Preparing for Black Friday? The issues faced by Employers

Having started as a tradition in the USA, the presence of Black Friday in the UK has gradually increased over recent years.

In 2016, Black Friday is scheduled for 25 November 2016. This is followed closely behind by Cyber Monday, which falls just several days later on 28 November 2016.

With more and more stores offering significant discounts on branded products on these “sale days” (which importantly, fall within what is considered the traditional working week), how do employers deal with employees doing their online shopping during working hours?

As many stores have extended their Black Friday offers from 1 day to 1 week, it would certainly not be unreasonable for there to be an expectation that staff will do their shopping outside of working hours.

However, inevitably there will be the temptation for employees to browse the web in the hope of getting the best deal possible during the working day.

Whilst most employers will have appropriate policies in place that employees are familiar with (covering for example, the use of office equipment and the internet), it may nevertheless be useful to send out a memorandum outlining the key principles of the relevant policy, or simply an e-mail reminding them of the importance of company policies on a day to day basis. In addition, it may be useful to highlight areas where breaches often happen, and suggest how this can be avoided.

This exercise should be extremely useful, as there is often a thin line between an employee innocently browsing the web during their break, to an employee patiently waiting in a queue for the next big discounted product.

Put simply, an employee failing to utilise their working time, and instead spending it online shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, is incorrectly accepting payment for time that they have not in fact worked.

Moreover, distractions from spending time focusing on the sales may have a knock on effect on the business – impacting customer satisfaction and subsequently bringing the company name into disrepute.

In addition, the constant delivery of items in the aftermath of the sale days, and employees taking annual leave so as to stay at home to man the computer and obtain the best deals possible can also be extremely disruptive and have a detrimental effect on the productivity of a company.

Whilst no employer truly wishes to take disciplinary action against a member of staff who has spent over and above the reasonably anticipated time browsing the shops online, if the policy in place is breached on continuous occasions, it may be the most appropriate course of action.

At Kitsons, we can advise on the most appropriate way in which to proceed. Just contact us on 01803 202020 or alternatively, on employment@kitsons-solicitors.co.uk.

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    About the author

    Jayme NicholsonPartner and Head of Employment

    Jayme is a Partner and Head of our Employment team

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