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My employer recently laid off staff due to economic conditions; on the order of 10%, I think. I made the cut and we -- the survivors -- have been promised that there won't be another round of lay offs for at least 6 months. That said, the economic outlook is still rather bleak and, to that end, I have been given the option to go part-time, for three-to-four months. I've been told that, if I choose to remain full time, that won't be held against me.

I've no experience of situations like these, but my gut feeling is that this doesn't look good.

  • If I remain FT, that negatively affects the company's short-term viability. This increases the risk of job loss (for everyone), but I don't have any information to quantify this likelihood.

    I also don't believe that "promises" will be kept -- in both the frequency of lay off rounds, nor FT being held against me -- if things deteriorate. That's not to say that I don't trust my employer; it's just that breaking promises may become a financial necessity for them to stay afloat.

  • If I switch to PT, that buys the company some time, but at my expense (in terms of sacrificed salary). The apportions they've suggested range from completely unviable, for me, to just-about-liveable; so let's assume the best I can do is the top end of their PT proposal.

    But who's to say things will improve despite this? If I end up getting laid off on a PT salary, then I think I'd get pro rata severance; not that that would amount to much, either way. Other things (e.g., pension contributions) will also be affected by the PT salary. The extra time would be nice, but personally, there's not a lot I can do with it.

I don't want my employer to go out of business, or lay off more staff -- my colleagues and potentially myself -- but would it be selfish of me to say that I don't see it as my responsibility to take the short-term hit? Of course, in doing so, I may be setting myself up for a long-term hit: How big of a red flag is their proposal in terms of signalling their current viability?

For argument's sake, the consequences of going PT are not fully clear to me, either. What are other possible "side-effects" of being PT? (I'd imagine geography matters for this question: I'm employed in the UK.)

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  • 5
    ... From which follows the golden rule, if your employer is short of money, make sure you work for a profit centre, not a cost centre... Apr 5, 2023 at 16:16
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    And who says they won't expect full-time effort for a part-time salary?
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 5, 2023 at 17:02
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    Why would you want to stay with a company where the good news is that they can keep from being bankrupt for at least 6 more months? Are there any compelling reasons to stay there for you, that you would consider part time?
    – nvoigt
    Apr 5, 2023 at 17:41
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    Have they put this PT offer just to you or others too? For the savings to mean enough that it would be able to significant prolong the company’s lifespan we’d have to be talking about dozens, if not hundreds of employees. Unless you’re all on high six or seven figure salaries, which seems unlikely.
    – Darren
    Apr 6, 2023 at 6:18
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    If you were hurting for money instead of the company, would the company voluntarily increase your hours? hahahaha no. Be as loyal to the company as the company is to you.
    – user253751
    Apr 6, 2023 at 19:24

5 Answers 5

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How big of a red flag is their proposal in terms of signalling their current viability?

The fact that they would even propose this indicates that their viability is not good at all. This means that, as you suspected, their "promise" of no further layoffs can and likely will be broken. If I were in your shoes I would not accept such an offer.

What are other possible "side-effects" of being PT? (I'd imagine geography matters for this question: I'm employed in the UK.)

Aside from the severance that you already brought up, you would need to look into any benefits that your company provides that are based on whether or not you are a full time employee. Becoming part time may make you no longer eligible for those benefits and the company can decide to "temporarily" remove them under the guise of "cost savings".

In all, this company looks like it is sinking and I would not be concerned with helping the company or your colleagues. You need to help yourself first, and the first thing you should do while you are still employed is to start searching for a new, stable, company to work for.

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    I absolutely agree with this comment. I would add that the only advantage of transitioning to part time right now is that it would allow you to spend more time and energy on looking for a new job. Make sure you carefully research what benefits you would be losing by going part time before you make this decision.
    – InBedded16
    Apr 5, 2023 at 16:09
  • "looks like it is sinking" -- perhaps, but it also looks like they're taking preemptive measures to avoid sinking. It really depends on whether the problems are their own fault or due to general conditions in the economy/industry.
    – Barmar
    Apr 7, 2023 at 15:02
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    +1, but might be worth adding that looking for a job at another company might be the best way to benefit the questioner, their current company, and their colleagues. In essence, they'll be voluntarily going to zero-time employment (zero-time saves twice as much as half-time) with the company after they've found a new job. Hopefully, that won't take long, keeping everyone happy. (Unless, as others have suggested, the goal was for the questioner to get part-time pay for full-time effort.) Apr 7, 2023 at 19:06
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I can't really imagine there are circumstances that justify taking a wage cut, unless you're a director or a senior executive, and have a clear understanding of the finances of the business and reason to believe the adversity is temporary.

