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I'm interviewing for a job which would be a significant pay increase, however it would also involve travel by train which is expensive.

The pay increase would be approx. £1,300/month but I'm intending to put most (if not all) of that towards a mortgage for my first home. If I need to travel by train, it would be an additional £500/month for a season ticket. I can't afford to sacrifice any of the rest of the salary.

Is it reasonable for me to ask a potential employer if they would be willing to contribute towards travel expenses on top of the salary? They suggested travelling by train before and during the first interview. If they pay the travel expenses directly themselves then it might not be so bad (in my mind at least), but it also seems a bit unreasonable considering they're already offering a good salary and it's not their problem if I'm trying to buy a house. If it's reasonable to ask then I would do so at the point of being offered the job (if that happens) so everything is sorted out/negotiated up front.

Or would it be better to ask for a slightly higher starting salary to cover it?

Even if this is not reasonable to expect then it's not the end of the world, as I can still drive. It's the difference between a 45 minute train or a 1.5-2.5 hour drive each way (depending on traffic). The costs for driving instead work out at about £140/month but it's the time spent driving that concerns me.

And, obviously, this is all academic if I don't get the job. But I'm interested in the answer anyway as it might be useful in the future.

This question is related and the answers are possibly applicable, but the amounts here are more and I'm in the UK so not sure if that makes a difference.

UPDATE; I GOT THE JOB! They wouldn't increase the starting salary but they do include a bonus which should cover the costs and they also offer season ticket loans where they will pay commuting costs up front (for a season ticket) and you can repay from your salary monthly. I won't be using that though, and have taken onboard all the feedback and suggestions from the answers and comments. Thanks!

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Jul 29 at 9:10
  • £500/month? Wow. I'm from Switzerland, and not even here trains are that expensive...
    – fgysin
    Aug 9 at 13:55
  • Yes, it's ridiculous here!
    – Lyall
    Aug 10 at 19:55
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Your travel costs and other costs of living are normally considered to be your own concern, not your employer's. So you should consider it as part of the salary.

There can be exceptions - travel expenses if visiting other locations (as opposed to your regular place of work) is part of the job, or a formally recognised higher salary to work somewhere expensive like London - but your commuting and living arrangements are really up to you.

Ordinarily you should simply include your travel expenses in your salary expectations when they ask about that. If you decide you need £500/month more in order to to take the job, your employer doesn't care if you spend that on train tickets or ice cream, they just want to know what you expect to be paid and thus what it would cost them to employ you.

The only reason you might ask for it separately is if you see it being a temporary and very short-term thing. "Can you pay me an extra £500/month to commute - but only until I move closer, which will happen within a year" might be a reasonable discussion to have, and (if they agree to it, expect some pushback) you could expect those conditions to be included in the contract. Otherwise, the employer will only want to know what they need to pay to get you, whatever you might use the money for once it's yours.

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    That really depends on country (and company). In the Netherlands it is pretty standard to get a commute allowance days x kilometers x amount, where amount is legally limited to € 0.19 per kilometer (higher amount is allowed, but would be taxable). Usually kilometers has a maximum. And some companies, if you use public transport, will reimburse the full ticket price (which is allowed by tax rules). Jul 27 at 11:49
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    @MarkRotteveel The question is explicitly tagged with the UK though, where that sort of arrangement is practically unheard of. Jul 27 at 11:53
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    @PhilipKendall I understand that, my comment was to offer a different perspective and to make clear this isn't universal. Jul 27 at 11:54
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    @MSalters that comment was made in the context of salary. If you're looking for a salary of £X a month, it makes no difference to your employer what you spend that salary on. You want X to be higher because you want to pay for Y and Z? Well, what Y and Z are don't matter. Is the employer prepared to pay X, that's the only question. As for reimbursements - sure, for things that are specifically business expenses, but that's a different thing. If you need to take a train to visit a client site, you can probably get it reimbursed. For a normal commute, no. Jul 29 at 9:46
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    @MSalters, if the company paid OP an extra £X per month to cover travel expenses it would be taxed like normal salary. If they simply bought OP a rail pass then it would still attract a benefit-in-kind tax as if they were being paid the equivalent amount. So yes, in that context it doesn’t matter if it’s spent on ice cream or commuting.
    – Darren
    Jul 29 at 10:35
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  1. In general commuting costs are your responsibility since you choose where you live.
  2. Some companies in "expensive" locations offer commuting assistance. Check with your future employer and ask about whether they have it and what the rules are. Same rules need to apply to everyone to keep it fair. There may be tax implications too.
  3. If they don't offer it, it's not reasonable to ask for it.

