on A, B, C, if I take on D, something else has to drop off. What would you like to prioritize?”

      1. Unaccountably*

        This would be my recommendation.

        Also, especially if you’re new or very busy, let them know they need to clear it with your manager! I’ve had to lay down the law more than once about other departments asking my directs to help out somewhere and expecting their task to take priority over the work I assigned. Also, new reports have not always had the best perspective on what work it’s okay for them to take on and what work they should not touch with a ten-foot pole for reasons of workload/regulations/legal liability/people who are jerks.

    10. Florida Fan 15*

      I think it’s very hard if your goal is for the other person to be okay with you saying no. It’s totally normal to want others to think well of us and to respond how we’d like, we all do it. But if that’s the priority then you’ve already doomed yourself to failure because you’ve tied success to something you have no control over.

      How another person responds is up to them. Of course you do what you can to get a positive response (because it’s the right thing to do) by being polite and kind. But they can choose to respond negatively no matter what you do. All you can do is shift your perspective — you know what a jerk looks like to you, and you don’t be one. If you do what you think is right, as politely and kindly as you can but without backtracking if they don’t like it, and they think you’re a jerk, too bad. What matters is what you think of yourself, not what they think of you.

  5. AnoninCan*

    At my workplace (public sector job in Canada), any employee returning from extended sick leave, including maternity, can make a progressive return at 3 or 4 days per week for up to a year. It’s mostly new moms who use it but I’ve also seen it used by people recovering from chemo or surgery, people who come back to work after a burnout etc. The pay is calculated accordingly.

    1. Iyana*

      Ugh I am jealous of this! Currently on maternity leave, want to return at 4 days/week, but when I left for leave employer told me it wasn’t an option. (Though I’m hearing from colleagues that things are… a bit of a mess in my absence so maybe they’ll change their minds?)

    2. londonedit*

      In the UK everyone – regardless of whether they’re a parent or carer or not – has the right to request flexible working. Of course, we only have the right to *request* it; if there’s a business reason to deny it then the employer can deny it, but you still have the right to request it. In my industry there are a lot of people who come back after maternity leave (which is usually 9 months to a year here) and go down to a 3- or 4-day week – of course their pay and holiday is pro-rated, but it’s a very common thing for people to do.

      1. Riley and Jonesy*

        Can confirm. I only ever worked 3 days after the kids were born in the early years. Now back up to 4 days and never ever doing 5 days again. It’s the same for most of my colleagues so it cuts out on resentment about not pulling your weight.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        That’s interesting. Ireland has introduce that exact right recently, since the pandemic and I was wondering if other countries were doing similar. Sound like ye’ve had it for a while. I didn’t know that. They are still debating here what are valid reasons to turn it down; some people are calling for the government to restrict those further.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          It’s existed for a long time – my eldest is 14, I made use of it when returning from maternity leave, and it wasn’t new then.

          IIRC you’re allowed to request at any time, so long as you haven’t made a request in the previous year. They can say no, but they have to make a business case in writing. So for example they might point out that your role is needed every morning at 9am, and accept a 0.8 that’s reduced hours five days a week but reject 0.8 that’s full days four days a week.

          I made a further request a year or so later, to adjust my hours from 0.6 to 0.8, and was denied on the grounds that there wasn’t sufficient work to do. My overspilling inbox and excess hours on the flexi clock disagreed but never mind. I resigned, and was replaced by a full timer.

          What’s significant for LW3 is that I applied for a full time post, and negotiated to 0.8 once I had their offer. I think 0.5 would have been too much of an ask, but 0.8 was a good fit for the wider department.

          I’ll also remark that when you work 0.8 you are meant to be assigned 80% of a normal workload, but typically attract 100% of the low level admin that any job needs such as weeding through unimportant emails. So you’re squeezing your actual job into slightly less time pro rata than your 1.0 coworkers. I believe LW1 that their part-time coworker isn’t working their 32 hours (and the unfairness is clearly wrong), but it’s worth noting that you can’t necessarily do 80% of a job in 80% of the time.

        2. Bagpuss*

          Yes, when they first introduced a statutory right to request flexible working, in 2003, it was for parents and carers, then it was extended to enable anyone to make the request.

          There are specifc reasons why an employer can reject the request –
          – extra costs that will damage the business
          – the work cannot be reorganised among other staff
          – people cannot be recruited to do the work
          – flexible working will affect quality and performance
          – the business will not be able to meet customer demand
          – there’s a lack of work to do during the proposed working times
          – the business is planning changes to the workforce

          Its also open to the employer to offer alternatives -for instance, we have a lot of people who work part time (in many cases having requested it when they return from maternity leave) and I know that we have on ocassion had to say we can’t accommodate the exact request – for instance we can agree the reduction in hours but it hasn’t always been possibl to agree the exact arrangement they want (for instnace, if there are alreayd seveeral people on part time hours woking in a role which needs a minimal level of coverage, we might say we can agree (say) the request to drop from full time to a four day week, but may not be able to agree to the non-working day being Monday if there are already multiple peoplewho don’t work Mondays, but we can agree to a different day in the week – whic hwould fall under the ‘custmer demand’ and ‘inability to reorganise work’ reasons for refusal.

          While most of the people who have mnade requests have been parents doing so to care for chilnre, we have also had staff members make requests as a gradual lead in to retirement and for reasons related to their own health – we had one member of staff who had MS and requested shorter hours so moved to a 10-4 day and later, to a 3 day week as well.

      3. Emmy Noether*

        Germany has that too! Can only be refused by giving a concrete business reason (I’m not sure what counts though). They also recently introduced an option to request it as temporary from the start, with the agreement to go back to full time after X years, so that people don’t get trapped into part time permanently.

        1. Snow Globe*

          Regarding “concrete business reason” – in the OP’s situation, one person requesting a limited schedule might be doable, but 2 or 3 in a department of say, 5-6 people might not be. That could lead to the described situation where the first person who asks gets a flexible schedule, then other people ask and can’t be accommodated.

    3. Asenath*

      In my former workplace, also in Canada, a friend in another role cut her hours (to 4 days a week, I think) when her child was born. She liked the new schedule so much she’s still on it, and the child is an adult. But she’s also getting her benefits and pay reduced accordingly, and I doubt very much if she’s leaving early by her official schedule or expecting others to do her work, as in the case here, or if her employer didn’t officially assign the work she no longer has time to do to someone else.

    4. Been There*

      I know in my country (Belgium) it’s obligatory to come back part time after extended sick leave. Depending how long you’ve been absent, you would start back at 50 or 80%.

        1. Bagpuss*

          I’m not in Belgium but I ssume that it is to allow people to resume gradually rather than trying to come back full time and then having a relapse , and to make it harder for employers to discriminate against anyone who might need / request a phased return or be unable to resume full time work straight away. It may also allow people to return to work earlier, without having a negative impact on their health, which in turn may have positive benefits for the employer as there will be less in the way of re-familiarisation, retraining etc as the person won’t have been out ofthe workplace for as long.

          Here (UK) it’s not compulsory but is quite common where someone has been off long term due to illness as often, you may be well enough to do some work but not necessarily jump straight to full time hours . It’s often something that would be discussed as part of the return to work planning.
          we’ve definitely hasd people do a phased return after having been off for cancer treatment, for example

        2. pancakes*

          I’m looking at Belgian policy around this and not seeing that a part-time schedule is obligatory after an absence, but maybe I’m looking at the wrong thing.

          “Leave to care for a seriously ill member of your family or household: you can suspend your employment contract or reduce your working hours by 20% or 50% for between 12 and 24 months to care for a member of your family or household suffering from a serious illness. This leave is only available in three-month blocks.”

          On personal sick leave, there is this:

          “Workers are obliged to join a mutual benefit society or the Caisse auxiliaire d’Assurance Maladie-Invalidité (auxiliary illness and disability insurance fund). Based on your monthly or three-monthly contributions your mutual helps pay various medical expenses (such as medication, doctor’s visits, hospitalisation, antenatal care) and reimburses you in the event of illness or disability. You are free to choose which mutual you join.”

          The latter is followed by a list / links to various mutuals. Maybe it is some of those that require / have negotiated a part-time schedule?

    5. SMurphyNOLA*

      This is also something that is sometimes negotiated in US workplaces as well. I’ve had several friends who have been able to return from maternity leave at a reduced schedule that eventually went back to full time.

      1. A Simple Narwhal*

        I’m in the US and after my maternity leave the company policy is that I can come back at 60% hours at full time pay for the first 4 weeks. I know this is a rarity (alongside the fully paid maternity leave), but I’m very appreciative of it.

    6. D*

      I work at a US company and we have the same allowance for people returning from maternity leave. I am curious if the 32h is a permanent change or something that allows a gradual return. Still should have been clearly explained, but the gradual return seems less unfair to me.

  6. AnneMoliviaColemuff*

    I’m assuming OP #1 is in the States, but in Australia a lot of employers are required to offer flexible work to parents and caregivers. Maybe the employer has a policy in place for a few specific reasons, but hasn’t communicated it well.

    If that’s the case, it seems like the policy is the real problem here, and OP might want to reframe internally to make sure they’re not taking resentment on on the part-timer – they’re not “leaving early”, they’re leaving when their shift ends.

    1. June Twenty OP#1*

      We wouldn’t care about the leaving early, TBH, if the work was done and not given to others and “policies” (almost everything is verbal, sadly) were applied evenly.

      1. SarahKay*

        Is the work not getting done because there’s too much for a 32 hour week, or are you also saying that your 32-hour head isn’t even doing a proportionate share of the work? I mean, either way, it should be something your manager is dealing with, but the answer would presumably change how you approach management about the issue.

          1. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and out fell out*

            I would focus on that, then, when you talk to your manager about the situation. Leave the discontent about who is and isn’t approved for 32 hours out of it; depending on the exact wording and your location, that may be legal (or not).

          2. Claire*

            One thing to note is that almost everyone goes through more and less productive times at work, and just after returning from parental leave is a common less productive time as people adapt and adjust. It’s still a coverage problem that should be fixed by management.

            1. Anya Last Nerve*

              I’m starting to feel bad for this poor woman who just came back from probably a short 12 week maternity leave and now has her coworkers piling on her for not being as productive as before. If she had just come back from chemotherapy treatment, would everyone be fussing that she gets to work reduced hours and isn’t at 100% yet? If you are mad at the messaging on the reduced hours, address that with your management but try to have some grace for this woman.

              1. Tuckerman*

                Yeah, and I’m wondering if maybe the reduced schedule is an ADA accommodation. Post partum depression/anxiety, physical injury from giving birth. Any number of things could be occurring.

              2. Emily*

                Yeah. It makes me grateful that when my manager allowed me to WFH after I had a baby, even though no one else was, my coworkers were never anything but gracious about it.

              3. Anonymous Koala*

                Agreed – expecting an instant return to previous productivity levels from a new mom is a bit unfair. But I also understand why OP and her colleagues don’t want to be piled with extra work. This is 100% something to put back on your manager, OP – if the work’s not getting done, it’s on your manager to decide if/when/how it gets done, not on your PT colleague or you.

              4. starfox*

                As the non-parent at my job who is often having to pick up the slack, I disagree. She is getting paid to do 32 hours of work, which she is not doing. Others are having to do her work on top of their own for no extra pay. Having reduced hours is already an accommodation that others don’t get. It’s entirely unfair that they also have to do her work….

                1. My Useless 2 Cents*

                  Also no kids. I agree it should not be up to the childless or other coworkers at all to make up for the reduced hours. Especially if the coworkers are having to stay late to keep up. This is a management problem and it needs to fall on management. Yes, talk to manager (as a group if possible) but also stop bending over backward to make sure all the work gets done. Don’t refuse to help out but don’t prioritize 32hrWorker’s unfinished tasks over your own. When tasks stop getting done, manager can figure it out and take appropriate action (which may not be make 32hrWorker work more but could involve getting temporary help or even hiring another person depending on a true evaluation of workload).

                  I know it is hard as they are the visible “cause” of the problem but see if there is any way you can mentally reframe this as a management problem. There are many reasons and causes that could lead to a coworker to not being as productive as the normally are/should be. That shouldn’t cause long-term effects on coworkers. Something along the lines of “Coworker must be so sleep-deprived with the little one, it’s no wonder she can’t produce as much work as normal. Management is really dropping the ball on making sure we are staffed appropriately to get all this work done.”

          3. SarahKay*

            Ohh, okay, that’s not good. Is there scope for you to just ignore the work that she should be doing, to highlight to management the issue?

          4. ThatGuy*

            I think you should consider the following: in our lives we are all going to have periods of hardship when we feel feel poorly and are less productive. We are part of communities in which we give more during times that we feel well and take more during the times that we feel poorly. Over our lifetimes it tends to even out.

            Your coworker is likely exhausted and may be experiencing physical health problems related to the pregnancy. That is probably causing her to be less productive despite her best efforts. There will be times in your own life where something happens (cancer, back surgery, mental health crisis, etc) and you are less productive and need grace. So you might consider being more empathetic and less judgmental now.

            If you truly can’t manage the increased workload, you should talk with your manager about redistributing the work. But I think the judgment to your coworker and the emphasis on the unfairness is not a good look.

      2. River Otter*

        Full disclosure: I once took a reduced work week bc I just didn’t like my job and didn’t want to be there for 40 hours (it rocked). I have no dependents and no disabilities. I’m actually about to argue that people like me aren’t necessarily entitled to reduced work weeks just bc other people get them.

