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Short-Time Working

In today’s climate, we have met with many employers who are looking to cut costs without actually making redundancies. A short-term solution worth considering is the introduction of short-time working. Here we have provided a brief overview, but if you are considering this option please speak to one of our Consultants who will discuss with you fully how to go about implementing this approach.

Q What is short-time working?
A When an employer reduces the hours the employee is required to work by reducing the number of working days and/or hours the employee works in a day. The employee’s wages are reduced accordingly to reflect the change in hours.

Q Can employers impose short-time working?
A You can only impose short-time working where there is a contractual right to do so, for example, in the contract of employment or a collective agreement. Flexibility as to how hours are reduced, how long the arrangements can last, who is selected etc may depend on how the contractual provisions are drafted.

Q What if there is no contractual right to impose short-time working?
A You need to present your detailed proposal to the relevant employees, or their representatives, explaining why you feel that short-time working is necessary with a view to seeking their approval. Most redundancy policies will provide for the employer to consider short-time working before carrying out any compulsory redundancies and this may help in gaining employee support.

Q How should an employer implement short-time working?
A Even when an employer has the right to impose short-time working, if it is not something you do on a regular basis, the situation requires to be handled sensitively. As employee pay will be reduced, it is good practice to communicate with the employees and explain why you are considering a reduction in hours, to encourage employees to be support you. I the reduction is to reduce or avoid redundancies, employees are likely to be more receptive to short-time working.

Q How should employers select employees for short-term working?
A If the short-time working pattern requires that you select particular employees, you should take care to avoid any discriminatory or unfair selection process. If the whole workforce is affected, the process should be relatively easy to follow.

Q What steps should employers take?
• Check you have a contractual right to impose short-time working
• Work out proposed new working patterns and selection criteria
• Check any contractual entitlement to payment for unworked time
• Communicate constructively and effectively with employees.

The above information is intended to be used only as a guide, and for a more detailed explanation you should contact one of our Consultants to discuss further.


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