Ouch, this is an expensive train ticket. In Germany you can get a yearly pass that covers the entire country for a little more than half of that.

I recommend against driving. Train time can be quite useful for e-mail and "sit and think" work. I've done a fair bit of data analysis and SW development on trains and planes. Driving in heavy traffic is typically not fun, although audiobooks may help.

You can ask your employer for part time work-from-home. Things get a lot easier if you only have to go in 2-3 times a week.

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    Hilmar, trains in the UK are REALLY expensive compared to continental Europe. The UK railway network is entirely privatized and has barely any subsidies compared to European rail networks.
    – Nzall
    Jul 27 at 20:59
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    Without knowing where you're travelling to and from, that train ticket sounds very expensive. You say you're only going into the office 3 days a week, but you're talking about a season ticket that costs £500 a month. That works out to about £40 / return journey. I've seen 100-mile commutes into London that don't cost that much. You may want to check whether a season ticket is the right option if you're not using it every day. Don't forget railcards either. Jul 27 at 21:30
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    For example Milton Keynes - London (<50 miles) is £5528/year, £530/month, or £38/day. For only three days a week the monthly is not worth it.
    – OrangeDog
    Jul 27 at 22:35
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    @Nzall actually, the UK rail network is subsidised to the tune of almost £5Billion a year (split between the Train Operating Companies and Network Rail) - the reason rail travel in the UK is expensive is precisely the same reason that rail travel in the UK is slow - its simply that its crap.
    – Moo
    Jul 28 at 0:23
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    @Moo - UK 2016 subsidy was €4.4 Billion, while Germany's 2014 subsidy was €17 Billion, for not hugely different passenger-km figures - The UK's well under-subsidised in comparison to equivalent European commuter services.
    – Gwyn Evans
    Jul 28 at 15:21
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Depending on where you are in the UK there may be certain schemes (West Yorkshire Example) where there are benefits for your employer for encouraging the use of public transport. You may not be able to get the season ticket for free, but you may be able to get it reduced (especially as you can opt to pay for it from your pre-tax income instead of from your wages after deductions).

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    +1 but the salary sacrifice season ticket loan approach usually only works if you want an annual ticket, which might not be a sensible option for a new starter, especially with with partial WFH
    – Chris H
    Jul 29 at 7:40
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You can ask, but its not really not realistic to expect a positive outcome, as it seems you have realised and a higher starting salary would be better. That is part of your considerations when accepting a role, does the salary match with your personal finances, as these are different for each candidate.

However there are a couple of things to ask, is the £1,300 pre or post tax/pension as this would have an impact on your calculations anyway.

