The work-life balance – but not as you know it!
It’s one of those phrases we hear more and more these days, and I added the extra words in so that you knew that I wasn’t going to be talking about how important it is.
That doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s important, it just means that it creates legal issues, and thank goodness it does because otherwise I’d be out of a job.
One of the legal areas most heavily affected by the work life balance, is employment law. The need to have good policies and procedures in place for your staff becomes more and more important as we move away from the traditional 9 to 5 office hours.
It becomes a whole different ball game when the hours aren’t spent in the office, no matter what time you start and finish.
When employees are in the office, employers are allowed to and are able to monitor their activities within certain parameters. For example, having CCTV cameras in the office is probably ok, so long as everyone knows that they are there and that the recordings are kept safely and only used for legitimate purposes. Having cameras close to the toilets might be ok, so long as you could justify it. Having cameras inside the toilets is never going to be ok.
But what about when employees are working from home. When in their own home an employee would have a much higher right to privacy than they would in the office. However, when they are in the home, they are much more able (and in some cases much more likely) to abuse the privilege, so employers may feel more justified in monitoring them more closely. As a case in point, I am told that journalists working at home for the Daily Mail have software on their machines that shows if they stop working. Perhaps the benefits of working from home outweighs the Big Brother vibe.
Of course there are always going to be staff who object to what their employers are doing, and could even take this as far as a Tribunal claim, perhaps for unfair constrictive dismissal if, for example, monitoring policies are introduced more than 2 years after someone started at the company.
Whilst it’s never possible to prevent someone from bringing such a claim, there are still things that can be done to limit your exposure. Consulting with staff is a good way to start. Having a clear well thought out policy is a good next step. Making sure that that policy is circulated to everyone (remembering to bring it to the attention of new starters and do regular reminders) is important, as is encouraging staff to come and talk to you (in confidence ironically) and updating the policy as appropriate.
Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. Tipping the balance in your favour.