        About policies being applied evenly, could we consider equal vs. equitable? I agree that people in any caregiver role should be eligible, but I don’t see restricting reduced work weeks to people with medical needs or dependent care needs as inherently unfair. If a company has a need for full time people, it doesn’t make sense to hire part time people or to change existing roles to part time roles. That’s why the answer to Letter 3 is not to apply to full time roles if what they want is a part time role. Giving flexibility to people with increased need is equitable even if it’s not equal. I see this as the equivalent of parental leave or FMLA leave. People are only eligible for those types of leave when they have a specific set of circumstances, not just bc they want several weeks off bc not working is better than working. That’s equitable even if it’s not equal.

        I recommend you focus on the burden to you of your coworker leaving before her 8 hours are up. Has anyone spoken to your manager about this yet? If you haven’t, that should be your next step. Lay out the situation and the impact to you factually, without resentment, and ask how they want you to handle it when your coworker leaves early and her work is not finished. This may have to be a series of ongoing conversations, not a one and done.

  7. Jonquil*

    Under Australian law there are certain types of workers who, if they request part-time or flexible work their request must be considered, and if rejected, the employer must give a legitimate business reason for doing so. Those protected types include parents of school age and younger children, carers, a disabled person or a worker older than 55 plus you need to have worked there for over 12 months. Good employers will look at a legitimate request for part time work from anyone, but in reality, it’s often only those in the specified types who ever ask, and it’s very baked in culturally. So, it’s probably best to check your relevant local employment laws. It’s very likely that there is a similar clause where you live.

    That said, sounds like there might be some other issues at play here. I can’t imagine begrudging a new parent a bit of extra flexibility in the first months and years back at work. Until it happens to you, it’s hard to understand just how hard maternity leave and its aftermath is (especially the first time). It sounds like your employer might not be the greatest in terms of any type of flexibility for anyone, and that workloads are already overburdened, and so this particular case is grating on you all.

    1. Seeking second childhood*

      Between this & the previous comment about Canadian law, it sounds like country would be useful info.

  8. Bowserkitty*

    Question on OP#4:

    I drove 60 miles for a dentist appointment that could’ve been four miles had I been allowed to work from home but they told me I should’ve just eaten into my limited sick leave.

    Am I just brain dead right now? I’m trying to understand this.

    1. Dar*

      home is right beside the dentist, the office is sixty miles away from home and the local dentist.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      Dentist is 2 miles from home, office is 30 miles from dentist. So if they had worked from home that day, they could have just taken a quick break to go to the dentist (4 miles round trip). Instead, they had to go to the office and take a longer break to go to the dentist (60 miles round trip) and come back. When they complained, they were told they should’ve just taken a sick day for the dentist appointment, which they didn’t want to do.

      1. Loulou*

        I’m sympathetic to OP’s situation otherwise, but I would really urge them to not specifically mention the dentist thing, which elicited a “cry me a river” frim me. Like everyone else I know, I choose doctors who are located near my office so I can travel between there and work during the workday. And going to the doctor is a perfectly reasonable use of sick time.

        1. Meow*

          This is really unkind. There’s a lot of reasons why people wouldn’t choose a doctor near their work. First of all, OP just started this job and may not be wanting to switch providers or haven’t had a chance to do so yet but still needed care. She also reasonably thought her office was going to be her home some days and may have planned to go to appointments those days. Also, there have been times where I’ve been in the middle of treatment for something and I don’t want to switch providers in the middle, another possibility OP may be facing. Most professional roles I’ve had a lot employees to flex their time or just go to appointments without using sick time or PTO.

        2. Workerbee*

          Wasting a sick day or PTO hours for a relatively quick appointment (around which reasonable managers would let you make up the time, if it needed to be made up), is a practice that should be stomped on, including dragging the poor person into the office before and after that appointment when their work could be done from home.

          I choose doctors who provide the care I need, not based on proximity to a workplace.

        3. turquoisecow*

          …and then when you change jobs you change doctors? Makes much more sense to have a doctor near where you live.

          1. pancakes*

            People’s doctors will be of varied convenience for varied reasons. The real issue is that in the US their work leave and schedule flexibility will often be inadequate, and/or sharply tilted toward their employer’s convenience.

          2. Nina*

            Due to the housing market in my general area being chaotic at best, most of the people I work with have moved house about twice as often as they’ve changed job in the last decade. I have a doctor near where I work, because the actual location of my workplace is likely to be roughly twice as stable as the location of my home.

        4. Unaccountably*

          I chose doctors who were close to my work too. I’m now having to choose new ones because I’m only in the office three days instead of five and it’s much more convenient to have them near home. If I leave my current job but don’t move, I’d still have to choose between finding new doctors and driving to doctors half an hour away; if I transition jobs every 2-3 years like the average person does, that will mean finding new doctors every 2-3 years as well. Choosing doctors close to your office is nothing like the guaranteed convenience you’re painting it as.

          Also, I get five days a year of sick time. I get much more generous vacation and personal time, but if I have to use all my sick days for routine doctors’ visits because I need a checkup or to have my teeth cleaned, I now have to use my vacation time when I actually, you know, get sick. That’s not really a good solution either.

          So your way is great for a healthy-as-a-horse person who knows they’ll be working at the same job, at the same location, for the foreseeable future. I’d invite you to consider how much (or how little) of the workforce really exists inside those parameters, especially post-COVID. It’s a very old-fashioned viewpoint.

        5. I'm just here for the cats!*

          That is unkind and not realistic. Not everyone has the ability to choose dentists or doctors who are near your office. For one, you have to go where your insurance is taken. What are you supposed to do change your dentist or doctor every time you get a new job? If you change your dentist there can be a long wait to get into a new place. For example, there can be 6-month wait list for certain dentist offices in my area. Unless my insurance is no longer accepted, I’m not changing my doctor or dentist.

          Also, there might not be anything near the office. The place where I interned at is located in the industrial area of town. There are no dentists there. It’s going to be at least a 25 minute drive to the nearest place. But if you worked downtown where a lot more business offies are, then it’s only 5 minutes.

        6. Everything Bagel*

          You’d be happy taking an entire day off to go to the dentist? That’s what they were suggesting he should have done, stayed home to go to the dentist and take PTO for it. It used to be great that my doctor office was near work, but since the pandemic I work from home two days a week. During the height of the pandemic when I was working at home full time, I would have to drive an hour and a half round trip to go to my doctor. People choose their doctors for a variety of reasons. Don’t be so judgmental with your Cry Me a River comment.

          1. doreen*

            They did suggest taking PTO – but not necessarily a whole day. I never went to work, left for a doctor/dentist appointment and then returned to work. My doctors and dentist were near home so if I had an fairly quick appointment , I either made the appointment in the morning or late afternoon and took a hour or two of PTO , not the whole day.

            1. Me ... Just Me*

              I guess I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t just make the appointment for first thing in the morning and then head to work after? No extra travel, less lost time. In my experience, most employers assume that you’ll use sick time for appointments

              1. Loulou*

                Right, this is my experience as well. I work 100% in person and people take appointments all over our large city all the time — there are many ways of dealing with it, but it just doesn’t seem like an outrage to have to travel between your office and the doctor, and use medical leave for the appointment + travel time. The larger issue, the remote bait and switch, is significant but this doesn’t strike me as the best example of why.

              2. Cringing 24/7*

                Sometimes getting a specific time of day that you want as opposed to taking soonest available can result in waiting months instead of days or weeks, which just isn’t feasible for many types of (likely) medically necessary procedures. As OP explains further down, this is something they’ve already paid for, so they also can’t choose a different dentist (and since it’s a large, prepaid expense, it’s likely something they’d rather get done sooner than later).

        7. OP LW#4*

          I chose this doctor when I was WFH at my previous employer. I am now in the midst of a $4,000 prepaid treatment that I’d have to pay more for to change doctors.

          I’m sorry I didn’t go into details about my medical circumstance as I thought the focus would be less about “get a new doc” and more about that I had to use a sick day when I wouldn’t normally have to had I been given what I was told I would get.

          But please be aware getting a new doctor isn’t always feasible and isn’t a “cry-me-a-river” situation. There’s people with much different situations than mine who also can’t just switch doctors.

          Also, I think it’s valid to just not want to.

      2. Cmdrshpard*

        WFH messed up my medical appointments. I used to have dentist, eye dr. by the office when we were in the office super convenient to pop out/in during lunch or extended break.

        When we went 100% WFH it was a pain trying to get to them and finding a good new one close to home in middle of pandemic was also a huge pain.

        Now we are hybrid trying to find apt. slots in the 2 or 3 days I am home is still a pain, but no where near having to drive 60 miles to the apt. or having to used limited PTO.

      3. OP LW#4*

        OP here, I have braces and have paid them entirely up front at my dentist that was closer to my previous employer. I would be out the amount that I would have to pay to go to another dentist. I also got braces during COVID (when I entirely WFH at my previous employer). It worked out for me then as the dentist is 2 miles from home so I was able to pop out and go to the dentist super fast. So I could technically choose another dentist but I’d be out whatever money I would need to start at a new dentist with braces.

        I paid $4,000 up-front to go to this dentist so as to save money rather than make the monthly payments (you get a discount to pay up-front). I have dentist appointments once a month due to this and am out of sick leave due to having COVID after getting it from going back to the office. Hope this helps with the explanation.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Yeah, you need to find a new job that doesn’t lie to you about when and where you’ll be working. I would be very annoyed if I took a job that said I could WFH one or two days a week and then they pulled the rug out from under me and said I had to be in the office five days a week. Especially with a 30 mile each way commute. If you can’t WFH one day a week that is actually a pay cut because of commute time and costs.

          Bait and switch is what it’s called. I would also warn other people against a company that promises hybrid but demands 100% in office.

    3. Random Anonymous Person*

      I’m currently in a similar situation to OP#4 – no WFH possibility, and I work an hour away from home. If I schedule an appointment at any time other than first thing in the morning or in the early evening, it would mean 4 hours of driving – to go to work, go to the appointment, go back to work, then go home.

      1. Anya Last Nerve*

        I live 1.5 hours from my office. When I was going in 5 days a week, I would just find dentists, doctors, etc. closer to my office or find providers with Saturday appointments. I am always confused when people act like the only solution to these things is wfh – you can move, change your providers, etc. Not saying that this OP shouldn’t find another job, but I don’t think complaining about her dentist being too far from the office is super compelling.

        1. Lady_Lessa*

          I’m in a similar situation, but sometimes finding doctors who have Saturday or late weekday hours almost impossible.

          1. The Original K.*

            Also people won’t work where they work forever, which means that if they’ve found providers near their jobs and then leave those jobs, they’re faced with having to find new providers. I used to work in an exurb. I only went there for work; I’d never been there before or since (I’d never even heard of it before I started working there). I’d never have used providers there because it’s completely inconvenient now that I no longer work there.

            1. Jora Malli*

              This is why all my doctors are close to my home. A lot of the time in libraries, the only way to get a promotion is to movie buildings, and some libraries will shuffle staff from branch to branch to cover vacancies, so I’ve worked at 6 locations in the last 10 years. I’m not going to switch doctors or dentists every other year, so I choose offices close to home.

          2. quill*

            Also I change jobs more often than I change doctors. If you have any care that has benefits from continuing to see the same provider, you probably already have a doctor you want to stick with regardless of what your job is.

        2. BEC*

          It is when she was told she could WFH some days and presumably didn’t need to change all her medical providers.

          1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

            Yes, and some people have good reason to want to stay with a provider that knows them and their history. I am not signing on to the idea that our own health care should be secondary to our employers’ whims.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*


                There are things it’s hard enough to get medical providers to take seriously (headaches are a common example) that when you find a good team that does prioritize your needs, it’s a huge ask to drop them or change providers.

                1. Unaccountably*

                  This is a good point. Between medical racism and misogyny, the concentration of specialists in certain areas, and the fact that it’s almost impossible to get most doctors to take some symptoms seriously (headaches, fatigue, chronic pain), the idea that doctors are fungible and you can always find one just as good near your work – and if you don’t, you’re just Not Doing It Right – is more than a little ableist.

              2. turquoisecow*

                I moved out of state but kept my GP. In fact, I started seeing her a decade ago and have since moved three times, each time farther away, and I kept seeing her because I really like her and feel like she cares about my health. Would it be easier to pick someone two miles away vs 20, sure, but then I’d have to start all over and I might not like the new person as much.

                1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

                  This was me. I started seeing my previous GP when living about 20 mins away from them and kept seeing them for 10 years after I moved an hour away because they were the first GP I had had who actually listened to me about my health issues. I only stopped when I got pregnant and did not feel up to the drive any longer, and then my GP left the practice so I found a new one.

            1. ferrina*

              Yep. I had an awful time finding a good dentist- several very bad experiences in a row. I finally found a good one, and I refuse to leave her.

            2. Curmudgeon in California*


              Finding a good doctor or dentist is hard. My spouse needs a dentist that does nitrous. Her dentist is 40 miles away but does Saturday hours.

              Unless my insurance changed radically I wouldn’t change my providers based on where I worked. I live in my body 168 hours a week, but I only work 40 hours a week.

        3. anonymous73*

          I did the same thing. But this person was told the job was hybrid and it’s not. You’re focusing on the wrong issue. Any reasonable employer would allow their employee to WFH if it’s feasible for their job based on need. My manager used to allow this BEFORE the pandemic because she wasn’t an asshole. Expecting people to use half a day for a doctor’s appointment when they could easily use an hour or less if they were allowed to WFH is bullshit. If you treat people like humans, you’ll get a lot more out of them – not sure why this is such a hard concept to grasp but clearly many struggle with it.

