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When negotiating a job offer, is it reasonable to ask the company to help pay for airfare for me to visit my wife?

The details:

I just graduated with a Ph.D. in computer science, and have interviewed with a large multinational company for a research engineer position on the west coast. They are interested in hiring me, and are going through the paperwork to send me a formal offer soon.

Everything about the job is ideal, except for its location. My wife and I live on the east coast. My wife has a postdoctoral fellowship here, so she won't be able to move with me for at least another year.

Fortunately, I was able to negotiate an arrangement with the company, wherein I can spend 1/4 of my time working remotely from the east coast office, to spend time with my wife. This would mean 1 to 2 round-trips per month. Both the research team and HR have signed off on this.

Is it reasonable to ask the company to help pay for the airfare? On the one hand, strictly speaking, this travel is not for business purposes. On the other hand, I am told that much is negotiable once they give you an offer. I would like to know if this is at all reasonable to put on the table, and if so, how to best broach the subject.

16

It is absolutely reasonable to ask - you can negotiate any sort of terms in the contract that both of you agree to. You should be prepared for them to say no, or to offer a lower cash salary in exchange for this other compensation though.

You should also speak to your accountant and make sure that you understand the tax implications (if any) of this extra remuneration.

The best way to bring this up is as part of the salary negotiation. When you are talking with them about money, tell them that you appreciate their being flexible about location, and ask if they would be willing to reimburse whatever you want.

Make sure they know how important it is to you (eg: if they say no, will you turn down the offer), and if you are flexible (eg: will you talk less cash in return for this?)

If you have already negotiated that, though, you can still talk to your boss about it, but be prepared for them to say no. By that point they have probably spent their budget for you, and adding more to their costs is harder.

  • Agreed; this is a matter of compensation negotiation, and not an "expense reimbursement" per se. – jcmeloni Sep 3 '12 at 22:51
  • Is there a chance that they might have separate budgets for salary and travel, and therefore may be more generous in total if I negotiate this in terms of a separate salary and travel purse? Or should I simply negotiate for a higher salary? – SuperElectric Sep 4 '12 at 2:52
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    Travel is for work related expenses and can be charged against contracts. You are asking for a perk that is worth thousands of dollars a year. – mhoran_psprep Sep 4 '12 at 3:05
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    @SuperElectric - A comment based on the author's opinion make a horrible answer. mhoran_psprep's comment is a single sentence. While I would argue its not actually his opinion ( common knowlege that travel and contract money is often seperate ) its not enough to be an answer on its own. My suggestion would propose a 50% split, this eases the burden on them, and allows you to "play ball" – Donald Sep 5 '12 at 13:42
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    I think it would be a good idea to set this up as the company to pay your expenses to travel from your home on the East Coast TO where they want you to work on the West Coast. That is more likely to be tax deductible than flying back 'home' even though it practically amounts to the same thing. – DJClayworth Nov 2 '12 at 14:21
10

It is definitely something you should negotiate.

A few years ago I was looking at moving from the UK to Switzerland and part of the compensation package we negotiated included bi-monthly flights back to the UK for the first 2 years, along with all normal relocation costs for myself and my partner.

In your case, you may also want to negotiate a split relocation. A first relocation allowance now to cover the cost of relocating you now, without your wife, and another allowance to cover the cost of your wife relocating to be with you once her fellowship completes.

Remember: Everything is negotiable.

  • Your solution is for him to leave his wife for a year? – acolyte Sep 4 '12 at 15:41
  • @acolyte: he said "you may also want to negotiate a split relocation". As in, the second idea is in addition to the regular visits that this question is predicated on. – SuperElectric Sep 4 '12 at 16:28
  • @MarkBooth yes, I did. And this answer sounds like it's encouraging him to negotiate with the company to move, and then a year later, bring his wife over as well. However, I do now realize that I misread the answer somewhat. My bad. – acolyte Sep 4 '12 at 17:00
  • @Ramhound yes, and i misread mark's answer, and I've apologized in my own fashion. I had not noticed at first that he recommended the split-relocation compensation IN ADDITION to the travel expenses. I had thought he was only pushing forward the split-relocation. again, my bad. – acolyte Sep 5 '12 at 16:09
4

They're aware of your situation and willing to work with you for the first year to accomodate spending time with your wife, so they must want you. You're going to need to explain why you've waited until getting an offer before mentioning you want to be reimbursed for your personal travel. If they offer a lower salary than you expected (or you're on a lower end of the pay scale), you're in a stronger position to ask for more.

  • Is the concern that they might think I was being sneaky or irresponsible by not asking until late in the process? The honest answer is neither: it simply didn't occur to me that this might be a reasonable thing to ask for, until friends started suggesting that I do. I'm not sure if that's something I want to tell the company, since it kinda reduces my leverage. Any suggestions for an explanation that is neither sneaky-sounding nor leverage-weakening would be highly appreciated. – SuperElectric Sep 4 '12 at 2:16
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    I would view the late addition of the request for this perk to be a big problem. You wanted to be able to work out of the east coast office, and they agreed. But now you want them to pay for the airfare. Other employees, if they were to find out, could see this as a benefit that should be made available to them. While many things are negotiable, you do realize that you risk that they will say never mind and go with their second candidate. This type of perk can be abused. – mhoran_psprep Sep 4 '12 at 3:12
3

Your question is similar to but different from another question on Academia SE. Similar because both are two body problems. Different because the other question is about academic jobs and yours is about industry jobs.

Since you mention east coast and west coast, I assume your country is U.S. You have a PhD and your future employer is a large company, my answer may not be applicable to other cases.

The airfare may not be an issue if the trips between the west coast office and the east coast office(assuming you have one) are considered business trips. Usually, the business trip expenses are tax deductible for your employer. Large companies make hundreds of millions of dollars profit. They always look for tax reliefs to avoid huge amount business taxes. If the airfare is considered business expense(You need a tax expert to confirm this), they will be willing to pay for it.

However, if you let them pay for the airfare, it may work against your own will. They can change your schedule. Say, your trip back to east coast is supposed to be in the middle of next month, your boss can tell you to cancel the trip because there is a deadline coming up. He has rights to do so because the company pays the travel expense.

On the other hand, if the trips are not counted as business trips and the company is still willing to pay the airfare. In this case, it is not necessarily good for you neither because it means that the airfare they reimburse you will be added to your income and you will be taxed by this extra pay. Your tax bracket will change and you may end up with paying more taxes than you should.

I would ask for more salary if I were you. Pay raises are usually in terms of percentage. The higher your starting salary is, the more money you'll get in the future.

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