HR Blog: Can I ask an employee to come to work on their day off?

Ensuring that you have adequate staffing for your business to operate day-to-day takes some planning. However, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that things don’t always go to plan.

Finding yourself short-staffed, whether due to sickness absences or an unmanageable rise in demand for your services, can prove to be a challenge.

If you are understaffed, having to close for the day is a less than ideal situation, but what other options are there? Understandably, you might be wondering if you can reach out to employees and ask them to come to work on their day off.

Some employees won’t mind helping you out at short notice, so long as they are remunerated accordingly. Others might be a bit surprised by the request and have other commitments already planned.

For the conversation to go as smoothly as possible, there are a few things to consider first.

Consult your contracts

A good employment contract will set out an employee’s typical working pattern, including the hours and days that they will be expected to work.

If hours are changeable, this will also need to be stipulated in the contract and should detail any notice an employee can expect to receive concerning a change to their shift. If changes are to be made at very short notice, or an employee is expected to be “on call” at times, this should be stated, and they would have had to agree to this in advance.

Including a clause on overtime is a good idea as it helps to set expectations should overtime become available.

Employment contracts set out the terms and expectations of employment.

For a one-off, they may be inclined to help you out, but if it becomes a regular occurrence having an alternative solution is a good idea. Would retired staff be willing to step in at short notice? Could you use “keeping in touch days” for those on maternity leave to plug the gaps? Some companies with a large turnover of staff have built a team of zero-hour workers specifically for these events. They then can apply for the next vacancy.

Consider your approach

How you ask the question will impact the response from your employee, especially if it’s not a contractual obligation. For example, acknowledging that it is out of the ordinary and that you would appreciate the help is likely to be better received than demanding that they attend with little notice.

One employer recently found this out the hard way, after sending a 3am text asking an employee to come to work later that day on their scheduled day off. The employee explained they had been out for the night and felt unprepared to come to work seeing as they thought they would be off. After a heated exchange, in which the employer used the phrase “be a team player” the employee ended the conversation and their employment.

Check your compliance

Whilst an employee might be happy and willing to work some overtime or change their hours at short notice, it is your responsibility to ensure that your staffing complies with the Working Time Regulations.

This means making sure that employees take 20-minute rest breaks when working longer than six hours and having 11 hours rest between working days. They must also have one day off a week or two days off a fortnight.

Employees shouldn’t be working more than 48 hours in a week, unless they have specifically opted out.

Beat burnout

When overtime is managed well, it can be beneficial for employees and for your business. However, without a review, it can increase the risk of burnout amongst your staff.

To keep your team happy, healthy and working well, it’s a good idea to monitor and review overtime in your business and check-in with staff on a regular basis to see how they are doing.

For further top tips on staffing your business safely, contact your local HR Dept today.

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