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I'm a software developer, contractor. I work 8:30am to 4:30pm with a 30 min lunch break, I made this very clear when I started.

I think legally I'm meant to take 1hr lunch break but I want to leave earlier so I can go to the gym before it gets absolutely packed. I also am working on bootstrapping my own products in the evenings so want to maximize the time for that.

The company I work with is mainly based in the US, I'm in the UK. So I agreed to a couple of late meetings around 7pm about 2 times a week, as a favor to them.

Now I just got asked could I stay at work an extra 30 mins each day in order to join a meeting with some people in the US. This would ruin my gym workouts and lead me to sleeping less since I'd still have the same amount of work to do in the evenings.

So I want to say "no thanks, I'm busy in the evenings". How is it best to say this respectfully?

  • Will they pay for this time? – Solar Mike Aug 29 at 19:31
  • "The company I work with is mainly based in the US, I'm in the UK. So I agreed to a couple of late meetings around 7pm about 2 times a week, as a favor to them." - That's a thorny problem for global companies. I've had the same problems in the US. I used to have to go into work at 6:30 AM so the UK folks could be on a call (afternoon to the UK folks). And working with folks in Russia or India are the pits. On occasion I would have to be available for calls at 12:00 AM or 2:00 AM. Maybe you should work for UK local companies instead of global companies. It should fit your schedule better. – user25792 Aug 29 at 19:32
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    @SolarMike No, and I actually think it's illegal for me to do overtime as a contractor in the UK without extra pay – John Aug 29 at 19:32
  • It sounds like there have already been a few points negotiated regarding your hours - you take a shorter lunch break, you work a bit in evenings, etc. How did those conversations play out? – dwizum Aug 29 at 19:34
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    This doesn't sound like overtime per se. It sounds like they wished you worked different hours. Right? – Nathan Cooper Aug 29 at 22:29
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I think exactly what you wrote is polite, succinct, and honest. I've been working in salaried positions for a couple years now, and they are a huge trap for this kind of thing.

You can simply say "I have other commitments and am not available outside of my current schedule." They really shouldn't have a problem. Of course, every company is different.

As to the overtime pay, it can get sticky with international rules and it's best to consult your HR department and perhaps your local labor unions to get clarification on how it works in your unique situation.

  • How is "Sorry I have other commitments (which I can explain if you like) so am not available outside of that current schedule. With the exception of those evening meetings we previously agreed on." Or is that too long winded? – John Aug 29 at 19:41
  • Not bad. Couple grammatical tweaks I would suggest: "Sorry, I have other commitments (which I can explain if you like) and therefor am not available outside of my current schedule. With the exception of the evening meetings we previously agreed on." – DWShore Aug 29 at 19:45
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    Take out the “I can explain...” bit, your other commitments are nobody’s business but your own and you’re under no obligation to explain them. If you offer, some will ask you to... – Matt Aug 29 at 20:38
  • He is not salaried but a contractor. – Pete B. Aug 30 at 13:23
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To answer your specific question what you wrote is fine, but you know that. Were you asked something similar by a random stranger your answer would be perfectly acceptable. However, in my opinion there is a very different relationship between an employee and employer and answering this question in such a way can ruin or end the relationship.

It comes down to how much you value this job and how much they value you. If you really valued your position you would be creative and find a solution. You can make alternative arrangements for gym time to accommodate their requests. That might include joining a more expensive, exclusive gym that is not as crowded, or switching to working out in the early mornings.

If you answer in such a way as you propose, they might just say okay, we will find someone else. Perhaps you are so valuable to their operations that they will accept whatever you propose. However, very few people are so valued by their employer.

Given that you are a contractor it would suggest you are viewed as temporary and expendable. Sure, I have held some long term contracts, and have even survived layoffs of full time employees, but I complied with requests for "operating hours" and other demands of my employer. Not being accommodating to "normal operating hours" is not a place to be if you are looking for long term employment.

Perhaps a better course of action is to come up with options. Sure, I can attend those calls but I would like to take an hour of lunch at 10am (your time) to get my workout in when the gym is not crowded. Or I can change my normal working hours will be x to y (and you can work on your pet projects in the morning). Do either of those work for you guys? Is something else acceptable?

If you value this job, I would find a solution and be accommodating.

P.S. As an hourly contractor, I would not recommend "doing favors" an attending those meetings for free. Instead, I would flex my time. Hours spent on those calls should be reduced from your daily hours or paid extra. It is the nature of those types of positions.

  • I know some contractors that were "let go" as they could be replaced, just before Christmas as it happens. Roll on 3 months and a manager was cr*pping himself as the systems were failing and he could not find any people who could sort the issues. After several phone calls the original contractors were re-hired (with weirdly a substantial rise in rates...). The following week the manager was "let go"... – Solar Mike Aug 31 at 8:10
  • @SolarMike didn't I cover that in paragraph #3? – Pete B. Sep 4 at 16:22
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As an alternative, ask if the meeting time can be changed past your gym time. If the meeting is an hour, leave work an hour earlier go to the gym and join the meeting back home.

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