        4. Anon all day*

          I drive about two hours round trip for one of my doctors, because I’ve moved since I started seeing but I really like her as a doctor. I don’t want to go through the hassle and struggle of finding one equally good.

        5. Ana Gram*

          Yeah, I have a 45ish minute commute and my doctor, dentist, etc. are all near work, not home. It just makes sense to me.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I had that idea a few years ago – anytime I needed to find a new doctor, I’d find one near my office. And it worked great! Until we shut down for Covid, and then never went back into offices, to the point where, one day, we were all told to come get our things by X date, and then the offices were shut down forever. I had a 20-25 mile commute. Luckily, all of the doctors I’d been seeing that were near my office turned out to have other locations too.

        6. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          I don’t think “you have to come into the office every single day when you could just as easily work from home once in a while like we said you could” super compelling myself. I don’t think she should have already organized her entire life around a job she’s had for 4 months.

          1. Someguy*

            I might be willing to accept a job with a longer-than-ideal commute (or further away than otherwise) if I were only doing it a few days a week. If it turned out that the job was never WFH, that might change it from being a very workable plan to requiring a whole bunch of extra effort on my part. (Move? Find new health care providers?)

          2. OP LW#4*

            My other replies explain this but I feel compelled to mention it when I can because I thought the focus would be more on the fact that I thought they’d give me WFH rather than my appointments.

            I prepaid for a braces when I worked from home entirely, so I could get dental surgery. I worked 2 miles (at my house) from the dentist I chose. I made it very clear with the employer I switched to 4 months ago that I was still in the midst of this when I accepted and because they mentioned that the norm for their company is a 2-day WFH hybrid model I assumed I’d get that and be able to finish my treatment. I instead have none and am down to 8 hours of SL for the remainder of the year because I caught COVID in the office. I have to see the dentist once a month to get my braces adjusted so taking SL when I am down to 8 hours will eventually not work out. I also had a tight deadline, during the instance I wrote about, that it just seemed silly to risk the deadline by taking SL when I could’ve worked from home and not taken any SL.

        7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          A good dentist is damn hard to find, and a bad one can do massive damage.

          I was lucky to find one who has two locations that are semi-easily reachable from my office, my old house where I lived before my move last year, and where I live now. But I would absolutely drive to the ends of the earth for a good dentist if I had to.

        8. Dona Florinda*

          But OP was told they could work from home and that’s not happening. Sometimes is just not feasible to find another provider, and especially so when they were promised some flexibility.

          I wrote to Alison I few months ago about a similar problem: was told we could work on a hybrid system, but was denied remote work for a day when I was having a plumber over. I later left that job over this, and was featured on the Friday Good News.

        9. Yorick*

          So, OP has a dentist they like, but now that they have a new job they should have to find a new dentist instead of WFH sometimes, which the new job said they could do anyway??

          1. Loulou*

            I don’t think anyone’s saying that, but it’s pretty normal to have to travel and/or use sick time to get to doctor’s appointments during the workday. It’s not actually a basic right to stay on the clock while walking up the block to your existing dentist. OP is entitled to be annoyed at the bait and switch overall, but focusing on this feels out of touch to me based on how colleagues I know typically handle doctor’s appointments.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              Wrong. They didn’t say they were on the clock for the appointments.

              The difference is taking four hours out of the day and one or two hours. The latter could be a long lunch, the former eats half of the workday, and much more gas.

            2. Ellis Bell*

              It might well be out of touch in certain circles, but definitely not all. In lots of places it would be seen as simply illogical for an employee to waste needless time like that when they could be back at work much sooner another way. Particularly if they’ve already backpedalled on more convenient arrangements.

        10. Loulou*

          Yup, commented before seeing yours. OP will sound completely out of touch if they complain about…having to travel and use sick time to see their preferred dentist during the workday.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            This complaint wouldn’t be out of touch anywhere I’ve worked, OP does not have to go into details, and “I was told this job was hybrid, but it is in fact fulltime in-office” is a valid reason to change jobs.

            I had one job that was a bait-and-switch like that. Was expecting to commute 20 miles downtown (which I was still hesitant to take because of the downtown traffic and parking – hiring manager was on the phone with me for 30 min talking me into accepting his offer), then on my first day at the new job I found out that they’d outsourced me to my boss’s friend’s consulting company and that my commute was actually 65 miles. (And I’d still have to swing by the downtown office sometimes on top of that.) Started looking after two months, after it was confirmed to me that this arrangement was permanent and was not going to change. Walked into a panel interview with the CIO etc and was asked why I was looking so soon. I simply told them about the 20 to 65 miles switch. Everyone in the room gasped. I got the job and worked there for six years. This is something people totally get.

            Also, I might use the dentist thing as an example of the company not having a lot of business sense. OP would’ve missed maybe 15 minutes of their work day commuting to the dentist and back if they’d been allowed to WFH that day. Instead they missed over an hour. Even if they made the time up later, that’s one hour when OP was not available to their coworkers for no good reason. It would say a lot to me about how this company runs things.

          2. OP LW#4*

            This isn’t necessarily my “preferred” dentist. I prepaid for braces that I have to go get taken care of and adjusted once a month. If I chose a different dentist I would be out the prepaid money ($4,000). I was under the impression they were more flexible with WFH so I told them I would have multiple appointments due to extensive dental work I was still in the midst of. I am also on a tight deadline. So it seems silly to me to use SL when I could just not use any time off, make up the hour by working through lunch, and WFH that day.

          3. Jora Malli*

            “Preferred” dentist? Really?

            I could see saying “preferred hair stylist” or “preferred manicurist” or something like that. But the person who has access to your medical records and whose care can have major long term effects on your overall health is not a matter of preference. This dentist is not OP’s “preferred” dentist. The dentist issue is not even OP’s real problem. It’s a symptom and an example of how their employer’s bait and switch has caused them problems.

            And why add “during the workday”? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a dental office that was open at times that are not “the workday.”

        11. Jenn*

          I live in a small town. Good luck finding a dentist/doctor/etc. who has early morning/evening/Saturday appointments. And the very few that do have no availability because those appointments are all booked.

        12. Cmdrshpard*

          I think finding a good provider you trust is hard. I have been with my Dr. now for almost 6 years, I really like her, have developed a good relationship, gotten to know each other (as much as you can in an appropriate medical setting) and she knows/understands my history. When I started going they were super close I could walk to them if needed. I have moved twice now each time slightly further away and stayed with them because I don’t want to go through the hassle of starting over.

          Dr. and other providers can be a trial an error process of finding one you click with, and new patient process can be a major pain/hassle, if you need to switch every 2-5 years when you get a new job, each job move you might need to go through 2-3 Drs. before you find one you like.

          I have had providers near work. I am lucky that a good 70% of my jobs would be in the CBD so I likely wouldn’t have to change, but that might not be true for everyone.

          WFH isn’t the only solution, but if WFH is possible it makes sense to try and use it.

        13. Bagpuss*

          I don’t think it is always the only solution, but it can sometimes be the best one.

          Yes, you can change providers, butthat can be difficult, particuarly if you have complex needs or a specifc reason to nbeed to stick with a particualr provider (which I guess in the US is further complicated by also needing someone who is covered byyour insurance.

          I still see a dentist who is now over 40 minutes drive away for me, because while it would be possible for me to switch to a provider closer to my home or office, I have a deep-seated fear of detinsts due to childhood trauma, and having found one who is patient and understanding of my fears, and who I feel I can trust, I would not change unless forced to do so.

          When I moved house (and offices) I did change my GP becuae while I have a number of underlying medical issues (or possibly even because of that !) I am not nervous about going to the doctor, I’m comfortable advocating for myself if I need to and none of my underlying conditions are unusual or complex enough that I’d be concerned about a new GP not getting to grips with them.

          By contrast, a relative of mine had a lot of complex medical issues which areboth complex and fairly ratre individually, and extremely rare in combination, with a lot of the normal treatments for Condition A being contra-indicated (and potentially life-threatening) due to Condition B. It’s taken a while to get a GP who has got to grips with his conditions and I can’t imagine him being willingto move to a different provider nless there was literally no other option, such as the GP retiring.

        14. Lydia*

          Why should I massively rearrange which providers I see, that I’ve been seeing for almost two decades, because my job lied to me about WFH? That’s not actually a solution. Neither is “just move.”

        15. I'm just here for the cats!*

          She’s not complaining that it is too far from her office. She’s complaining because she was misled, told that the job had WFH options, presumably took the job because of the WFH option and is now unhappy with her job. Especially when she asked for flex time for a specific medical treatment and was brushed off by her boss.

          1. Loulou*

            Exactly — so focus on being misled, not the situation with having to travel between the office and the doctor (which is a pretty standard situation that is only an outrage in this case *because OP was made to believe they could work from home*)

        16. Temperance*

          That doesn’t make sense. What if you need a sick visit? You have to drive the 3 hours round trip while being ill?

    4. OP LW#4*

      I replied this same down below but thought I’d pop it up here too!

      OP here, I have braces and have paid them entirely up front at my dentist that was closer to my previous employer. I would be out the amount that I would have to pay to go to another dentist. I also got braces during COVID (when I entirely WFH at my previous employer). It worked out for me then as the dentist is 2 miles from home so I was able to pop out and go to the dentist super fast. So I could technically choose another dentist but I’d be out whatever money I would need to start at a new dentist with braces.

      I paid $4,000 up-front to go to this dentist so as to save money rather than make the monthly payments (you get a discount to pay up-front). I have dentist appointments once a month due to this and am out of sick leave due to having COVID after getting it from going back to the office. Hope this helps with the explanation.

      1. Lydia*

        Even if that weren’t the case and this was your preferred dentist, your employer lied to you about WFH and you planned based on their lie. You shouldn’t have to justify the healthcare choices you’ve made to a bunch of Internet strangers who think “just change doctors” is actual helpful advice.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        The facts that they have no WFH (and lied to you about it) and that they gave you Covid is plenty reason to look for another job, even after only a few months. Alison’s script is perfect. The fact is, they lied to you, and it is costing you personal time and money.

        “I was told the job was partly remote, but it turns out they don’t want people working from home at all.” is perfectly valid. It calls out the lie, without directly calling out the lie.

        IMO, the lie is as much a reason to leave as the non-suitability of the working conditions.

        For example: My current job is 100% remote. If they suddenly said “Curmudgeon, you have to come into the office twice a week.” I would have to quit. Why? Because I live 100s of miles away from any office, and I’m not moving.

        That’s why I had to bow out of the running for a job that was “remote” (the guy who referred me lived in a different state), but once they found out I was local to the office? “Oh, no, you’d have to come in 3 days a week.” Uh. no. I have an immune compromised housemate and another who is over 70. Apparently remote was only for far away people. At least I found out before I went through with the final interviews and didn’t waste anyone’s time.

  9. Green great dragon*

    There’s no harm in asking about reduced hours. I’ve done it and got an interview, though I’m UK based where I think PT and flexible working is more accepted for professional jobs?

    Logically, work doesn’t naturally arise in 40 hour blocks. You’d expect in about half of non-coverage based roles, either 20h would be enough or 60 hours (ie a FT and a PT) would be better. There are barriers both in company culture (eg you’ve got permission to hire a FT so make the most of it, even if a PT would be enough, because it’s nice to have a bit extra resource and it’s really hard to get permission for extra headcount) and in practice (it’s easier not to have to think about schedules, more management & training is required for two PT than 1 FT).

    But everyone writing those ads – please think before defaulting to FT. Was it a relatively lightly-burdened role, which could be done on fewer hours? Is it a really busy team, with plenty work for a FT and a PT? Can you persuade management to give you a bit of flexibility? Would it be worth it to get the best candidate, rather than the best candidate who wants to work FT?

    1. Miss Millington*

      Yep I got my last part time job by interviewing for a full time job in my specialist area and negotiating my hours down at offer stage. Don’t ask, don’t get and there’s so few part time jobs advertised I just couldn’t limit myself to applying only to them. You have nothing to lose, go for it. And yes employers don’t default to full time! You’re losing out on some good employees who will stick around for a long time if they’re getting the flexibility and work life balance they need.

    2. Seeking second childhood*

      One thing that OP might want to consider is if they know anyone else interested in similar jobs who would consider suggesting job share. I worked somewhere that expressly advertised they would consider hiring two halftime people instead of one FTE. They knew they were looking for a unicorn, so they were willing to split the skillset. One half-time horse with a horn, and one horse with goat legs.

    3. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I just don’t think that flexibility in professional job surrounding FT and PT is a thing in the US. Neither is recognizing that jobs don’t always come in FT chunks. I think it is the opposite in the US. You are not properly committed to the job if you don’t work FT and there are almost never benefits for PT work – which means no health care. It’s a really different culture over here.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        There are certainly employers like that in the UK too. However I find employers with the “prove you are properly committed” attitude are usually best avoided in favour of “get the work done to everyone’s satisfaction without anyone needing to be performative about it” attitudes.

    4. Random Internet Stranger*

      I think a big part of why this doesn’t work in the U.S. is because for many of us, health insurance (and other benefits, but really this is the big one we can’t do without) is tied to full time work. Most employers don’t offer benefits to part timers.

    5. ecnaseener*

      You’d expect in about half of non-coverage based roles, either 20h would be enough or 60 hours (ie a FT and a PT) would be better.

      Where do you get that? I would buy that some significant proportion of teams has an amount of work that’s not a multiple of 40 hours and could use one PT worker for the remainder. (Not sure it’s half.) I don’t see how that translates to half of all individual jobs being wildly far off from 40 hours of work.

