It's now been over a month since I wrote describing my frustration and anger at my employer's decision to cut salaries by 10 percent.
Things have moved on.
A week after that writeup, I wrote another letter to my employer, requesting to work from home. Today, (May 19, 2009), that proposal was accepted in full, with just a few conditions on their side.
While UK employment law is strong in comparison to the US legislation, it is relatively weak when compared with France, Germany and other countries in mainland Europe.
There is one area, however, where this government has been pro-active, and that is in the area of work-life balance and promoting the idea of flexible working.
Six years ago the UK introduced laws which meant an employer has to take seriously a request from an employee with young children to work flexibly.
Within a month of the change in legislation, I applied for flexible working arrangements under that new law.
At the time, my boss was the only channel of communication between myself and the corporate personnel department.
The result of my application for full flexi-time working was a change in my contract allowing me to leave early on one, designated day of the week, in exchange for coming in early every day. I was disappointed.
I am the first to admit that my application on that occasion was weak. It amounted to a simple request for flex-time working, with no supporting arguments.
My frustration expressed in last month's daylog drove me to think exactly what I wanted from my employer. The fact is that AspieMum can't get a job because of my commute time, my overseas travel and our need to provide childcare for AspieGirl and AspieBoy.
This led me to a decision to request the right to work from home, using the pay cut as a bargaining chip. In reality, I could have made this request at any time, but I chose to link the two.
In researching the case, I discovered that the the law under which I had gained the right to leave early one day a week had recently been strengthened.
This meant the company had to take request seriously. Furthermore, they could only legally deny my request under certain, very specific circumstances.
I spent a weekend researching and writing a case, setting out the request in clear language and explaining how it could be phased in with zero cost to my employer, and no impact on my office-bound colleagues.
There are some great resources out there to help the individual build a strong case. They identify common concerns employers have about their workers beginning a life of tele-commuting and suggest responses and counter-arguments.
I spelled out the benefits and critically, drew on the fact that two of my colleagues currently work primarily from home. They work on different publications, and so have different line managers from me. I asked their advice and found that, contrary to my line manager's assertions, the company does not have a policy on home-working. It is purely up to the worker and the line manager to agree terms.
At this point, I have to describe the character of my line manager.
He is a bully. But an intelligent bully: he covers his tracks. He positions himself at strategic points in the communication chain and then controls the flow of information up and down the chain. Furthermore, he deliberately misrepresents what other people have said to suit his own agenda. Thus, he usually gets his own way. Not by lying, but by using weasel words and pseudo 'advice' (" You're free to do it, but the last person who tried that was sacked two weeks later") to discourage his staff from adopting guerilla tactics to overcome his very individual management style.
This is not all bad. He does protect his staff from the worst excesses of our dear parent organisation and we never know anything about it.
Unfortunately, this characteristic makes it tough, as a subordinate, to over-ride his monopoly on the communcations channels.
Our organisation is relatively autocratic. It is privately-owned by a particular family, and the owners are very much hands-on. This creates a style of management which is far from open.
I do not, for example, see the P&L figures on my magazine. I see the costs incurred by my department, but none of the revenue information, nor the costs of printing, distribution and so on.
Information on salaries is held especially secret. And there are rigid lines of communication, whereby a junior employee is not allowed to communicate with senior staff, without copying his line manager in on the communication.
This man has been responsible for all my personnel-related issues for the last 20 years or so. I do not feel well-cared-for by the company. The company, however, believes that it is both generous and caring toward its staff. So if I complain, those complaints, filtered through my boss, come across as cheap whingeing.
However, our UK-based organisation has expanded in the last couple of years and my line manager cannot control all the people in three different offices as well as doing his regular tasks. Six months ago, therefore, the US-based HR department took on a part-time employee in the UK to look after our interests.
This has completely changed the balance of power.
She is genuinely on our side and is prepared to tell the US people that we in the UK do not feel well-looked-after by the lovely family company. In fact, most of the UK employees are deeply angry at them and the lack of benefits they provide over here.
She is also, with a bit of encouragement from me, prepared to stand up to my line manager and tell him when he is being unprofessional, bullying and anachronistic.
So, I put in the proposal to my boss copied to her. My boss has completely ignored the proposal, and all subsequenr discussion of it. He has not responded in writing and has not even mentioned it in casual conversation, never mind in a formal meeting.
A couple of days after putting in the proposal, I spoke to HR and arranged an informal meeting to discuss options. It turns out their lawyers have looked over my proposal cannot pick any holes in it. This means that the company has to agree to change my contract in accordance with my suggestions.
I also mentioned to her that my line manager dislikes intensely the idea of his staff working from home. I have previously discussed it with him and his answer has always been a simple, flat, uncompromising, 'no way'
So we discussed strategies to overcome his objections.
Fortunately, I know how he works and understand his tactics, so I was able to show her how to prevent him from blocking it with spurious reasons.
At a meeting today (19 May), it was formally agreed. Following a 4-month phase-in period, I can work from home whenever I want (given some limited restrictions).
My line manager has abrogated his responsibilities, and tried to wash his hands of the decision. It would be better if he had taken ownership of it. However, I just have to show him over the next few months that it works. I have no doubt that it will work -- provided he does not try to sabotage it.
I still have to take a pay cut, but this, at least, gives AspieMum the chance to get a job and bring some money in.
We'll be fine for a while on the reduced salary and the cut in commuting costs will go some way to off-setting the reduced income.
As for me, I can hardly say how happy I am that I don't have to do the daily commute any more and that I don't have to go into that dreadful office environment any more than I really have to.