Allowing staff to take time off in lieu shows you care

It will help you attract employees who have well-balanced lives and they will be the most productive, says Valerie Morton

Valerie Morton
Valerie Morton

Q. Should I give my staff time off in lieu for working overtime?

A. This would be quite a simple question to answer if there were not so many issues tied up with it - so bear with me while I work through the main problems and then give you my conclusion.

The first issue is the seniority of the staff members concerned. As people move higher up the ladder in an organisation and they are paid more for their efforts, there is an expectation that working outside the usual office hours will be necessary on some occasions. After all, responsibility does not end at 5pm.

But junior staff, whose work is more task-based, would expect to keep to the set total of their working hours as a norm. If their contracts include some form of flexitime, then time off in lieu is automatic.

So where does this leave staff in middle management roles? They too are expected to work additional hours, at times, but they do not have the comfort of the larger pay cheque to soften the blow.

Next we need to look at why a staff member works additional hours. It could be that working extra hours is necessary because of a one-off activity such as end-of-year accounts, a fundraising event or a tight deadline for a tender.

It could also be because the workload has built up over time and staff levels have not caught up with it. In some charities, it might even be a conscious decision to expect staff to work additional hours as a means of keeping the pay bill down. But with some people it could simply be a lack of productivity - taking far longer to carry out a task than is really necessary, or poor delegation skills.

It's also the case that some people actually want to work extra hours because they feel their home or social lives are less enticing than work.

The third issue is the culture of the workplace. We probably all have experience of working in organisations where leaving on time is seen as a lack of commitment and being the last to turn the lights out is a prerequisite for promotion. Time off in lieu is seen as something for softies in these places, which is hardly the most enlightened approach and potentially discriminates against anyone who cannot or does not want to work outside their normal hours for their own reasons.

So what is my conclusion? I would go for the time off in lieu route because it sends out the message that you value your people and their time. It will help you to attract employees who have well-balanced lives and, in my experience, these people will be the most productive in any case. It will also encourage you to look realistically at the staffing structure you need to fulfil your objectives. As for the more senior staff, some might not take time off in lieu all the time but, when they do, you will know it really matters to them.

Valerie Morton is a trainer, fundraiser and consultant

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