      1. Colette*

        And sometimes the role is full time because they actually have 60 hours of work that needs to be done every week, but they also need to have another full-time person to cover illness/vacations/busy periods etc.

      2. Green great dragon*

        Exactly! By considering what the team needs as a whole, rather than just slotting a new person into the existing gap, managers might find they can accommodate a PT role instead of or in addition to a FT, with that actually being a better match for the available work than another FT on their own. By putting flexibility in the job ad, they’ll get a wider pool of candidates, and could end up with better people and a better match to needs all round.

  10. Scaredy Cat*

    #1 I live in Europe, and my country has a something similar policy for returning mothers. Not sure about fathers, since I don’t have kids myself.
    So paid maternity leave can last a maximum of two years, and if the mother returns to work before those 2 years are up, she can apply for reduced hours at the same pay. More specifically, she can work 6 hour days instead of 8 hour ones. But this is a temporary measure, meant to encourage women’s return to the workforce after giving birth. They will eventually have to start working full-time. Unless of course they can negotiate a different deal.

    Could it be possible that, something similar may be the case in your company, and the HR person just didn’t feel like going into too much detail?

    1. amoeba*

      If it’s the same place in Europe that I’m from (which it sounds like) then yes, that applies to fathers as well. Luckily! Would be quite sad and sexist if it didn’t…
      (OT, but the only time only the mother gets is the time right before and after birth, for obvious health reasons.)

  11. Luna*

    LW1 – Dear boss and/or HR rep, whoever came up with that dumb idea.
    Just because not having children is not a legal discrimination clause doesn’t mean it’s okay to do it. And I’m not even opening the can of worms that involves you saying this to someone that might not even be physically able to have children, despite wanting biological ones.

  12. Irish Teacher*

    In relation to LW1, I will say that looking from Ireland, over here there are certainly perks that are available to parents and not non-parents. Parents leave was recently extended from 5 to 7 weeks. This is a leave parents of children can take until the child is up to 2 years old and receive a payment from the govenrment.

    I’m obviously coming from a very different culture but I think my opinion would depend on the second person’s reason. If they had an elderly relative they are caring for or a family member was ill or something, then while I don’t think it’s discrimination to give flexibility for parents and not for carers or people with other responsibilities, I would think it a little unflexible – you don’t fit the criteria/have a need we didn’t think of, so we’re not accommodating it. On the other hand, if she just wanted to work shorter hours, then I think accommodating a need and not a want is reasonable.

    Parent’s leave here is to accommodate things like a child being sick or having appointment or not being able to find childcare. As a non-parent, obviously I don’t have those issues, so I have no reason to need that leave. It’s like bereavements get 3 days off. I don’t think that is discrimination against people who are from smaller families and might only need it once in their career, when people with large families might need it 4 or 5 times.

    Again, I do think this is somewhat cultural. It sounds from this site like US leave is based far more on how much time off can be accommodated and that things like sick leave and so on are seen as somewhat similar to vacation, rather than what the need is.

    I have a colleague who was not physically at work from the first lockdown in March 2020, when we went online until Easter 2022. We were all online, then she got pregnant and worked from home, as people who were pregnant were allowed to, then she had the normal 6 months maternity leave, took a few months extra unpaid and has been part-time since Easter, doing a week on and a week off. She is now pregnant again, so will be out for at least 6 months this year. I don’t see it as the least unfair that she gets that and I don’t. She has a need – to take care of her children – which I don’t. I WOULD see it as unfair if I were being denied my own rights to accommodate her, for example, if I were being told I had to work late to cover her duties when she was out and not being paid for this or if I were being questioned about sick leave or hassled to come back early because they couldn’t afford to have somebody else out, but just that she gets something I don’t need? It wouldn’t even have occurred to me to question that. I was out for a month over an operation. Somebody who didn’t have an operation didn’t get that.

    1. MK*

      There is a difference between legally mandated benefits and employer-provided perks. People might grumble about the first, but they should go to their elected representatives if they want the laws that favour parents to change, it’s not something their employer can do something about. The second is basically your employer applying their family values in the workplace and making an unwarranted judgment on your life choices (that may not even be your choice).

      Also, legal benefits for parents are often a response to falling birth rates. I don’t love it that my parent colleagues get benefits I don’t, but their children will be the ones keeping society running during my old age, so I do have a vested interest in the renewal of the population.

  13. Foley’s Folio*

    In a previous role, I heard very similar complaints to those made by LW1 about mothers returning from maternity leave, and it made a significant impression on me as a junior woman on the team. Yes, if she’s recently returned, she might be leaning more than usual on other employees, but that is a point in time issue that should pass. What’s more concerning is the collective rubbernecking criticism of her hours and work outputs by other employees who aren’t directly in charge of her and don’t even necessarily know the details of the agreement she has with HR, just that she is on post-maternity flexible working. It’s the sort of thing that risks having other women in the workplace look at the reaction and see how even if the workplace tries to be flexible with hours (or in this case, especially if they do), working mothers still face a higher level of scrutiny even from formerly friendly colleagues.

    1. June Twenty OP#1*

      If things were transparent and the same benefits were given to all in the department, or there was a clear policy in place that the staff could refer to, this would be a non-issue. Everyone was fine and trying to be supportive, but it is difficult when others have asked for the same benefits and get shot down. In addition, we are in an environment where some of our responsibilities have life/death implications (I can’t say more than that) so work not getting done or passed off to others has some bigger picture ramifications.

      1. BRR*

        I just wanted to say I’m sorry the comments are focusing more on parental leave policy than addressing your actual questions about a fair, reduced-work hour policy and the resulting workload for others. And that you have had to reiterate the same points multiple times.

        The policy is unfair but from an outsider’s perspective it’s not the hill to die on. For the workload, I would approach your manager as a group and say factually that since your coworker has a new schedule, there needs to be a reevaluation/rebalancing of your team’s workload based on the total amount of hours y’all have.

      2. Anya Last Nerve*

        But why do the others want a reduced schedule? If it’s do no reason other than they just want it, I don’t think your company’s denial is unfair. If they want a reduced schedule because they are also dealing with a health issue or caregiving responsibilities, then that’s a different story. However it seems to me you are saying if your employer is accommodating to a new mom, they have to allow everyone to have those same accommodations, which I think is a losing proposition.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          I think part of the problem is that the company doesn’t have a policy, or isn’t communicating their policy well. What OP1 and coworkers know is that Person A who has children asked for and was granted a 32 hr week and Person B who doesn’t have children asked for and was denied a 32 hr week.

          If someone from management/HR were able to clearly and concisely explain “32 hr weeks will be granted in [cases] and denied in [cases]” that would probably ease some of the resentment. Person B was just told “no” without further explanation and that’s bad for morale.

          1. anonymous73*

            Well they were given the explanation of “because they don’t have children.” Which is BS and the reason everyone is upset about it.

            1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

              It was because they don’t have children or a medical reason, per the LW.

              1. Lydia*

                Look, “don’t have children” as the leading reason is bullshit and trying to throw “medical reason” on top of it is a transparent attempt at HR to not look like assholes. If your only two options are to either have children (not a compelling reason) or develop a medical condition (actually legally required accommodation), then that’s crap. I would recommend the commenters stop focusing on the medical condition caveat since it’s clear that was an attempt by HR to CTA.

          2. ferrina*

            It’s not unreasonable for this to be on a case-by-case basis. There’s all kinds of factors- the role, the current team make-up, performance, duration, precedent, etc. And a lot of those won’t be public knowledge.
            I would also add that “having children” is not the same thing as “being a new mother”. Infants often come with some tough circumstances that older kids don’t. And good childcare can be really hard to find.

            I wonder if the lack of policy would still be an issue if the employee were a strong performer and a team player.

            1. Lydia*

              Probably not, which is fair. If you’re doing well and holding up your end of an agreement, there’s no reason for it to be an issue. This co-worker reduced her schedule and on top of that is still leaving early and foisting unfinished work on her co-workers. She’s not doing what she agreed to do and it not okay for her team to pick that up in addition to what they would have to pick up due to her schedule change.

      3. Colette*

        It sounds like there is a clear policy – parents of young children or people with medical reasons (which may include medical care for someone else) can work part time.

        It’s not a written policy, but that appears to be the policy as HR communicated it.

        I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect that, because someone can work part time, everyone can work part time. (I’d love that policy, but I don’t think many companies will jump to implement it.)

        1. Lydia*

          If their unwritten policy is that if you have children, that is a compelling reason for them to give you a part time schedule, that is 100% bullshit. I actually don’t have children. But you know what? I have hobbies, family, life, that would be nice to spend more time with than working. Having children is not a compelling reason to give one person 32 hours a week and not approve it for other people. That is the point. HR is stating that because this woman has children, she was approved. That’s the problem.

          1. Colette*

            Children (presumably infants or small children) or medical reasons.

            We’d all like more time for our hobbies – but a hobby is not the same as a human who is dependant on you. It’s reasonable for the employer to differentiate between the two.

            1. Lydia*

              Disagree, strongly. I would love to live somewhere that sees the importance of parenthood without it being up to everyone else to make the accommodations. And we’re now in a world where the choice of parenthood is more loaded than it has been in 50 years, but that doesn’t change the fact that the commenters here are asking for a LOT of mental gymnastics to make this situation okay and it’s really not. HR did not word the message poorly; they said exactly what they meant and you’ve just reinforced it. My non-children having life is secondary to someone’s with children.

              1. Colette*

                Your hobbies can be left at home alone, while an infant can’t be. Not making accommodations for new mothers often means that they leave the work force – which is going to be more of an accommodation than them doing 80% of a job for 80% of the pay.

                In this case, the coworker isn’t doing 80% of the work, which is a separate problem than her being allowed to be part time when others with less compelling reasons aren’t.

                1. Colette*

                  To reframe this a bit, if someone is allowed to work 80% of the week because they need 1 day a week for chemo, is it unfair if someone else isn’t allowed to work 80% of the week to work on their hobby?

                2. Lydia*

                  Here’s the thing. We don’t actually know WHY the co-worker asked to adjust her schedule. We just know that they asked if they could and the commenters have filled in the why. Co-worker is taking an entire day off of work. It could be because she doesn’t have care on that one day, or it could be she wants that extra time at home with her kid. Only one of those two possibilities is one that I actually care about and am happy to shrug off. The other one does actually make me a second class citizen and firmly puts me at odds with motherhood because I didn’t make that choice.

      4. Nancy*

        You could ask HR to clarify if taking care of other dependents is a allowable reason. But it isn’t a kids only benefit, since HR stated “or a medical reason” as another reason to get the benefit. I don’t think needing to have a more compelling reason than ‘I want to’ is unreasonable. And I say that as someone who has no kids or any particular interest in anyone’s kids.

        This is a separate issue from the coworker not doing her work.

      5. Unaccountably*

        Have you asked to see a policy? Or asked HR to prepare one if there isn’t one already? It just seems to me that there’s too much you don’t know here and it might or might not be appropriate to pin the blame on your co-worker, but that’s where you immediately went: someone else is getting something I don’t and it’s not fair.

        I get that it’s frustrating when you have to pick up someone else’s slack, but did you have to pick up her slack before this too? If not, could it be that, rather than her suddenly becoming underperforming or unreliable out of a clear blue sky, there’s something going on that she and HR and her boss know about but you don’t get to know?

    2. Marie*

      I totally agree with this. As a new mother who returned to work with a reduced schedule (20% reduction), I totally struggled completing my assignments timely due to the face that I struggled with PPA, lack of reliable childcare due to COVID, and my baby wasn’t sleeping through the night. The OP’s letter shows the problem in America for working parents — 3 months FMLA is absolutely no time to “recover” from labor and return to pre baby work ethic, even with a reduced schedule. This is capitalism pitting worker against worker. This issue is the system (employer, society) needs to provide better supports and services for working families, if the system wants people with families in the workforce.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      If they’re getting the work she’s not doing, it’s not rubbernecking–she is directly involving them. If the workload is too high, she needs to take that to her manager and get it renegotiated rather than foisting it onto coworkers (which I suspect she’s doing because she doesn’t want her manager to know she’s leaving early and not getting her work done).

    4. Canterlot*

      I always feel sick, reading these pile-ons in AAM. I like this community, I feel like a part of it, and then all of the sudden, someone will crack the lid on “how do Americans feel about mothers and motherhood,” and you have that uh oh moment like when you realize there’s a Confederate flag above the bar where you’ve been enjoying a great burger.

      And if you point it out, someone will say, “oh no not you sweetie. You’re one of the good ones.” Or you’ll be tempted to justify things, like “I went back to work after less than four weeks still wearing adult diapers for the clots and bleeding,” or “I took my laptop into the bathroom stall with me so I could work on pump breaks” or other (actually true) stories to prove that you’re a good worker. A good worker. A good producer. A good capitalist cog. You’d never ever ever be weak and selfish and dishonest, like a woman. You live only to increase shareholder value. You don’t have a body. You don’t have a life. You’d die for the man next to you in the trenches of the glorious war to meet the quarterly KPIs.

      But that gets you nowhere, because they don’t believe you anyway, and now you’re a bad mommy too.

      1. Lydia*

        You can always tell what a society actually cares about by looking at where they spend resources and it is really clear in the US we don’t actually care that much about parents. It’s left entirely up to individual companies to have a wonderful, supportive culture and up to co-workers who may have to make their own sacrifices to be supportive. For all the lip service paid to how important parenting is (especially motherhood), we don’t actually pay the cash to support it. I would love nothing more than to never have to think about what someone’s childcare situation is going to do to my workload because it’s not an issue. I genuinely wonder how many people would return to the workforce after having a child if our culture put its money where they like to say its mouth is.

