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Thinking about negotiating a shorter workweek

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  • Thinking about negotiating a shorter workweek

    Looking for advice regarding negotiations.

    I'm four years in to this job, salaried, 4% annual raises. I plan to stay for at least another five years, for PSLF.

    I work a nominal 40 hour week, although in actuality it's 8-4 with a 1.5h lunch.

    I believe technically full time is 32 hours, and we have a Derm PA who works this kind of schedule. So I'd like to cut down to four days a week.

    My overall impression is that my employer needs me as much as I need them; this impression is reinforced by the fact that although I often don't approach the numbers the administration wants us to (>22 pts/day), it has not affected the raises, and my immediate boss, the CMO, has said nothing about it. In addition, they've been very lenient with me taking time off--for example I took 2 continuous months of non-PTO time last year.

    We have another pediatrician at this location, he doesn't get the greatest reviews from patients, and he is emphatically temporary; this place is, for many IMGs, the three-year ticket to becoming a permanent US resident.

    I guess I could be at risk for 'pushing it' but I think the worst that can happen is that they can say 'no', while if they accept, the upside, for me, is immense. I want more time off to spend with my family, and as it happens I end up requesting at least a day or two off each month. This way I will not have to take as much PTO on a regular basis and then be able to save up and take greater chunks of it at a time. Also, taking two days off would yield a 5 day weekend.

    However, I don't know how to approach this, what to take in to consideration, and what kind of pay or benefit cut they might offer. Given that 32h is still supposedly fulltime (have to confirm), I don't think I'd lose benefits, and I wouldn't want to. On the other hand, I have been thinking about an HSA anyway since our insurance is expensive and thank God we are all healthy. I would be happy to take a paycut, but then what would be a reasonable paycut? Directly proportional to the hours I work would mean 4/5th of my pay, and I seriously think I would take that deal. I suppose a 4.5 day workweek might be a compromise. I don't think I'd mind if the day off is mid-week (say Wednesday) since Mondays and Fridays are our busiest days.

    How do I approach this? Opinions? Advice?

  • #2
    You have two questions, Employer and PSLF.
    You are at 32.5 work hours. Go from there for PSLF. Work wise, you might not get the form signed for PSLF. You have .5 hrs per week cushion.
    Employer from a work schedule and pay may be fine, as you say. But you would be creating a potential problem. Reduced schedule for 4 months? It sounds like you need to get agreement on both before you make that move.


    • #3
      I do know of the 30 hour bound for PSLF, and as I said, I am considered to be working 40 hours (the additional hour/day is 'documentation time' which I rarely need to use, cause I'm fast). So, if I go down to 4/5ths of 40h, that's 32h, and you're right, I do need to clarify that this qualifies as full time. I believe I have it in my contract. Will check.


      • #4
        If your goal is not to lose any income, offer to switch to a 4 week and expand your clinic hours (take away the 1.5 hr lunch) so that you will see around the same number of patients/make the same rvu's. If you really don't care, you might just tell them you only want to work 4 days a week and see what they offer you/how much they would pay you. You could make 1 day "administrative" where you do charting. If you are looking to maintain your benefits, you might get into trouble by working part time as companies can sometimes not provide full benefits for one part time employee while not providing benefits for another part time employee. That's where assigning "administrative" time maybe helpful.


        • #5
          According to PSLF, you have to work at least 30 hours per week, and you also have to work the number of hours that your employer considers full time. So your options may be somewhat limited.

          Maybe you could ask your employer to let you work full time in 4 days? Skipping that 1.5 hour lunch break for 4 days would add 6 hours of patient care time to your week, so you would be within 0.5 hours of what you are doing now.

          Set up a meeting with your boss and tell them what you are trying to accomplish, maintaining full time status for PSLF, and working full time in 4 days per week. They may say no, but unless you ask, you will never know.


          • #6
            Wow - this varies from employer to employer. For some, it is no way an option but, for others, it is very flexible. Given that you work for a NPO and you are a “key” employee (not using IRS def), it appears (impo) you may have a fair chance. The worst that can happen is “no” (if your understanding of your status aligns with reality) and you very well may get what you want. It appears to me that you have already thought out most of the potholes.

            One thought that does occur, however (only b/c this has come up with another client) is that your employer will focus on the day that you’re technically off and already being paid for. You might consider hitting that straight on in the conversation.

