Living in a region that experience winter, there are sometimes (infrequently) massive delays in the morning due to snowstorms (or even just a random crash). In particular, my commute time was tripled today (due to a crash) and so I showed up markedly late.

We are expected to be at work until a set time, so I have no reason to show up early since I can't leave early, so mitigating chances of being late by arriving early every day is not reasonable because it would be 100% my burden. We are also expected to be at work for a minimum time every day, so I would have to stay just as late as I arrived to not raise any (automated) red flags.

Therefore, when there is a very outlier commute time in the morning, is it ethically my responsibility to stay equally late as I arrived (when it doesn't significantly affect anything such as deadlines)?

Note also that we are (pseudo) salaried, and "getting my work done early" is not an acceptable excuse to leave early (and they automatically monitor time at work and enforce it). We are also disallowed from working remotely just because of weather.

So it appears that this issue reduces down to how much personal time is worth versus company time, and the economic elasticity of having that respected.

There are lots of situations in which unpredictable events cause burdens which are then shared among the people that are affected. It seems to me that it would be fair for my employer and I to share the burden in this case, too. Maybe I stay late for 50% of the time that I missed, for example.

So, when I approach my manager about this issue, is it reasonable to expect such a compromise?

Also, is there any difference if it were the case of having a scheduled commitment after work that would be prevented by staying late at work to make up time?

  • 4
    I am failing to find a reference using Google, help please? - This is because the way it works is the Business collects all 10% sales tax from the consumer. Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 16:51
  • What kind of job is it? Is it the sort where you have tasks to do, or the sort where you are some sort of contact from X AM to Y PM? Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 16:54
  • @IDrinkandIKnowThings It's because I'm not using the proper keywords. You're also assuming 100% price elasticity, which is almost never true. Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 17:04
  • @DavidThornley It's (pseudo) salary, so having time requirements enforced is already weird. Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 17:04
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    The question could be improved by removing the totally unfounded assertion, which is contradicted both by basic economic theory and empirical observation, unless and until some sort of supporting evidence can be presented alongside it. That no such evidence was found when searching for it is not conclusive, but is suggestive. And given that it appears to be central to the OP's stance, it has to be addressed.
    – Upper_Case
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 18:13

3 Answers 3


It's not the employer's responsibility to make sure your commute isn't seriously delayed on any given day, or that you live somewhere with a predictable commute. Where you live, and the mechanics of getting to work, are your responsibility. If your employer expects a certain number of hours of work each day or each week, it's up to you to make sure that happens.

Therefore, if you're expected to make up the time, or account for it in some other way, you need to do something for the whole time, not just half of it. Your employer may be willing to accept rare lateness as one of those thing, but you don't say that's the case.

It would be reasonable to ask your manager whether you have to stay late that day or whether you could make up part or all of the time on another day. Sometimes the rules are more flexible than they're presented.

  • I did say it was a rare lateness ("sometimes"). Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 17:06
  • @Elaskanator Which is good, but you still may have to handle it on those rare occasions. It almost certainly won't cause any overall problems. (I did have a friend who would have been fired if he'd had more than a very few late arrivals a year, no excuses, but that's rare.) Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 17:50

Generally, yes, you're expected to make up the time, even though it may not seem "fair" because it wasn't your fault that you were late. As the saying goes, "It's not fair, but no one said life is fair." OTOH, it's also not fair to your employer to pay employees for work not done.

If you are paid hourly, do you expect to be paid for 8 hours of work when you only work 7? If (like me) you're one of those quasi-hourly employees (supposedly paid an hourly rate, but expected to "work until the job is done", even though you only receive overtime pay in very rare circumstances), you'll still need to make up the time. Of course, there may be "comp time" (compensatory time) where you work extra on other days. Usually "comp time" is worked in advance; however, many employers allow you to make up missed time like this later - especially as long as it is in the same pay period).

If you're salaried (i.e. you receive the same pay regardless of the number of hours worked), then you may be able to leave early without making it up.