      2. firestarter11*

        Maybe those of us without children and just really tired of picking up the slack? Maybe it doesn’t say anything about us as people, or our feelings about mothers and motherhood.

        I regularly have my work load doubled and tripled when my coworkers are out with their kids. I work in healthcare, so the work has to get done whether they’re there or not.

        Maybe I am just a “capitalist cog” or whatever, but honestly, I am so tired and so burned out and I am tired of people acting like I’m a horrible person because I can’t indefinitely do the work of 3 people just because I don’t have kids.

        1. Pomegranate*

          But the problem isn’t that your coworker with kids is out, the problem is that your employer did not staff your workplace appropriately! If you had ample staffing, one or two coworkers out would not be an issue, regardless of why they aren’t there (childcare, sickness, vacation, etc.).

          1. firestarter11*

            Right, and we are looking for more employees, but the entire world is short-staffed right now….

            Additionally, it’s a small business in the healthcare field with a minuscule profit margin…. It’s not like there’s unlimited funds, and no one wins if the business goes under because my boss has to hire three people to do the job of one person.

            1. Pomegranate*

              I hear your frustrations firestarter! Health care had a rough go and it’s far from over. But still, the frustrations should be directed at the funding system, government support, or the employer, not at your fellow employees who are just dealing with life.

              1. firestarter11*

                I’m not directing my frustrations at parents…. I have never once said anything to my coworkers, just smile and tell them that of course I’ll cover this and that and etc.

                My comment was pushing back on the above comment that implied that people who are tired of picking up the slack just have really negative attitudes about motherhood and children and parenting. No… I don’t, I’m just tired!

        2. All the Words*

          But is this the fault of people with dependents, or an employer short staffing departments? We have a great capacity in the U.S. for the denial of reality. Example, our homeless crisis. How are we addressing it? By largely pretending it doesn’t exist.

          Of course you can’t do the work of 3 people. Your employer shouldn’t be asking or demanding that of you in the first place. Human beings often have families. This isn’t a special circumstance, it’s life. Why do employers refuse to configure workplaces to function within this reality? If more staff is needed to perform the amount of work then that needs to happen. This is on management.

          To this specific situation, the manager needs to step up and configure the workload fairly. That’s their job. If the new parent isn’t working their promised hours, that’s also on the manager to address and/or rectify. As long as staff is at each others’ throats they’re not paying attention to the fact that the manger isn’t managing the department effectively or fairly.

          1. firestarter11*

            I work in healthcare with a company constantly in danger of going under because the profit margins are so small but we’re paid fairly. There just isn’t the money to hire double the workers because my coworkers have to miss work constantly, or because they leave early while still getting full pay, etc.

        3. Unaccountably*

          So no one where you work is ever out for non-child reasons? COVID, for instance? Other illnesses? Bereavement leave? You’re never short-staffed for hiring reasons and not for Ugh Children reasons? Or is it just that you don’t have to pick up those people’s work for some reason?

          1. firestarter11*

            No, I also had to pick up for my coworker when she was out with Covid and other times of illness. I’ve also had to pick up for my coworker who has to leave early daily to take care of her mother, and for my coworker who regularly takes last-minute vacations with a full schedule. I never said it was only kid reasons, but kids certainly compound it.

        4. Nameless in Customer Service*

          Maybe it doesn’t say anything about us as people, or our feelings about mothers and motherhood.

          Having read through all your comments I think it rather does say something.

      3. Nameless in Customer Service*

        Word. Sometimes I wish I could still give mothers blue beads to ward off the evil eye.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          What color beads do people without children at home get for being the “people with no life” that can of course always pick up all the slack?

          While I think it’s great that people choose to actually parent their kids, I didn’t sign up to always be their fall guy because I don’t. (Even if I had kids, they would be already grown by now.)

          1. firestarter11*

            Yeah… I’ve spent the entire pandemic picking up the slack. I’m just tired. These comments make me even more tired. I’m not a bad person for being tired of doing everything because I don’t have kids.

          2. Nameless in Customer Service*

            I dunno. What color beads would suit people who want to put women at an economic disadvantage by being hostile towards parents such that women with children disproportionately drop out of the workplace? I guess we could ask the Supreme Court.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              Why is “people don’t like being overloaded because of parents” always painted as misogyny?

              Parenting is a choice. I applaud those that chose it, but that does not mean I, who do not have kids at home, need to pick up the slack for their choice.

              Why don’t companies pick up the slack, hire someone to fill in, etc? Why does it always fall on those who don’t currently have kids (for whatever reason)?

              (BTW, I’m AFAB.)

              1. SmurphyNOLA*

                Because they aren’t being overloaded because of parents. They are being overloaded by employers who do not want to spend money to increase staff to maintain production when parents need accommodations. And the employers get away with it by pitting their employees against each other.

              2. Canterlot*

                Have you thought a bit about this language around “CHOICES!!”? (Even assuming it always was a choice, let alone will be in the future USA)

                Corey Robin, in the very brilliant book “The Reactionary Mind” talks about the bogus-ness of the language of choices and contracts in contexts where there is a large imbalance of power. One example he uses is wives in a marriage. Yes, they freely choose to enter into a marriage contract – but then the person with power assumes all kinds of things come with that choice that the chooser never would have agreed to. For example, marital rape was legal in all 50 states until 1980 while divorce was very hard to get. Did you consent to a lifetime of rape when you said “I do”? The view until late in my lifetime was: yes, yes you did. And the justification was, “well, you CHOSE to marry him.”

                So you say having kids is a choice. And maybe you acknowledge the power imbalances and the garbage situation for families in this country, but you say that – same as a wife in the 1960s, a woman in the 2020s knows that choice is a big fat poop burger. Whatever. It’s STILL A CHOICE. She should know that she’ll be expected to do 60 hours of work in 40 hours. She should know that you need two incomes to raise kids with a middle-class lifestyle. She should know that daycare pickup is at 5:00 and that it will cost most of her salary. She should know that there’s no mandated leave at most employers, and no paid leave at most. Maybe you’ll say – it’s a bad choice, but it’s still a choice, and she still should’ve known.

                Makes sense, right? You tell women – either live through hell and no complaining, or just don’t ever have kids. And you say, “I’ve been clear on what the bargain is for moms, so stop trying to get out of it. Things are bad at my work because of YOUR CHOICES.” And you’ll say, that’s not misogyny. They knew when they had kids that they couldn’t pull their weight at work, and they did it anyway, and now I have the right to be angry at them for how that blows back on me.

                Most people are okay with this! You are expressing the default American point of view. It’s the most popular position here, as in most forums on the left and the right. Everyone says: Mothers made this mess by procreating. That makes them bad people, and nobody else should be bear the consequences of their selfish choice.

                But even then. In your CHOICES! model, there’s still nothing for those good mothers who are going to take three days off and then go right back to work at full capacity, but then their child has special needs. There’s still nothing for those good little wives and mothers if their husbands die or leave them and they have to go to work. Because the dirty secret that any American mom knows is that there is no version where you’re good enough. They still hate the SAHM and call her selfish and useless and a dimwit, a hashtag-blessed freeloader. They still hate the high-powered career mom and call her a cold mean bloodless witch who wants too much attention and doesn’t love her babies. They still hate the regular, every day mom just trying to make it through a day. And guess what – they still hate the career woman who never has kids. There’s not actually a CHOICES where you can win.

                1. Curmudgeon in California*

                  If anyone should accommodate their choices, it’s the company, not their coworkers. It’s like that rich guy with a plate of cookies in front of him, saying to the worker with only one cookie on his plate “Look out, he wants to take your cookie!” about the minority person on the other side of the table.

                  It’s not my job to take on the responsibilities for other people’s choices. (Yes, they’re all bad. That’s America for ya.) I don’t own the company, and I’m not some sort of misogynist for not allowing myself to be used by the company to pick up the slack. After all, no one accommodates my choices either, so just because I chose to be the child free career b*tch doesn’t mean I should also get screwed for not being a mom. I have to suck up the consequences for being the career woman who never has kids, but I draw the line on being the fall person for moms too.

                  Being a mom in today’s society sucks with regard to the working world, and there’s no winning. Hell, being AFAB means the starting line is 200 feet behind the AMAB folks, and there’s no winning. But when the choice is crap sandwich one, two, three or four, that doesn’t make you liable for whichever crap sandwich other people pick too.

                  I deliberately chose not to be a mom (and then I had a hist for medical reasons.) I have to listen to all the people carping “But who will take care of you when you’re ooooold?” and “But being a mother is a woman’s highest caaalling!”

                  I already take on-call during Christmas and other Christian holidays, because I’m not Christian. I already try to help out people who are overloaded for any reason, not just parenting. But to be expected to always be the one to pick up the slack for parents just because I’m not one? No. The company needs to hire more help, not abuse people with no kids at home. (Which, BTW, is more than just the child free. It’s also the people who haven’t had kids yet, who can’t have kids, or people whose kids are grown.) Because at least half the time it’s another AFAB who is expected to pick up the slack when moms need to be moms.

                  Just because all the choices available are bad doesn’t make my having boundaries wrong. I’m not going to solve the problems of the world by allowing myself to be burned out to make up for the company not staffing well enough. My choosing not to have kids doesn’t make me the automatic mule for everyone who decides differently.

                  I get it, though. People like you can’t stand people like me who choose not to have kids and then have boundaries, too. So you imply that we are ignorant and misogynist, because the capitalist system makes it real easy to pit one worker against the other. You have been played.

    5. Saberise*

      It’s not rubbernecking criticism when she is supposed to be working 32 hours but isn’t so they get stuck having to do her work in addition to their own.

      1. firestarter11*

        People are falling all over themselves to excuse why it’s fine to get paid to do a job while making your coworkers do it…..

    6. firestarter11*

      They have every right to express their frustration that someone is getting paid to work 32 hours and not working all those hours, and others are doing her work for free.

      These things are rarely reciprocal. If she truly were just “leaning more than usual” on others for now, and would gladly pick up more work later if her coworkers had something going on in their personal life, then okay, great! But as someone without kids, it’s a one-way street. My work load never lessens. My schedule revolves around everyone else’s.

      My boss and I finally worked it out where I get bonuses when I do someone else’s work while they’re out, so that makes it a lot more fair. Without that, I would’ve quit.

  14. Turingtested*

    LW 1, I think your HR really screwed up the messaging, but what if your coworker is actually dealing with a medical issue and that’s why their hours are reduced and performance is poor?

    I’d assume there are details that would make this situation make sense but that can’t be shared. If this is the first time your workplace has acted unfairly I’d take a “wait and see” approach.

  15. Posilutely*

    LW1 – at my workplace, anyone can apply to reduce their hours but it would only be approved if the staffing levels were sufficient to accommodate it. Perhaps your employer could cover one person reducing their working hours at the moment but not two, and didn’t give the right reason.

  16. Coffee Powered*

    In that case, I’m confused as to why the rest of the team is expecting this person to still do the same amount of work?

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I think the OP clarified that the person is not doing 32 hours worth of work. And that the work HAS to be picked up by others bc it sounds like it is in health care or other life and death work.

      1. Mockingjay*

        OP1, this problem is worth with a conversation with the boss. “Boss, Sue’s reduced schedule has impacted the overall work. We all have full loads already and can’t handle her offloaded tasks too. This is having an impact [list specific consequences].”

        If your manager doesn’t come up with a plan (yes, they should have addressed it when Sue’s hours were reduced), then the real issue is your boss, not Sue. Boss should be managing Sue’s performance, but sometimes coworkers need to flag issues for management.

        I think you also have a staffing issue. Your team was (barely) adequate for the work; when Sue reduced her hours, it broke the system. Your part-time coworker is the catalyst, not the root cause of the workload problems. What’s going to happen if/when someone on the team leaves? It’s not a get out now/panic situation; it’s “is our staffing adequate for the workload, and if not, what specific steps can we take to provide continuity of critical services?” Cross-training, task priorities (what absolutely must be done for safety and what can slide), new hire, OT… Explore options as a team to fix and present them to the boss. If Boss does nothing, then decide whether to stay or go.

  17. Claire*

    #3 for what it is worth, my husband was able to do a FT role PT because the company had had trouble filling the position. They had expressed openness to a PT candidate already, but the job advertisement started as a FT role. So it can happen!

    1. EPLawyer*

      But its rare. If a company is advertising full time they want full time. A company advertises for its needs, candidates decide if the needs match with theirs. Its a two way street. A company does not have to change its role to suit a candidate’s needs, a candidate does not have to change their needs to make the company happy.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      This very, very, much depends on the employer. My employer is appropriately but not luxuriously staffed so if we say we need FT, we need FT and aren’t going to consider someone who only wants PT. Workloads here are fine and very manageable but they’re not going to permanently offload things onto others because one person who wants the position that does them wants reduced hours–they’re just find someone who can work FT.

    3. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Sure it can happen, but I don’t recommend applying to FT roles with even a remote expectation that a PT role would be offered. In my case, when my team posts a job, we’ve already had the FT vs PT discussion and can’t flex the role. Don’t even get me started on OFCCP compliance issues if we decided to make it a PT role after advertising it as FT…as a rule, FT means FT, even if your skills are insanely in demand.

      If the OP wants only PT work, they would be better off networking with their former colleagues, looking at flex work-type sites, contacting agencies, etc.