I would always advocate for higher salary rather than commuting allowance as things like salary increase, bonuses, mortgage borrowing etc is based on salary, so ultimately you'd likely be better off. Also, if you can WFH some of the week and don't need a season ticket or will allow you to reduce travel costs, that will be money back in your pocket as its from your salary for you to spend as you want

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  • Thanks - the calculation is post tax/pension using an online take home pay calculator with the new salary. Also you raise a good point about bonuses and mortgage borrowing being related to salary amount, so better to include it (if it's an option).
    – Lyall
    Jul 27 at 14:11
  • I second "you can ask" - I've worked for UK companies that have paid a % of rail season tickets for people who have a long commute. Long commutes grind you down, the company chose to pay a small, tax-deductable ££ and reduce the risk of losing staff.
    – Fermin
    Jul 28 at 16:15
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Here are a few further ideas that could have probably been a whole lot of comments, in case you get an offer but not at a high enough starting salary. I do suggest simply asking for a higher starting salary and not going into much detail - if asked why, a mention that commuting is expensive but relocating is too would be plenty assuming you don't just want to say "because I'm worth that much":

You might want to look into flexi-season tickets if you're travelling 3x/week (as seen in comments). If they're available on that route; they're rather new. That's 8 journeys within 4 weeks, so you could also mix up flexi-season and driving.

Conversely, if your hours are flexible and/or you can work reliably and acceptably on the train, off-peak may be an option.

At the sort of price you're talking you may even be able to find somewhere to stay overnight occasionally and save money. I've done this using my campervan, not to save money but to save driving when the direct trains weren't running - but of course that's cheaper than hotels etc. This would work particularly well with off-peak travel.

With sufficient forward planning, if you know which days you're going in, you can get advance tickets on many routes. These are far cheaper. I wouldn't budget on the basis of this approach, but it can improve your margins if things are tight.

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  • Thanks - good idea about mixing up the train and driving. I used the national rail ticket calculator which shows all the options, and it said for 3 x days a week that the season pass is most appropriate. However if I actually drive 1 day a week perhaps it can be more reasonable - a good potential compromise that I hadn't thought of.
    – Lyall
    Jul 28 at 16:34
  • The season ticket calculator on nationalrail.co.uk currently gets flexi season tickets wrong if you put in a fairly short period over which you want to travel. I think it assumes that you'll waste journeys at the end of the period. So it's a bit misleading due to edge effects. On my route it's only £1/day less than a day return, but my route also need you to travel 5x to be worth buying a weekly; most routes it's 4x. I suggest getting the prices and making your own spreadsheet/script to calculate which tickets to buy
    – Chris H
    Jul 29 at 7:38
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I'm not an employer but the way you propose it I would give this a very hard no.

Everything is part of the compensation and should be discussed before getting the offer. Bringing this up after would reflect poorly on you in my eyes.


You're planning to ask this once you get the offer which probably already takes into account salary expectations you voiced and discussed.
Asking for support on commuting expense after is the same as asking for a raise without having worked a single day for them.

As you noticed it's none of the employers concern that you want to buy a house but it shouldn't be for you either. Say you rented a place and they gave you an extra £500, what's stopping anyone from saying "I moved closer now so I'm saving £400 in commuting costs but I'm paying £1,000 more in rent now, £600 extra please?".

Salary sacrifice schemes mentioned are a different matter, as it doesn't amount to a raise for the employer but that's the most I expect would be offered (if they support it at all as it's a benefit for the employee with an administrative overhead for the company).

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You can certainly ask for more money. This would be part of your salary, not a separate thing. They can say no, and you know this. If they say no, you can walk away, and they know this. There is no simple answer.

You can tell them the reason you want (not need) more money, or not. You can say, "since this job is so far away from my house I want an additional $500/month to cover the train ride." They can say (if they know this - don't tell them if not) "We're already giving you a pay rise of $1300/month." You can say "That's what my mortgage costs." They can say "Well how were you paying it before?" Protracted arguing of this sort will not leave a positive impression. On the other hand, if they just say "yes" to covering the train ride, you're done.

There's also the possibility that they will ask about your travel habits and suggest a cheaper alternative - in which case, great! £500/month seems very expensive.

They shouldn't know your previous salary, and they don't need to (unless it's higher than their offer and you are about to walk away). You could act like the salary was the same amount you were getting before, and therefore you need an increase to cover the commute. Don't outright tell them it's the same as your previous salary, because that would be lying, but you may imply it.

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