As for approaching your manager: I'd recommend against it, unless you are:

  • Asking about making up the time on a different schedule. For example, "Hey boss, I know I was 2 hours late today due to the snow. Unfortunately, I really need to get home soon, even though I've worked only 7 hours today. Is it okay if I make up 30 minutes each day over the next couple days?"


  • (If you're salaried) Asking if they mind if you leave early (most especially if you have some sort of other engagement).

Otherwise, you are likely to look to the manager like you are trying to slack off and get paid for it.

In this era of working from home, you might ask if that's another possibility for making up the time or even if you could do so on days when the weather makes your commute problematic.

  • They explicitly say in the employee handbook that we cannot use adverse weather as a reason to work remotely, and we are pseudo-salaried and prohibited from leaving early just because we got our work ahead of schedule. Therefore I feel my issue really boils down to arguing for the market elasticity between the employee's time and the employer's expectation of their time. Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 17:21
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    That first point wasn't in your original post. Still, I'll leave the bit about working from home for other folks who may see this and not have such a prohibition. As for the rest, I'll just say "Good luck!" That said, I also recommend that you avoid getting your expectations too high. In my experience, employers don't see things the way you're looking for.
    – GreenMatt
    Commented Nov 7, 2018 at 18:04

So, when I approach my manager about this issue, is it reasonable to expect such a compromise?


Your boss cares about what you do on the job, not so much what you do on your own time. Commuting, taking place before and after work hours, is not on-the-job time, and so your boss doesn't care about it. If you lived far enough away that the average commute time for you was three hours, and you took the job, your boss wouldn't have any reason to extend any special benefits to you-- you accepted the job, including the commute you would have to make. That also includes the risk of rare, adverse events, like traffic jams.

That the traffic issues you are describing were totally out of your control is irrelevant-- your ethical (and contractual) obligations to your employer are apparently to work a set number of hours each day. It would be good if your employer cut you some slack on freak occurrences, but the business's function is to get specific work done in a specific way, not to suit your preferences or convenience. When those come into conflict, your boss is likely to prioritize the former.

Consider: if you were stricken by an illness, unexpectedly and without any ability to increase or reduce your risk of getting it, which left you physically able to work only 1 hour per day, would you expect your employer to pay you the same amount despite your reduced time in the office? It's equally "not your fault" in that case.

From what you've written your understanding of economics seems to be... nonstandard. For a variety of reasons (including, but not limited to, that) I would recommend that you not use it as the basis for your position when speaking with your manager. Further, your employer seems to have explicitly decided not to allow flexible scheduling of the sort that you're after. That will make a negotiation seeking exactly that difficult for you, regardless of any discussion of fairness or elasticities. But, if economics is on the table, let's look at some other distributional effects.

Being pseudo-salaried makes this more complicated, as you can't chop up the workday (you get paid the same either way), and so leaving early = less of what your employer wants and expects of you (which is to be on-site for a set number of hours each day).

But since the employer pays you the same amount either way, 100% of the benefit of your spending less time in the office accrues to you, and none to the employer. There is also no clearly analogous situation on the other side-- if you happened to have a really fast commute one day and got to work a half-hour early, would your employer get an additional 30 minutes of work from you "for free"? Even if I agreed with your take on elasticities and distributions of economic burden, these features would still make your position unattractive to me (if I were your manager).

If you do talk to your manager about this, I would focus exclusively on the rarity of your being late, the lack of impact on the work you get done, and the disruptiveness staying late would have on your life. I would also set an "upper bound" that would reassure your boss that you won't take advantage of their agreeing to this (something like, if you're late 4 times in a year then the deal is off).

When everything else that the company wants gets done, and you are complying with the policy 99.9% of the time, mutually-agreed to protections against your taking advantage of the situation exist, and the actual loss to the company for accommodating you here is therefore minimal, it's more likely that you'll get whatever flexibility your boss might be able to offer.

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