    4. Minimal Pear*

      Yes, the place I work right now has tossed around accepting PT candidates for some FT positions we’re hiring for, if we end up not getting many applicants or if the applicant is really good but wants PT.

  18. Justin*

    So many people write in based on Things They’ve Heard (never leave a job before X time) and these adages clearly cause more stress than they are worth.

    1. The Original K.*

      Yeah, I don’t tolerate being yelled at and unless you’re yelling “watch out!” because someone is in imminent danger, being screamed at at work is inappropriate. I’d be searching too. A new hire at a previous employer was told her role was remote, the employer reneged, and she quit on the spot (she lived sixty miles from the office; she wouldn’t have applied for an in-person role because it wasn’t within a reasonable commuting distance).

      Really, as Alison has said, people can leave a job for any reason. OP is in a job she doesn’t want that differs from the one she thought she was getting. It’s fine for her to go! Especially since she has a five-year stint on her resume; she’s established that she does have a history of sticking around.

    2. Antilles*

      I don’t think it’s that the adages are generally bad, more there’s a lot of nuance in detail in how to apply them. Let’s break it down:
      “You’re not supposed to job-hop. You’re not supposed to stay in a toxic workplace but then you’re not supposed to badmouth an employer during an interview. ”
      All of these are real things and good principles to hold in general; they’re broadly correct statements. But they’re not hard-and-fast rules; there’s shades of gray involved.
      -“Job hopping” really does serve as a red flag on a resume that makes future companies wonder about your willingness to push through; that’s a real effect. BUT that doesn’t mean never leave a job quickly if it’s a bad fit, simply that you don’t want to have a clear pattern.
      -You really shouldn’t stay in a toxic workplace due because it hurts your mental health and sense of workplace norms. BUT there are situations where practical realities force you to stay temporarily in a toxic workplace and you just need to focus on trying to brush it off until you’re in a position to leave.
      -Badmouthing an employer in an interview usually is to be avoided. BUT that doesn’t mean you pretend every former employer walked on water, just that you need to be calm and professional about things.

  19. Venus*

    I think you can also use the commute as an explanation if a new employer wants you in the office all the time, and if you want that job. You could say that you took a job further away and thought it would be manageable because they offered frequent wfh, but changed that later and it made your commute unworkable.

    This suggestion is irrelevant if you need WFH, but if your ideal job wants you in the office and you would be willing to do it, then there are ways to describe your current problem more positively.

    1. Maglev to Crazytown*

      I am in a similar position to LW4, to the point I felt that personally. I can also add to that list: (1) on fourth manager in four months, and (2) have been pulled into broom closets and threatened to be fired for discussing job-necessary data, and other things. I want our after 4 months, and previously had only two employers total in a 20 year career, so NOT a job hopper by a longshot. Just another moron tricked into taking an untenable position that was a very brightly polished concealed cow patty. Unfortunately the WFH isn’t a reason available to me when I catch the next interview out of this crazy town.

  20. Threeve*

    Re: non-USA folks commenting on LW1
    Americans here are well aware that your legal protections are better–sometimes exponentially better–than ours. Being informed, again and again, about exactly how you have it better may be mildly interesting for some, but for many of us it’s just a bummer. Because, again: we know.

    The only thing that will change how America treats its workforce is voting in politicians who will advocate for workers or, for a few groups, going on strike. We know that too.

    1. Marie*

      Lol. I just scroll through the non-America comments. It isn’t helpful when I’m looking for real time advice on how to navigate being a working mom of young children in aemeifa

    2. BRR*

      In addition to not being helpful to letter writers as a whole, it’s not even that applicable to what lw#1 is asking. The letter is about a company deciding what reasons are good enough for a reduced schedule instead of focusing on what works for the role and about workload distribution.

      1. Snow Globe*

        It’s possible that it is relevant – the OP didn’t say if they work in the US. The messaging from HR is that the team member would need to have children or medical reason to be eligible, so it is possible that OP is in a country that requires this kind of flexible scheduling for mothers returning from maternity leave.

      1. Riot Grrrl*

        We’re all here to co-create the atmosphere of this collective commentary. It is entirely in bounds and within the commenter’s remit to opine on entire categories of posts that do not advance the discussion.

  21. Falling Diphthong*

    LW4, in Season 2 of Better Call Saul (which I’m currently rewatching) SPOILERS….

    Kim decides to leave her current job. The reason would be “my white hot loathing of my boss and his petty vindictiveness; also he condescended to me and I will never, never forgive that.” In the interview with a different firm, she talks about how grateful she is for the opportunities she had at firm A and her desire to stretch out and try new things. And as the audience, we’re beaming at her like “Oh yes, this is why we love Kim–she’s smart enough to know that the new firm doesn’t want a bitter rant about all the things wrong with her current workplace, because one day she’ll talk about why she left them.”

    In your case, “I took the role to do X, and that turned out not to be what the job is” is a good reason, especially a few months in–you gave it a shot, and it never turned into X, and now you are cutting your losses. X can be the hours, the work from home, the specific tasks, the incentive structure. Your tone is not “These people wronged me” (no matter how passionately you’re feeling that, and how utterly justified the feeling is) but “We want different things, so I’m moving on.”

    1. Ann Perkins*

      I’m a huge BCS fan (and former paralegal) and all the work dynamics on that show were so interesting and well portrayed.

    2. My Useless 2 Cents*

      I also don’t think there is anything wrong with “The company wasn’t a good fit for me.” and if they ask you to expand “I was really looking for a hybrid work schedule but company is really wanting an in office employee. We could just never find a viable solution that made both of us happy.”

    3. EmmaPoet*

      “Oh yes, this is why we love Kim–she’s smart enough to know that the new firm doesn’t want a bitter rant about all the things wrong with her current workplace, because one day she’ll talk about why she left them.”

      Also, the new firm doesn’t know you (general you) at this point, so they might very well decide that you’re the problem and not the workplace. I have done hiring, and if you come in during an interview and start telling me how your current boss is The Worst, then I’m going to wonder if you’re actually the one creating the drama, since you apparently lack both discretion and common sense.

    4. OP LW#4*

      I like this. For the record I’m not opposed to working entirely in the office. I’m opposed to being screamed at and misled to get me to accept a position.
      Has anybody been asked for details after saying “it’s not a good fit”?

  22. Sotired*

    LW1 — I would start looking for another job. Article in Wall Street Journal how childless people are tried of picking up the slack for parents. Yes, this happens, but there are many places that do not. And I disagree with the minor change of children to dependents. Children will in general eat up far more time that say elderly parents who need to be taken to doctor once a month.

    And while the parents may be on a part time schedule, I suspect they get the same health care benefits as full time people.

    1. The Original K.*

      “Children will in general eat up far more time than elderly parents who need to be taken to the doctor once a month.”
      Not necessarily true; I took my father daily to chemo. I can name several people I know personally who provide full-time care (meaning they need to arrange for the person in question to be looked after while they work and are responsible for the person when they’re not working, the same as a parent is to a dependent child) to adults in their lives. And with most parents, there’s an end to caregiving in sight – kids grow up and become independent. My friend who is responsible for her developmentally delayed sibling doesn’t have that. The point is that this perk is being deployed unfairly. There are all kinds of reasons that a person might want to take advantage of it abd it’s only available to parents. That’s wrong.

      1. Sotired*

        I said, and you quoted, in general, that kids eat up more time. In general means not always, at least where I come from. And yes, kids grow up, parents die, all things change over time.

        1. Jackalope*

          Yes, kids grow up and parents die, but these things don’t happen at the same rate. Pandemic situation aside, most of the time kids need a ton of attention their first 3 years of life, then a lot for the next 2, and then they’re at school and parents can have more freedom in their schedules. The person you’re responding to discussed caring for a developmentally delayed sibling; that could be a commitment of many decades with no significant change in the work required. Older parents can live with their children and require support for more than a decade as well. It’s not as common, but it’s still something that should be factored in to the need for flexible schedules.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            If the sibling is younger, they might outlive their older caregiver. I have a friend in that situation. She’s 15 yrs older than her developmentally disabled sister who will quite possibly outlive her

        2. ferrina*

          I think you’re confusing “elderly parents” with “dependents”. A dependent requires a certain level of care. Sometimes its more or less, but it’s there. Plenty of elderly parents never become dependents of their adult children, but some will. Dependents can also include adult children who are not able to live independently (and there’s a wide array of reasons for that).

          Basically, life is complicated and there’s a lot of nuances of caretaking situations, so we say “dependents” to be inclusive of the multitude of situations.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Yes thank you. If an elderly parent only needs a trip to the doctor once a month, that’s not part of this conversation.

    2. Colette*

      A lot of places define full time as 80% or more – so it would make sense that someone working 32 hours would get full benefits.

      And you’re assuming a small amount of elder support, but that’s not always the case. Some adults require constant care, or more support than a ride to an occasional doctor’s appointment.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      It is really, truly not the case that the most care an elderly person might need is a doctor’s visit once a month.

      It’s great if all your older relatives remained spry right up until death, but that is not guaranteed.

      (You can also be responsible for an adult sibling or spouse who requires a lot of care.)

    4. Mockingjay*

      I don’t want to derail this thread, but we moved my frail 90+ father-in-law in with us for eldercare. It’s round the clock. Hubby is retired, so he does the bulk, but the second I finish work, I’m on ‘duty.’ (Dad is a delight and a dear, btw, but it is a huge change for all our lifestyles.)

      As I noted upthread, OP1 has a coverage problem. Why her coworker has a reduced schedule really isn’t relevant, other than it revealed a VERY weak HR department. The real issues are 1) a boss who isn’t managing workload OR employees; and 2) staffing that looks to be very inadequate if a reduction of 8 hours by just one employee is having such a ripple effect on critical services and workload.

    5. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Maybe if people are tired of picking up slack for the people who are raising their future doctors etc, they should push for more support for parents in other ways. Reasonable leave and support for day care, that sort of thing. A lot of people never want to acknowledge that they’re part of society until they need something.

      1. ferrina*

        As a parent, can I complain about how I pick up the slack for the childless coworkers? I’m here taking 6am calls and finishing reports at 9pm when my childless colleagues just leave at 5!

        I know there are places that treat parents differently- I’ve been there (you get a snow day if you’re a parent; if you’re not it’s WFH). But there are also parents who work incredibly hard and are incredibly good at their jobs. What would you do- shunt all parents out of the workplace? Demand a leave from work while parenting? Declare that childcare facilities must be open from 6am to 8pm so parents can work without interruption (let’s ignore for a moment that childcare workers can also want a life outside of work and/or be parents, and that they tend to be extremely low paid)?
        Not saying you shouldn’t feel frustrated when you’re being told to work more than others; just think about where that’s going and why. Just because your workplace is treating you unfairly doesn’t make this an issue with all parents; those of us who struggle, put in long hours and find creative solutions can come in all forms, including parents.

        1. River Otter*

          I’m here taking 6am calls and finishing reports at 9pm when my childless colleagues just leave at 5!

          No. Your childless coworkers are not leaving at 5 bc they are childless, and you are not staying until 9 to care for your children.

          1. ferrina*

            Sorry, that first line was sarcastic and I forgot the add the /s. You are absolutely right and that was what I was going for- that childless vs parent status isn’t the defining factor between workers.

        2. Everything Bagel*

          Why are you doing those things? Are your coworkers not supposed to have regular office hours? Do you work a flex schedule?

          If coworker’s are leaving without their work done, that seems like an issue on its own, doesn’t matter if they have kids or not.

          1. ferrina*

            Sorry, that first line was supposed to have a /s attached.

            I was actually in a situation where my boss favored by childless coworker and I had two young children (I don’t think the childless/parent factored into anything, it just happened to be that way). My boss gave my coworker a reasonable bandwidth, and gave me 2.5 FTEs of work. I was working crazy hours trying to get everything done, and trying to take care of my kids- it was next-level exhausting and took me several years to recover from the subsequent burnout. Meanwhile my childless coworker kept regular hours and never volunteered to help me with the extra work (actually adding to my workload if she might go above 40 hours in a week- she was allowed to put any work above 40 hours on to my plate, even if I was already at 50+ hours. We were not hourly, and there was no overtime pay issue).

            The point I was trying to make (and failed at- sorry!) is that the parent/childless was a red herring. The work balance was the real issue, and one my boss refused to fix. The solution wasn’t to blame my coworker for not having children or to blame my children, but for my boss to manage bandwidth so everyone could work a reasonable week.

      2. sagc*

        And to think, some commenters are confused about why other people think parents are kinda smug and don’t see people without kids as full people!

        Seriously, this is a terrible comment and misunderstanding of the letter and complaints from non-parents.

    6. Critical Rolls*

      The Wall Street Journal believes late stage capitalism is the peak of civilization, so I’d think twice about taking anything they publish that pits workers against each other as sacred truth.

      The reality is, we need people to have kids for society to continue, and raising them is a full-time job. Since America does not provide any way to live in anything but abject poverty while not working (and makes it stupendously difficult to leave the working world and then re-enter it), there are going to be conflicts sometimes. You’re not “picking up the slack for parents.” You’re picking up the slack for a society that has pushed its collective responsibilities onto individuals, and companies that are all-in on the same hand-washing.

    7. Bagpuss*

      I’d see it as an expansion f the additiona lhelp / accommodations apply to. A dependant is someone who depends on you for care of some description. If that means that you take your mother to the doctor once a month then yes, that’s a lower level of committment than caring full time for a three year old. On the other hand, being the primaru carer for a bed-ridden parent may be a much higher level of committment.

