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Black Friday a headache for employers?

Black Friday  a headache for employers?

The distinctly American shopping phenomenon of Black Friday has gained significant traction in the UK over the past few years, but what impact does this shopping tradition have on employers?

This year the Centre for Retail Research estimates that consumers will spend £1.39 billion on Friday 27th November 2015 and the police have issued warnings to retailers to ensure the safety of the public after reports of fights breaking out over bargains last year.

This raises the question of whether employers should be worried? How will they cope if employees are desperate to take time off for shopping or are using the internet to shop for special Black Friday offers during working time?

If employers receive competing requests for holidays, subject to any contrary contractual terms, they have the right to stipulate when employees take their holiday and can refuse the request.

However, it is important that requests are dealt with consistently, meaning it is essential that employers have in place a policy that applies to everyone.

It is possible that some employees who have not been successful in obtaining requested leave may call in sick. To minimise the chances of employees calling in sick, employers should ensure that that their sickness absence procedure is as tight as possible. "Back to work" interviews should also be routinely and consistently conducted, even after just a single day's absence.

Where an employer has firm evidence that sickness absence is not genuine or an employee has not provided a reason for being absent from work, this is likely to classed as misconduct and should be dealt with using the employer's disciplinary procedure.

Internet shopping is becoming more popular each year - particularly in relation to sales events such as Black Friday - where people want to avoid the crowds.

Significant numbers of employees have access to the internet via their work and therefore there is a real risk that productivity is negatively impacted by internet shopping. Employers should ensure employees know what is expected of them in terms of internet use and if and when personal use of the internet is appropriate.

For example, is personal use of the internet banned altogether, is it allowed during breaks or before or after work? A clear IT policy is the best way to achieve this.

If employers intend to monitor internet and email use they must ensure that employees know how, when and why monitoring could happen and that the monitoring is proportionate. For example, monitoring could be the only way of ensuring the rules in relation to use of the internet are being adhered to.

For some companies, monitoring of all employees' internet use may not be proportionate. However, a specific investigation into an allegation that an employee has been misusing the internet is likely to be reasonable.

Monitoring of internet use and emails engages the Data Protection Act 1998 and, therefore, employers introducing monitoring or new monitoring systems should take advice to ensure it is compliant with the principles of the Act.

Employers should also have a policy in place regarding personal deliveries to work premises, e.g. Christmas presents ordered from the internet, and make sure employees know whether it is acceptable to have personal packages delivered to work and, if so, how these should be managed.

Overall, employers should ensure their HR policies covering internet use, holidays and sickness absence are up-to-date and properly communicated, together with consequences of not adhering to them, to their staff. Employers should also adhere to their policies and apply them consistently. There is no point in having a policy if it is not fit for purpose and is not used in reality.

If you would like more information on dealing with employee issues please contact Amy Jones on the details below.

Posted by Amy Jones


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