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Back to Work or Time Off?
So as the schools in England and Wales go back at the beginning of September, the holiday season is coming to an end. This means an end to those witty posts on how to write the perfect out of office message. I don't know if you saw any of them (even the BBC had an article on the issue), but it appeared that there were two schools of thought: The one in which you tell everyone you're off having a great time and they'll just have to wait until you're back and the second which said that you're on holiday but not allowed to disconnect. Both have their problems and signal a lot about employer's expectations - some of which is quite worrying for business productivity and employee well-being. We can't ignore this until next summer as it has long-term implications.

Indeed, there have been a couple of recent cases elsewhere that give a hint of the issues to be considered – particularly if you expect your employees to be contactable outside of working hours.

In France, its supreme court ordered the French unit of UK pest control company Rentokil Initial to pay a former employee €60,000 (£53,000) because it failed to respect his right to disconnect outside office hours. The court ruled that it was unfair for the ex-regional director to have to permanently leave his telephone on to respond to requests from his subordinates or customers in the event of problems when not at work. The ruling is thought to be the first of its kind since a 2016 law on the right to switch off phones and computers came into effect. Admittedly this is not in place in the UK, but the principles appear in our working time regulations which allow for a period of 11 hours of uninterrupted rest between working days or shifts.

And in Eire an executive has been awarded €7,500 (£6,750) by an employment court for being required to answer emails out of work. Gráinne O’Hara, who worked at Kepak Convenience Foods, told the court that she was contracted to work 40 hours a week but did closer to 60 because she was required to deal with out-of-hours work emails. This demand to answer emails out of work meant she worked in excess of 48 hours a week, breaching the 1997 Organisation of Working Time Act in Ireland. (Their equivalent of our Working Time Regulations).

So if you have a similar set of expectations of your employees remember that by doing so, they may not be as productive in the office if they have not had the rest to which they are entitled.
Posted on 24 Aug 2018


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