      I think in a lot of cases the issue is not that people with caring responsibilities get support it’s that those who don’t have those responsibilities are assumed to be able and willing to take up the slack, rather than companies trying to increase staffing levels so that there is adequate ‘give’ to work around those needs.

    8. My Useless 2 Cents*

      I think, we as a society, need to start reframing this issue not that childless people are picking up the slack for parents but management is not staffing appropriately. The amount of work output has grown exponentially in the past 50 years and companies have reaped all the profits with the bonus benefit of smaller workforce.

      One of the ways they get away with this is by pitting employees against each other. I don’t need to agree or know why Alex is allowed to leave at 3pm every day (picking up kids, taking care of sick parent, signed up for a creative writing haiku class), but I shouldn’t have to take on an extra 6 hours of work a week to make up for it. If company is agreeing to accommodate Alex, then company needs to expect a smaller work output or hire someone to help fill in the gap. That is not on Alex, that is on the company.

      I say this as a middle aged childless office worker.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Seriously. The company needs to pick up the slack/expense of filling in for the person who has kids, not their coworkers who don’t. It doesn’t even matter why a person doesn’t have young kids at home – it’s still not their responsibility to fill in the slack for those who are constrained by caring for kids.

        This also applies to medical leave, caregiving, etc. A person shouldn’t have to worry that their coworkers are going to get dumped on because they have to be out or partially unavailable due to outside needs. It’s management’s problem to fix, not the other coworkers.

  23. Sotired*

    And while people here generally want transparency in pay, somehow that does not apply if a parent gets a reduced schedule for less pay.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      That seems like an odd interpretation.
      Could you clarify what you mean?

      1. Sotired*

        At a minimum, the handbook should clearly define who gets a PT schedule, and how benefits will be adjusted.

        1. Bagpuss*

          I agree that any handbook or policies shouldbe transparent about the criteria for requesting a PT schedule and, where the company has specifc rules or limitation on who can apply, what those rules and limitations are , and how working part time will affect entitlement to pay and benefits (e.g. are these simply pro-rata’d or are these issues such as having lower / no insurnace coversage if you work undera set number of hours.

          I think that there are issues around disclosing specifc details about the exact arrangment an individual has in terms of their pay and conditions as this may be tied up with confidential issues such as a person’s health conditions

        2. fhqwhgads*

          Huh? There’s no indicate the handbook doesn’t indicate that a person dropping to fewer hours doesn’t have a proportionate drop in pay. Also, depending on where OP is 32 hrs is still FT, although it is reduced. I am not at all sure what point you’re trying to make other than it would’ve been helpful if it were in writing who were eligible to request a reduction in hours. But the rest, we have no inidication it’s not already the case.

  24. anonymous73*

    #1 Wow they didn’t even try to sugar coat that one, just came right out and said it’s because she doesn’t have kids. IANAL but I would consult with one to see if there are any legal issues here. If they’re willing to offer an employee 32 hours, then that should be offered to everyone frankly (or at least for valid reasons, which would not include “being a parent”). Saying it’s because she has children is bullshit. Flexibility is one thing, but reducing their hours significantly is another – did they receive a reduction in pay as well? And any flexibility needs to be offered to EVERYONE, because you know, you’re all adults. And yes her pushing her work onto others needs to be addressed separately.
    #4 Job hopping is not leaving a job after 4 months. Job hopping is when you’re continually moving from one job to another after short periods of time. I once reviewed a resume where the person had about 20 jobs in 15 years. They were in one job for about 3 years, but everything else was for a few months. I told my manager I thought that was a problem and she agreed. You’ll be fine. Just be honest. You accepted the role as hybrid and it’s turned out to be full time in office. Interviewers will understand.

    1. Jackalope*

      If you read the comments above, many people have pointed out that there are specific benefits (such as FMLA in the US) that are in fact specifically for parents and people with long-term medical issues, or family members with long-term medical issues. Given that the OP’s HR explicitly said the flexibility is for parents or people with medical issues, it’s very possible that the policy is related to FMLA or a similar benefit.

      (And saying that being a parent, especially a parent of a newborn, is not a reason for flexibility shows a bad understanding of what parenting is like. I don’t have children but I’ve lived with them before, and they require constant supervision for years, are likely to randomly get sick and then need care, and so on. I appreciate that all people need flexibility in their schedules, but having a baby really is a situation where a higher degree of flexibility than usual is needed. And arguing that it isn’t tends to make it harder for women in particular to stay in the workforce; we need to look after all employees, but letting new parents have higher levels of flexibility is really important to making it possible for them to work.)

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes. I am one of the non-parent people who has had extra crap dumped on my lap during the pandemic I COMPLETELY understand why it’s frustrating, but that’s not the fault of either the parent or the employer who wants to give parents more flexibility. In fact I’d rather outright say that parents get more flexibility (and caregivers, and people with medical issues) than expect them to work 100% time when they can’t. The latter is setting everyone up for failure, in the first case at least you know what expectations to work around.

        Now if you define the flexibility as 80% time and that threshold isn’t being met – that’s a whole separate issue. But it needs to be treated as it’s own issue and not lumped in with general resentment towards parents getting a break.

      2. anonymous73*

        I never said that parents of a newborn don’t need flexibility so please don’t put words in my mouth. My point is that EVERYONE should be offered flexibility on an as needed basis…not just because they’re parents or have a documented medical condition/issue. Life happens and everyone needs a break sometimes. Not everything is black and white, and treating your employees as humans will produce a much better result.

  25. SMH*

    OP1 Write a review on Glass door about this policy. Something like- ‘Parents are allowed to work reduced hours and do not have to complete the amount work equal to their reduced work hours. Non-parents are required to work full time plus and make up for any work parents do not accomplish.’ My guess is their public image will suffer and applicant pool will be filled with people wanting to work reduced hours which will not be sustainable for the company. If you’d rather job search first and then post this review by all means but it should be made public.

      1. ferrina*

        I’m betting they won’t keep this ‘policy’ for all parents. It’s unlikely that the culprit in the letter is the only parent working there (possible, but unlikely).

  26. CM*

    For #3, it sounds like you’re currently working full-time. If you’re willing to continue doing that for some amount of time, you could consider applying for a full-time job, but then specify in the cover letter that you’d like to transition to part-time work after a year. Still may not be palatable to employers, but some may be more open to this.

    1. Colette*

      I wouldn’t do this, considering that the OP wants to work 50% of the time. That’s a huge request for a person hiring a full-time person; it’s likely to be disqualifying (or ignored because it’s a year away, setting the OP up for an issue when she pursues it in a year).

  27. Purple Cat*

    For LW1 the clarification in the comments and Alison’s note is what’s critical.
    Coworker has asked for reduced hours (with reduced pay) – Fine.
    Coworker is NOT even working their reduced hours – not okay.
    LW (and team) is now expected to pick up the workload from both the approved reduction AND the slacking – NOT OKAY.
    As usual, management has granted a perk to one person and just dropped the workload on everybody else. Who I’m sure haven’t received a commensurate increase in pay.
    LW1, This is so systemic I don’t know what you can do about it. For me, I would focus on how they’re addressing dumping more work on everybody. There either needs to be a raise, or an additional person hired.

    1. Lydia*

      Thank you for breaking it down. It’s not actually that important why the co-worker asked for a reduced schedule. A lot of commenters sure want to bend over backwards to excuse her lack of work, but that’s a red herring. What’s actually important is that she’s not even doing what she asked to do and all of that is falling on her co-workers.

      1. firestarter11*

        Yep. So many people are crucifying the LW but as someone without kids who always has to pick up the extra work, it gets exhausting. Either management needs to hire someone else, or else coworker needs to work her full (reduced) hours and actually get her work done.

        A lot of these comments are also saying that it’s probably “temporary” and that she’ll be up to her full capacity at some point. Okay, even if that is true, those of us without kids don’t ever have the opportunity to reduce our capacity, regardless of what’s going on in our personal lives. Someone’s kid being out sick always takes precedence over my doctors appointments, etc.

    2. EmmaPoet*

      Agreed. The issue here is that LW and their coworkers are being expected to cover stuff coworker is supposed to be doing but is choosing not to, which puts an unfair burden on them.

  28. SomebodyElse*

    I’m on team “HR screwed up the messaging of a reasonable policy”

    Here’s what I would take from that response. Your HR was saying that they will consider a reduced schedule for people with extenuating circumstances (most common being parents and those with medical conditions). No other requests for reduced hours will be considered. That’s not, of course, what they said, but I can easily see this being worded badly. (Of course, this is my take from what you wrote and I could be wrong).

    Even if your workplace didn’t have this policy, it doesn’t sound like a manager would be in a position to grant the reduced hours anyway due to workload. My company has the option for requesting it (no reason needed), but it’s totally at the discretion of the manager. I’ve had to deny it, not that that I didn’t want to be flexible, but I had 40 hours worth of work that I needed an employee to do. Ultimately the employee did resign, and it wasn’t unexpected, but truthfully she was going to sooner or later anyway. I was sad to see her and her experience go, but it was the right decision for everyone.

    Honestly though, I think that your workplace sounds a little over involved in each other’s circumstances. Your coworkers reduced hours, your friend that requested reduced hours, etc. The only thing that really affects you is the extra work. I would advise focusing on that last one vs. all of the other stuff that you seem to be getting involved in (and you’ve already received good advice that I won’t repeat). In other words, the policy is not likely to change, so I would let that go (especially since it doesn’t sound like it affects you personally) but you can work with your manager on the workload issue.

    1. Lydia*

      I’m not willing to give HR that much of the benefit of the doubt specifically because it’s their job to make sure the messaging is correct to avoid exactly what is happening at the OP’s place of employment.

  29. Just… no*

    LW1, how long has your colleague been back at work after her partly paid short-term disability and unpaid FMLA?

  30. tennisfan*

    OP3, this may be completely irrelevant to you based on the context of your industry and job search, but if PT jobs aren’t available, is independent consulting/contracting an option for you? I work in an industry with little to no PT positions, but a thriving community of consultants, usually former FT employees who need a greater flexibility for whatever reason.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Excellent suggestion! Also something you may be able to try out while still searching for a part time job, so you can get a feel for it.

  31. Ann Perkins*

    I would love to know how recently the coworker in #1 has been back to work. Sometimes some grace needs to be given when colleagues return from maternity leave and any other medical leave, and management should step up and figure out how to fairly distribute work. This could also mean that the rest of the team needs to talk with the manager about how the reduced hours and lack of productivity is affecting them, not in a blaming way but in a problem solving way. It is very, very difficult to return from having a kid and bounce back to 100% productivity immediately. The team I’m on currently has one person who just returned from maternity leave and another person who returned after chemotherapy and so far everyone has been very gracious about it.

    1. Anya Last Nerve*

      Yes, the letter and many of these comments are very upsetting to me. I had to return to work after 12 weeks and my body had not recovered, and I was dealing with post-partum anxiety and sleep deprivation, in addition to transitioning a newborn to daycare. My employer at the time could not have been more supportive of me and certainly afforded me perks that others did not have because I had been a top performer before the baby was born, and once we got through the infant days and I was able to get some sleep, I was back to my prior productivity. I think I would have been broken if my coworkers were as hateful as this poor woman’s seem to be. Complaining that a new mom is given some leeway at work and isn’t knocking it out of the park? Wow.

      1. Raboot*

        Why is the letter upsetting? It factually states the situation. OP focuses on people wanting the same flexibility. It’a not fair to blame OP for comments that are doing something else.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          If that were what OP focused on the letter would be half as long. The OP spends a lot of time focused on what the coworker is doing wrong/not good enough.

        2. Emily*

          The framing isn’t “how do I talk to my manager about my now-unreasonable workload?”, which would be how I would think of this problem. What’s being described here is that a coworker who just had a baby is now a major topic of conversation in a very negative way. Going to work ever day when you’re already struggling and knowing that your coworkers are talking about you like this – that’s not a situation I would want to be in, or to put someone else in, even if the were not good at their job. Heck, I’ve worked with people whose work was not-good in a permanent as opposed to temporary way, and in a way that created more work for me, and I still focused on how this affected me and not on how bad they were.

        3. tamarack and fireweed*

          Because the LW doesn’t have a coworker problem, they have a manager/workload problem.

          And it’s upsetting for all who have been or can emphasize with being in a situation when, following an absence b/c of a life-changing event or medical reasons, they need to ease back into work, aren’t up to speed 100% in 0 sec, and would like a humane workplace that gives them the space they need to get back into the game.

      2. Don't Call Me Shirley*

        I think viewing the part time as an accommodation rather than a perk is a more realistic way to view it. I’m from outside the US, but can imagine I would be performing sub-par during the early months when if your infant actually sleeps at night, you wake up worried it’s because they have come to harm. My part time attempting to keep up was pretty pathetic looking back on it. Men with spouses staying home are kind of zombies for a while, and they aren’t physically recovering themselves.

        You can’t assume the returning employee doesn’t have ongoing physical complications, and definitely assume they are out of the loop after leave, and struggling. Talk to your manager about your own work load, and if they aren’t otherwise bad, they will work things out over time.

        And as someone who runs out and gets my kids early, but works early in the morning too, stop trying to track coworkers’ hours. I thought we didn’t like that yesterday when someone did it.

        1. firestarter11*

          But other people are having to do her work when she leaves early, so they have no choice but to “track” when she leaves so that the work gets done….

          1. River Otter*

            They can track the work left unfinished and bring that up in a conversation with the manager without keeping track of what time the employee leaves every day.

