Employers contacting employees during annual leave risk claims

2015-08-13 Philip posted:

As thousands of us are setting out for summer holiday destinations, how many will actually be able to take a real break from work? Smartphones and tablets make it easy to log in to the office remotely and it is widely accepted in some industries that employees will check and respond to e-mails on holiday, creating a culture in which employees are unable to ‘switch off’ during annual leave.

A Harris Poll of 2,000 UK employees conducted for jobs review site Glassdoor last year found that over half of all participants, admitted to doing some work while on holiday.

Of those employees who worked on holiday, 11 per cent said they were worried about getting behind on their workload; 10 per cent said were hoping for a pay rise; and 6 per cent were concerned they would lose their job.

All full-time UK workers are entitled to 28 days’ paid holiday a year (although organisations can provide additional holiday) including bank holidays under the Working Time Regulations 1998. This legal entitlement is intended to provide workers with a period of rest from work, to safeguard their health and well-being.

Employees may choose to work on holiday, and for executives and small company owners this may be essential for the smooth running of the business. But an employer expecting employees to work on holiday risks breaching a general duty to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the welfare at work of all its employees under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. And while some managers may encourage employees to be available on holiday, this could be contributing to the increase of stress-related illness among UK employees.

Employers have a duty to undertake risk assessments and manage employee activities to reduce stress levels at work. An employee suffering from work-related stress could bring a personal injury claim against their employer or, if the stress leads to an illness which can be classified as a ‘disability’ under the Equality Act 2010, a disability discrimination claim if the employer fails to make reasonable adjustments.

There is a risk that employees ‘on call’ or available to work during holiday are on ‘working time’ under the regulations. The case of Truslove v Scottish Ambulance Service decided that ‘on-call’ employees obliged to remain available at a place determined by the employer would be on working time.

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