            You also might want to consider a well-written request, laying out your argument and, perhaps, alluding to the line you will not cross (i.e., if you’re willing to die on this hill, might want to consider a tactful way of saying so) - then asking for a meeting to discuss further. For me, this can sometimes work better b/c I’m extemporaneous arguments are not a talent. In the appropriate situation, it allows me to communicate what I need to say in the way it needs to be said without bulldozing through what I simply want to say and be done with it ;-).
            Last edited by jfoxcpacfp; 01-27-2020, 05:18 PM. Reason: Deleted duplicate word
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            • #7
              Originally posted by legobikes View Post
              I do know of the 30 hour bound for PSLF, and as I said, I am considered to be working 40 hours (the additional hour/day is 'documentation time' which I rarely need to use, cause I'm fast). So, if I go down to 4/5ths of 40h, that's 32h, and you're right, I do need to clarify that this qualifies as full time. I believe I have it in my contract. Will check.
              The hours are the “greater of” when it comes to PSLF. The point is to make sure your work hours actually qualify and you get the form signed. Sure it helps to have the contract, your employer and the work records to back it up. My point, any deal requires all three. The rules are by week, you are negotiating days, with hours being the metric. You could work 3 ten hour days with 1/2 day admin at home. It all needs to come together.


              • #8
                For full time status, the IRS (for ACA) defines full time as an average of at least 30 hours per week or 130 hours per month, there may be a different state specific definition for state mandated benefits. If your employer has the equivalent of 50 FTE's minimum, they cannot drop your health coverage at 32 hours average per week.

                30 hours average week minimum or your employers definition of full time (whichever is greater) is the definition used for PSLF. So that you will have to check into to make sure the 32 hours is kosher.

                Where the employer provides voluntary fringe benefits, they can themselves determine what constitutes full time for those benefits, since those benefits are voluntary. 32 hours average per week minimum is a commonly used number. Some require 35 or 40 hours for those voluntary benefits. Some even use 50 hours for exempt employees.

                As an employer myself, if an employee wanted to work 4/5 of a week, I see it as reasonable for that employee to receive 4/5 of that pay and I personally would still grant full time status and associated benefits. But I'm a small employer. A larger employer may be more rigid with benefits and full time status. They seem generous if they allowed you to take 2 consecutive months off. If your employer wants say 40 hours a week, you can consider a compromise of four 10 hour work days, so you still get a day off with no loss of income.


                • #9
                  My goal is an additional day off per week, not necessarily to keep my income the same.

                  Here's the thing, I'm not willing to work an extra 1.5 hours/day. Maybe half an hour, so same schedule but extended to 430 would work. I don't want to extend my day because occasionally I'll need all the leftover daylight hours for hiking. And I like my long lunches - I pick up my daughter from montessori, go home to eat, play with the kids, and do my daily prayers.

                  I guess I'm wondering what are likely counteroffers so I can prepare for them. I mean, it might be they say no benefits, or 4/5th pay, or both. I wouldn't be okay with the last option but I can see the other two as viable. I think Wednesdays off would have the least impact on the clinic and my patients.


                  • #10
                    No intent to be critical. What you are pushing for is a 1099 treatment from a policy standpoint.
                    The purpose of policies is to provide a consistent equal treatment of all employees.
                    For example, PTO simply requires approval for scheduling purposes. The approval does not provide a "value judgement" regarding the reason. NO reason is intentionally left out to avoid unequal treatment. Management uses policies as a guideline. It does have discretion to make exceptions, like your 2 month's non-PTO time. Probably had a reason and was allowed to accomodate those needs. That is a "responsive employer" that treats employees consistently and with flexibility.
                    Where does the line get drawn? The office hours are set and most likely management if they wish to keep your services would be smart to offer 1099 status. That brings up PSLF issues as well.
                    The "right policy" answer from the boss is the job is 5 days per week with some flexibility. Now, how can I help you? I need a reason for the exception. Can't handle a 4 day work week on a long term basis. Help me help you. I know that's not helpful , but from an employer standpoint, its probably the right one.


                    • #11
                      Not familiar with 1099, assume that means contractor. I wouldn't switch to that, nor do I think that is what my employer will want.

                      I just talked to the Derm PA, basically 32h is minimum for benefits, and is considered full time. So then it is only a question of a pay cut, and not benefits. Will have to think about it.