I work part time in sales in the UK. 31 hours a week (my wife works nights so I have to be there for childcare) and generally these are the hours I do although sometimes to help out with annual leave, I have done extra at my normal hourly rate. About 80% of the work is office based but there is a trade counter so 20% of my time is face to face interaction with members of the public.

Later this month, 3 of the senior managers in the company are taking holiday at the same time. My sales manager and both of the guys who usually sub in when he takes annual leave. This, along with the fallout from Covid and maternity leave means that I will be left alone in the office, doing the job of between 3 and 4 people.

In addition to this, I suffer from anxiety and depression, well known by the company and I have semi-regular chats with HR about it. In my most recent meeting, I was asked how the company could help and I requested a stainless steel table so I don't have to have direct contact with customers. If they've bought something in with a "I want one of these" or handing them their goods, I could use the table instead and keep my distance. That was 3 weeks ago and there's no sign of a table or my anxiety diminishing.

I don't ask for much and have taken the lack of a table as a sign the company really doesn't care about me (not like I hadn't really worked that out anyway) and really aren't sure I want to do the extra hours. In truth, I was asked if I could do the extra and when I said I could do, it was just assumed that I would do it although no one has ever explicitly asked me.

I'm very tempted to say to them that I'll do my contracted 31 hours and keep my mental health intact unless they're willing to be generous in terms of an overtime rate but not sure this would fly since if I can do the hours, the company will assume I can survive it at my normal rate.

So, great people of stack exchange, what would be the best way to negotiate an enhanced rate for the extra 14 hours I'll be doing?

  • 2
    Are you in position where you can take the risk of winding up unemployed?
    – Aida Paul
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 13:30
  • Did they are you about the extra hours or did they not? Maybe it's me but I can't understand if it has explicitly been asked or not.
    – bracco23
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 13:34
  • @bracco23 I was asked if I could do extra hours, checked with my wife and she's only working the Sunday that week so said that I could. The next I knew, the holidays had been agreed and I was now expected to be in the office 45 hours instead of 31.
    – Stephen
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 13:45
  • @TymoteuszPaul I have enough savings to be unemployed for a couple of months but with the UK entering a recession finding new employment in that time might be difficult.
    – Stephen
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 13:48
  • 3
    Whenever someone asks you if you could do something, in a professional setting, it also means if you would do something!
    – Daniel
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 14:14

3 Answers 3


That's quite a situation you have there.

I'm very tempted to say to them that I'll do my contracted 31 hours and keep my mental health intact unless they're willing to be generous in terms of an overtime rate

This is not smart. Your health is non-negotiable. As soon as you sell your health for money, it's over and you have lost. Your health and sick leave is an on/off switch. You are fit for work, or you are not. Depending on country there are different ways to handle the "not" part, but as soon as you start saying "I'm too sick to work, except, maybe, if you pay me more I might still be okay to work" you have lost all credibility now and in the future that you actually are sick. If you are sick, you are sick, no amount of money should change that. If it does... well, then you weren't sick to begin with and you will be seen as a liar trying to extort them.

In truth, I was asked if I could do the extra and when I said I could do, it was just assumed that I would do it

If you said you could do it, without any constraints, the assumption is you will. That is the whole point of the question. You said yes.

So to sum it up, you already agreed to work extra hours and your own reasoning why you don't want to is basically a lie. Your mental health does not get one bit better depending on how much money you make, you just think you are willing to suck it up. That is not how mental health works.

If you could rewind time and start fresh, your best course of action would have been to say "No sorry, I cannot work more hours, I'm already scheduled to watch the kid. But let me talk to my wife and the babysitter if we can arrange something. Obviously I will need overtime pay, because I will incur extra costs working for you while paying someone else to watch the baby instead."

As you cannot do that, you will have to make some tough decisions. You can suck it up and work for regular pay. Nothing will happen, but you will have to deal with it mentally. Since you were okay with dealing with the situation for more money anyway, it might not impact your mental health. Or if you are afraid it might impact your mental health, find a mental health professional for advice and do not work the extra hours. But with a strict "sorry, my doctor said I cannot do this" attitude, not trying to extort more money.

Let go off the idea of getting extra money. 14 hours of overtime pay after taxes will give you what? A hundred bucks or two? That is not enough to ruin your professional reputation with the company.


Stephen, first of all, I'm really sorry you have to work in a place like this.

Where I live, you can use your medical/mental conditions as certified with HR to ask more free hours, did you tried something like that? Like "My doctor told me that I need to stay away from stress, so I can't do the extra hours you drop on me without asking, from Monday I'll start working the same hours that my contract requires." for me a situation like that will never be solved with a pay raise, they didn't care at first and they won't care again, and for me your mental health and your child are much more important.

  • I'm not sure this is really an option for OP. He's already agreed to the hours. A sudden reversal with this indication might have the opposite effect. He may be protected in the short term under the possibility of disability, but it'll put him on their radar for the long term. I think this is a good "first choice" answer, and probably should have been the original option. Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 14:37

This is intended as general workplace advice. If you suffer specific health conditions, there may be a better answer!

I´m afraid you´ll have to suffer through this one.

If I understand you correctly, they did ask you if you could do the extra hours before approving the holidays of your colleagues. Of course the did not ask for nothing. Whenever in a professional setting, assume that could equals would. That would be the right time to say "I´d rather not" or "I will but, I need X".

So right now is a bad timing to change this. If you can bear it, suffer through this and if they are back from holidays take it up with management that if you ever have to do something like this again you expect extra compensation.

If you really feel you can not fulfill the extra hours even though you said so before, talk to your management immediately. Be aware that this probably means one of your colleagues has to cancel their holidays though. This will affect your reputation badly!

I would not overestimate the "Table" right now. Organisations are slow to move and 3 weeks are not a long time. In my experience you have to ask repeatedly and allow for some months for something like this to get put into action. Getting you the Table is one of many tasks, and if you only asked once, probably not the most urgent one ...

  • I appreciate your answer and advice but the only thing I will say regarding the table was that goods inward asked for one so they did not have to take things directly from couriers and one arrived within 48 hours.
    – Stephen
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 14:35
  • @Stephen: Just be persistent. It´s also how you ask for something. They may not feel the urgency that you feel. At last, you did coope without one until now. So maybe just send them a friendly reminder that this is something you are still waiting on?
    – Daniel
    Commented Aug 13, 2020 at 14:39

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