          2. Don't Call Me Shirley*

            Maybe she’s leaving early to have her infected caesarean or surgical vaginal delivery wound checked. Maybe the baby has medical appointments for a congenital issue with unknown implications. Maybe she’s encoded as 80% due benefits reasons and there is a do the best you can and we revisit in a month when you emerge from the haze understanding. Maybe she and her manager don’t think what is leaking and why she’s leaving is your business.

            Seriously, yesterday someone was reprimanded for tracking coworkers’ hours and the comments all said don’t track hours. Now it is a new mom and the comments are talking about how unfair it is to coworkers that apparently they know she’s working less (maybe. Do they have access to her laptop login records? Do they know what appointments were cleared ahead of time?)

        2. River Otter*

          Yeah, I don’t like the “perk” framing. It’s not Nicks tickets. It’s flexibility in acknowledgment of life circumstances.

      3. firestarter11*

        If you were able to get back to your “prior productivity,” I hope you were also able to go above and beyond for your coworkers who were doing extra work while you were resting up, so they could in turn rest.

        There’s nothing wrong with needing to lean on others for a while… The problem comes when it’s always the people without kids being “leaned on” and that never get to do the “leaning” because we aren’t considered as important as parents.

        1. Claire*

          My takeaway is that anyone who expects to need leave (even, gasp, parental leave!) should make sure to strictly adhere to hours/job expectations and aim for about 80% of their normal productivity as a baseline, so that if they’re less than 100% after coming back from parental or medical leave, their coworkers don’t have anything to hammer them with.

          1. quill*

            Hiding that you’re only working at 80% capacity certainly makes jobs more complicated…

        2. HannahS*

          Accommodations don’t work on reciprocity. Insisting that people–and it’s mostly mothers–do MORE work to make up for the fact that they had a baby sounds very similar to many other sexist criticisms of women in the workplace (those damn women with their damn reproduction, ruining it for everyone!) You do not need the woman to do more work to somehow compensate you for the fact that they had a baby. You need your boss to hire another person so that you aren’t “leaned on” excessively by your boss. Your coworker is not responsible for your workload, your boss is.

          1. firestarter11*

            Where is anyone asking for mothers to do MORE work? In the letter, the new mother is getting paid to do 32 hours of work that she is not doing, and when she doesn’t do it, her coworkers have to. And since it’s healthcare, it’s life or death per OP so the coworkers being asked to pick up the new mother’s slack can’t just say no.

            So… yes, if my coworker is leaving early and refusing to complete all her work that I then have to do, she IS responsible for that. Either you work the hours you’re paid to work, or you get fired. Maybe that’s what the boss should do and instead hire someone who actually does the work.

            1. HannahS*

              You did. “I hope you were also able to go above and beyond for your coworkers who were doing extra work while you were resting up, so they could in turn rest.”

              1. firestarter11*

                Yes, if other people picked up her slack, then she should take her turn when her coworkers need time off for a sick pet, parent, etc. In my experience, that doesn’t happen.

                1. Ann Perkins*

                  Covering for someone on parental or medical leave should not be considered “picking up slack”. Yes, there’s some natural give and take when it comes to workplace staffing and people on leave or vacation or whatever else. But it’s wrong to say that a new mom should do more than her typical workload once she’s settled into a new routine just because she took time off to have a baby. I have a coworker who took several months off to battle cancer and now she’s back, our boss isn’t demanding she do extra to “make up” for her time off.

            2. Don't Call Me Shirley*

              I hope to hell my coworkers don’t feel the need to know why I am leaving early when it’s clear my manager knows. Am I, slacking? Or do I have a psychiatrist appointment for managing my postpartum psychosis? Or maybe it’s just lack of daycare, affordable or otherwise? Or maybe that cute baby has specialist appointments for cystic fibrosis? Maybe unrelated I get migraines? Why isn’t your business. That it means the manager needs to change the work assignment or accept balls dropped is all you need to know, not to judge if I am getting too much.

              The “that I then have to do” is your business. Do you really? If you say you have to go, what happens? Deadlines at work being missed – are you being told not to leave? Having your job threatened? Or just filling out your 40 hours with work you don’t own? Or do you just not think about just not doing it? Deal based on that.

  32. metadata minion*

    #3 — I realize this is a bit of an extreme option, but I’m bringing it up because I know how easy it is to just not consider things because you’ve gotten stuck on the thought train of “must solve X by doing Y”:

    Are there any related fields, career roads not traveled, etc. that might give you more options for part-time work? Working in libraries, I’m kind of fascinated at the two questions from people actively wanting to work part time. And it makes sense! That schedule works great for a lot of people! But my field is prone to the opposite problem, where it can be nearly impossible to find a permanent full-time position, particularly in public libraries, and institutions are usually thrilled to find someone who actually wants to work part-time instead of leaving as soon as they find a full-time position.

  33. The OTHER Other*

    LW#2, It sounds as though you are an exemplary employee and should get a raise. But sadly it also sounds as though your employers treats their workers like #2.

    I worked for a similar employer years ago, what were called “merit increases” rarely covered cost of living and sometimes were not given at all, across the board. In order to get meaningful raises people needed to get promoted, or go elsewhere to get paid what they were worth, and then get hired back at a higher salary.

    Employers like this one deserve the higher turnover that results.

    1. Perplexed Pigeon*

      LW #2 here: Yeah, and sadly there is A LOT of turnover at our company in various areas. My direct boss just sees that as the price of doing business. But then he also laments whenever someone leaves and sends nastygrams to the leaver (on work email) about loyalty and transparency and how the leaver should have given him a heads up that they were job searching instead of just a 2-week “head’s up, I’m leaving” notice. Dude this IS why no one gives you adequate notice…
      FYIW, the yearly COLA increase this year didn’t cover the cost of the insurance increase, so all employees are making less than they did last year, good times.

  34. KCMC*

    LW2 should definitely ask. Sometimes companies like this are more willing to promote you than just straight up give a merit increase. I work for a company that also doesn’t do any raises other than an annual across-the-board IF the organization meets certain goals. The only way to increase your salary is to take another position. So you see different departments creating new positions all the time to try to reward and retain good employees. This typically happens when someone they value asks for a raise. Its endlessly annoying that you basically have to force them to do it, but it demonstrates that in this kind of org asking (with, I assume, the implied threat of leaving) is the only way to get them to act. I have one (total rockstar) colleague who has had at least 6 different titles in the less-than-5-years I’ve been here and I bet (and HOPE) that each one came with increased pay.

    1. BurnOutCandidate*

      My company seems to be similar. The HR newsletter announces so-and-so did this and now has this new title and we wish them the best in their new endeavors, but the job duties don’t actually change. (When this happened to me — new title — it was during the early months of the pandemic, and there also wasn’t increased pay. But I had a new title.)

    2. Perplexed Pigeon*

      LW #2 here – sadly increased titles don’t automatically come with money attached. So if I was to be promoted to department head from department member, I might get a project taken off my plate to account for the increased DH workload rather than extra money. The thing is, I like being a basic department member and really enjoy my job, so I don’t necessarily want to be promoted. I just want more money for the length of time I’ve been at the company and the value I’ve added in my role as department member.

  35. HannahS*

    For LW1, I’m not American so I’m asking this genuinely–does the context of the request not matter?

    In my work, I could request a flexible hours if I needed to care for a dependent by going through a very similar accommodations process to if I needed accommodation for a health reason. My employer would be obligated to accommodate my request unless it caused undue hardship. But they have no obligation to consider it was more convenient or my preference, even if they could easily change my schedule. Is Alison saying that the employer should consider it regardless of the reason?

    Also I totally get that if she’s not actually doing her assigned work, it’s a problem. My question is more around the aspect that she was allowed an arrangement that other people have been denied.

    1. River Otter*

      “ Is Alison saying that the employer should consider it regardless of the reason?”

      LW1 and a fair number of commenters are sure saying it. Alison actually said that she hopes HR meant any dependents, not just children.

      People are not entitled to just go part time bc they feel like it. Some employers will support that. My previous employer did, and then there are the companies that offer unlimited PTO where one could conceivably take every Friday as a PTO day. However, in general, if a business is structured to have full-time workers, it is unrealistic for just anyone to expect to go part time without an added need for that flexibility. If this were realistic, the answer to letter 3 would be very different.

  36. Apparently I Don't Have a Life*

    Amen. No kids, and others may not think I have a life or that my life isn’t important, but it is my life and I like it. And it’s not inferior to the lives of insufferable people who look down on it. I’ll bet this persons coworkers just looovvve them. /s

  37. HRCanada*

    LW#1 – In Canada, this could be an accommodation for family-status reasons. It does not read to me as a benefit/perk being offered to parents over non-parents, but a poorly communicated accommodation. Ideally your leadership would have better communicated this to eliminate this sort of misinterpretation. If you don’t have a legitimate need for accommodation on grounds protected by the Human Rights code, it’s reasonable that your hours of work won’t be changed just due to preference.

  38. mlem*

    Re #1: My 3400-person company offers limited part-time schedules for childcare reasons. They eventually, and quite grudgingly, added the case-by-case *possibility* of part-time “to care for elderly parents or for those getting closer to retirement age”. (That is, if you have elderly parents needing care or you yourself are no more than 2 years from retirement, they *might* let you go part-time. Or they might not! Roll the dice!)

    The policy is clearly and explicitly stated as being intended for parents.

    Part-time for childcare is reviewed every 5 years (used to be never). Part-time for elder care is “reviewed case by case due to medical needs” (not their business!) and, if approved at all, reviewed annually. If you have any other kind of dependent, much less other reasons to want to go part-time, you can apparently go to hell.

    Sure does make me feel super-valued. you betcha.

  39. Dr. Hyphem*

    I get why the common refrain is “It’s a management problem, not your coworker’s problem,” which typically is the case in discussions of parents-get-flexibility/childless-coworkers-get-extra-work discussions BUT I think there is an important distinction here:
    Scenario 1: Jane has reduced schedule, department doesn’t have capacity, management tells employees to cover the work that would have previously been Jane’s: Management/staffing issue
    Scenario 2: Jane doesn’t do a portion of her assigned work and asks her coworkers to cover, and her coworkers cover, in this case OP has said “life or death”, so that probably creates internal pressure. This is a Jane issue. Jane can have an honest conversation with her boss about maybe needing a further reduction in hours or an adjustment about what is reasonable for 32 hours, but if she is just expecting people to cover for her, then yes, she is absolutely part of the problem. It is absolutely unfair to paint all parents/mothers with that brush, however if she is using her parental status to justify her actions, this is likely adding to coworkers being miffed at her behavior.

    It is possible that both scenarios are at play and we need to tease out how much is a management problem and how much is a Jane problem. It is also the case that LW and her coworkers can raise the issue with their boss, but they probably are better served framing it around capacity and coverage rather than Telling On Jane.

  40. DJ*

    LW4 also sounds like you have a long commute if you had to drive 60 miles to a dental appointment. So add “and has a long commute that I’m not happy to do 5 days pw long term”. That’s of course if you are happy to take a 5 day pw in the office job closer to home.

  41. June 20 OP#1*

    Thanks to all for the commentary; in the interest of a concise letter, I didn’t include all of the background information. The person who asked for reduced hours asked once before, well before the other employee returned from maternity leave. The response to the initial request was “no one is going down to part time again.” The background there is that we have two other employees with young children who job share. It works very smoothly, but our manager doesn’t like it. The person who asked for the reduction in hours works in an extremely stressful, high risk area; somewhat more so than some of the other staff members. So when the other employee came back from maternity leave and was given a four eight-hour day schedule, this employee asked again to see if it was possible to cut down hours because of burnout. She was not able to get far in the request and was immediately met with some very harsh language, including a statement about that person being 100% replaceable. The person was upset and called HR, then receiving the answer that I put in the initial question. Perhaps my coworker should have mentioned burnout immediately in the initial request. Lesson learned. The other staff members have been very supportive of the person back from maternity leave and that person has been back for two months. The resentment kicked in this week when the news about the other staff member getting shot down harshly for asking for 32 hours got out. Is that resentment on them? Of course it is. There is a pattern of different rules for different people, and very little in our department is documented. We can’t fix that. The person who was told no to the flexible schedule is already looking for a new job. The supervisors in the department need to remind the other staff that they do not need to help out if they are becoming resentful or end up staying late to finish up their own case load. It’s the best we can do. I was really hoping for clarification about different rules for different people, and I think I got that. So thanks again to all.

  42. Mizzmarymack*

    Re #2: No help here, but in the same boat. In my area my specialty is really hard to find – my own office could use another 3 people who do what I do – so I get multiple recruiters reaching out to me every month.

    I have a canned response: I’m not looking for a different full time role right now, but if you can offer part time – either 4-5 hours a day in the office, or 1-2 full days in office with the remainder remote – I would strongly consider your offer.

    Dozens of recruiters later, I have not had a single company follow up. Which is weird, because my specialty is has a strong monthly work cycle/crunch time and having someone who could do 25 hours a week at peak, and 15 (or less) off-peak, without having to pay benefits, would probably be a huge advantage for them.

  43. Heather*

    My workplace doesn’t “do” raises either – we are sales based, so typically, if someone wants to make more money, my boss tells them to sell more! HOWEVER, my position is NOT sales based. I’ve gotten a merit raise every year by asking for a review, dicussing my responsibilities, and generally making a case for myself. My boss has pretty much always been like “wow I knew you did a lot but I didn’t realize it was this much!”. So, while the unofficial/official line may be “no raises”… it CAN be done.

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