Ask HR: Can I Ask for Money to Cover Remote Working Expenses?

By Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP September 3, 2021
Ask HR: Can I Ask for Money to Cover Remote Working Expenses?

​President Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP

SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA Today.

Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here.

I have been working remotely for my company for 17 months. It recently announced plans for extended and potentially permanent remote operations. I maintain a home office with some supplies I would normally get from work. It takes up space in my home that could otherwise be used for something else. Can I request a salary adjustment to account for my personal investments in my remote work? —Evan

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: Certainly, you could ask for a salary adjustment. However, a better option to recoup remote-work expenditures may be expense reimbursement. Expense reimbursement systems are a more common practice for businesses. Several states require employers to reimburse employees for necessary business-related expenses. 

Even in states where it is not mandated by law, many employers have policies for reimbursement of certain business expenses. You'll want to review your employer's policy to identify what is applicable to your situation. You can also reach out to your HR department for further clarification.

If there isn't a policy in place, I recommend you add up your expenditures for your home office and present the total cost to your employer. Things that you might think are personal items may be classified as business expenses when working from home. Reimbursement expenses may include office supplies, utilities or other items an employer may require while working from home.

If your employer does not offer reimbursement for business-related expenses, you may consider talking to an accountant about possible tax deductions. As a last resort, I would then ask for a salary adjustment to cover the costs associated with an investment in your home office.

Now, employers aren't required to oblige such a request, as such expenses may offset what you would save in eliminating your daily commute. You will want to understand what your cost savings are as well.

In the end, you will want to weigh your expenditures against your savings to see where you fall. Understand the situation fully before you ask. I hope this helps. Good luck!

I am currently searching for a job and already have health insurance coverage through my spouse. Can I ask for higher pay based on the fact that I will deny coverage through a prospective employer? —Jorge

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: Yes. When negotiating salary, you are free to ask about a litany of considerations. The hiring process is exactly the setting in which you should address compensation, but be prepared to explain in detail why you are asking for a higher starting pay. Asking for higher pay when not enrolling in benefits is referred to as cash in lieu of benefits.

First, you should understand a few things as you approach the salary negotiation. When entering any negotiation, remember you do not control the outcome, only your perspective and how you express it.  With that in mind, take care in crafting your position and be prepared with responses to both positive and negative outcomes.

I recommend you start by researching the industry and evaluating how your skill set and experience match up to the requirements for the position. Having a grasp of the common salary for the position and regional cost-of-living factors will better inform your salary expectations. Employers often have established salary ranges, so you'll want to ensure what you are asking makes sense.

Sell yourself! Highlight the value you bring to an employer. Relate your competencies that align with the company's mission. Specific examples of those competencies will further strengthen your case and the credibility of your argument.

From your perspective, you may assume not taking insurance saves the company money. However, it isn't always the case as there are variables not readily apparent. Benefits often come from a separate budget than salaries, so it may not make sense from the employer's viewpoint. In addition, if your prospective employer has at least 50 full-time equivalent employees, then it is subject to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and providing cash in lieu of benefits adds complexity with regard to its ACA compliance.

Be prepared to clearly state your case, but understand some elements may hinder your chances to acquire cash in lieu of benefits. Practice verbalizing all of your points to project confidence but be wary not to cross the line into cockiness. Seek to understand the dynamics a prospective employer may be facing as you ask about salary. Don't be afraid to explore your options. Just make sure you employ tact and professionalism when doing so. 

Remember, if you don't ask, you'll never know. Best of luck!



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