Thorntons lawyer urges employer caution over ‘summer hours’

Thorntons lawyer urges employer caution over 'summer hours'

Chris Phillips

Employers should take care in offering shorter work hours to their employees over the summer, an employment law partner at Thorntons Solicitors has said.

Chris Phillips made the comments after it emerged that Big Four accountancy firm PwC would offer staff shorter work hours on a Friday during the summer months of June, July and August.

“The idea of shortening or flexing hours for staff over the summer is great in principle and, as long as it’s appropriate for that particular organisation and managed carefully, it can be a real win-win, helping employers to retain valued staff and letting colleagues feel more valued,” Mr Phillips said.

“They may also end up being more productive overall when they are at work despite working slightly fewer hours. They will feel more rested and that they have achieved a better work-life balance.

“These can be key considerations in what is a tough labour market for employers with staff in so many areas and sectors in short supply and more susceptible to having their heads turned by what they perceive as a more understanding employer. But care needs to be taken in devising and managing your approach as an employer.”

He continued: “First, you need to make sure that it is going to be right for your business and the clients or users for whom a service needs to be provided. It won’t be practical for every organisation and also won’t be suitable for every category of worker either.

“Second, if you do choose to introduce a policy you need to be clear what the parameters will be. That will include making clear that it is a temporary, non-contractual arrangement and subject always to business needs. Having a written policy setting out the key points makes sense and helps to avoid misunderstanding. It also minimises the risk of abuse and provides a stronger basis for managing any issues that do arise.

“Any policy needs to be implemented fairly and consistently too so its use is seen as beneficial rather than becoming a source of resentment. It also makes sense to trial it first and review any feedback carefully to identify and resolve any issues early on. Keeping any policy under regular review is always a good idea as circumstances can change.”

Mr Phillips is a member of the Employment Lawyers Association, the Scottish Discrimination Lawyers Association and has been accredited by the Law Society of Scotland as an employment law specialist since 2005. He is also an external examiner in employment law for the University of Dundee and chairman of Fife College Foundation.

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