A viable business can either pay wages from its own resources, or use a bank overdraft to pay wages. When it can't do either, it is almost certainly headed to the grave.

Unless you're in a position where you don't need a full-time wage and have strong non-financial reasons to stay with the company, then the best answer is to retain your full wage and start seeking a new job.

Otherwise, accepting a part-time wage will simply bleed your personal resources, and if the firm folds completely, you may face looking for a job suddenly at the same time as many others.

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  • You say you can't imagine any circumstances where a voluntary pay cut would make sense, and then go on to give an example of such circumstances in the third paragraph :-). I have personally accepted a significant pay cut in the past, where the situation was basically "you've become way too expensive for us, would you mind working for less or would you prefer looking for a job elsewhere?" (and I definitely like the job much more than how much I care about the money).
    – TooTea
    Apr 8, 2023 at 19:23
  • Also, given that OP is in the UK, it is entirely possible that OP's employer discovered that they really need to downsize to survive (say, because Brexit made their market shrink drastically, or because energy prices made parts of their product portfolio unsustainable, or a myriad of other reasons). It feels fair to give the employees a choice between adjusting to the new economic reality by taking a pay cut, or by basically laying themselves off.
    – TooTea
    Apr 8, 2023 at 19:29
  • @TooTea, there may be people who can afford a cut, but few can afford not to work at all. My third paragraph refers to people who wouldn't be troubled financially if the firm folded. As for a choice between a cut and seeking employment elsewhere, my advice is precisely that it's best for most in these circumstances to retain their full pay whilst looking for new work.
    – Steve
    Apr 8, 2023 at 21:49
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Speaking from personal experience.

During the start of the pandemic, the company I was offered the workers either a dismissal with paid leave, or a cut in salary and the exact same thing: possible resolution with future full pay. However, they did let us know that it was not possible to know if all employees would remain with the company.

I left, but several employees stayed and accepted the cut in wages. Some were eventually laid off, and others are still with the company with a small increase in pay, if compared to their initial salaries.

Since I left the company, I looked for companies that were either thriving or were better sustaining themselves. I doubled my salary and my experience.

It is a hard decision to take, I stayed looking for new jobs for a while. After you accept either of their options, there are no contracts on the future of your company, and you can not hold them accountable if they dismiss you in six months or if your finances diminish.

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In general, be very wary of the temptation to do things that you are suspicious of "for the good of the company." Pushing harder because you think you will be recognized/rewarded for it is fine. Ditto if it's something you actively enjoy doing. But if that doesn't appear to be the case -- if you're doing it because "someone ought to even if management won't appreciate or reward it" -- that can be a trap that robs you of better opportunities.

Some of the career decisions I most regret were made from a sense of moral obligation, trying to keep a project going because I wanted to see it closed out cleanly rather than bailing out to work on something getting more attention and support. Necessary or not, keeping things going is not rewarded as well as getting them started.

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  • This. The company has already proven that they're willing to break contracts/promises by laying people off. They will do it again to keep the company (i.e. the executive board) afloat as long as possible. As the song says, ♫Take the money and run♪.
    – FreeMan
    Apr 7, 2023 at 12:12
  • The days of companies not laying people off during even minor downturns are long gone, in the US at least, with the exception of some relatively small concerns. The question is how, when, what percentage... This case sounds like the company is in serious trouble, but if you run from every layoff you're going to have trouble finding a place where you want to work, and they may decide they need to do layoffs too. All you can do is read individual situations.
    – keshlam
    Apr 7, 2023 at 12:47
  • Agreed. While I'm certain we're missing a lot of context here, based on what the OP has told us, this situation does not sound like it's full of long-term promise...
    – FreeMan
    Apr 7, 2023 at 12:56
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The company is offering employees the option to work part-time for reduced pay. They are hoping that this will be an attractive alternative for some of their staff; I'm thinking particularly of parents with children, who might be glad of a less demanding work load. They are not expecting people to sacrifice themselves for the good of the company.

In short: do what is best for you! Don't try and second-guess the effect your decision will have on the fate of the company -- that is above your pay grade.

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