Taking the Perk
If you asked me what kind of solicitor I was, you’d get a different answer depending on where I am.
If I’m out networking (ie drinking), I’d probably tell you that I’m a great value for money solicitor, or a very good solicitor.
If you wanted a more serious answer, I’d tell you that genetically I am a litigator, and that I learned at an early age (from my mother) to never take no for an answer.
On the other hand, if you wanted to know what I love doing, I’d tell you that I’m at my happiest with a cup of tea (yes really, tea) and a contract to review. The mental challenge of going through it, line by line, finding out what works and what doesn’t, testing it out and seeing where it can be improved upon, can keep me entertained for hours!
Over the years I’ve probably reviewed most kinds of contracts, from complicated distribution agreements and actors contracts, to routine terms and conditions and share sale agreements. I doubt there’s anything you could tell me about that would shock me. I’ve done my fair share of unusual agreements (like the one related to battery operated marital aids – you might need to think about that one for a moment) and dealt with more than my fair share of difficult opponents (mostly American ones).
The area where I’ve seen the most change in recent years is in employment contracts. This is partly due to the significant change in regulation, but also to do with the changes in our lives. For example, 10 years ago mobile phones, websites and the internet were all still in their infancy, so that you were unlikely to have needed a rule about what staff could/should be doing from company equipment during office hours.
Whilst restricting obvious things like mobile phone use at work has started to become the norm, what is new in employment contracts is the use of less tangible assets. I’m sure most employers are aware that their staff occasionally steel a few envelopes, or pocket a few pens, but if they all sit at their desks charging their personal phones, I pads and back up batteries during office hours, is that an everyday part of life or is that taking a perk too far.
Of course it’s not just a bit of electricity.
What if all the staff started to download films at work, so they can watch them from home without having to eat into their data allowance – it might not cost the employer anything extra directly, but if it made the system run more slowly so that productivity was affected, clients would soon complain.
We have a fancy coffee machine that makes all kinds of fancy drinks. If everyone made themselves one in a take away cup for the journey home, the cost would soon run up.
I regularly see staff and colleagues have Amazon and the like deliver to their offices. What starts out as a bit of convenience to avoid having to drive to the shops, can become disruptive and inconvenient as staff time is taken up with extra deliveries and returns.
Should employers see this all of this as a necessary and automatic perk available to their staff to make their lives easier and help with the work/life balance, or should they refuse to let anyone use any office facilities for personal purposes? At what point does it stop being what everyone does, and cross that line into potential misconduct.
Whatever your view, if you want to be certain that you have the final say in what your staff can and cannot do with office amenities, I’d suggest putting a “reasonable usage” clauses in your contracts, or at least refer to it in your handbook (I’m sure all you employers out there have handbooks) to at least give yourselves the right to limit that usage if you feel that your staff are taking you facilities for granted.
Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. We’re always perky!