Disciplinary Policy to govern hybrid working

Hi everyone and happy new year!

I’m curious to know what is your approach to when it comes to following a flexible working model (i.e. employees working 4 days at the office, 1 day from home, and the flexibility of hours of working).

How can you ensure that employees comply to these working arrangements? Like is there a policy and disciplinary approach?

  • I think this depends on a range of factors - how much trust their is in your organisation, the type of setting (office, factory, hospitality etc), any time-recording systems/software you use, and ultimately, how good your line managers are.
  • I think as a very last resort, "failure to follow a reasonable management instruction" as part of a Disciplinary Policy could be utilised but it would have to be very last resort, having made sure there are no other genuine or reasonable reasons why the individual is consistently unable or unwilling to attend as required. You would also have to demonstrate reasonableness in your request/instruction to attend the office on any given day and why it is absolutely not practicable/reasonable/the work cannot be done at home to make it so serious as to warrant formal disciplinary action.

    Our Hybrid Working Policy states an expectation of 3 days minimum (where the work can be done flexibly; for example, our cleaners, landscape workers and Security Team do not have such flexibility) but we can be flexible within that. Most of us tend to have "preferred" days working from home but it's not contractually enshrined so that someone can't say "I am not coming in for that event/training/in person meeting next Tuesday because I work from home on a Tuesday".

    I'm sure Robey will also have a view on this :) (that's a compliment, by the way, Robey!)
  • In reply to Maya:

    Just correcting my own grammar - "how much trust *there* is..."
  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    9 Jan, 2024 13:51

    In reply to Helen:

    Tagging  ;)

  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    9 Jan, 2024 13:56

    Hi  ... and welcome to our Community.

    I've edited your discussion title to 'hybrid working', which is what we're talking about here, I think (as opposed to 'flexible working').

  • I'd be cautious here. Taking someone to a disciplinary hearing based on this is saying that where they sit is much more important than a) how they behave, b) the work they do and how they do it, and c) their own important needs.

    What kind of signals could that send?

    This hasn't been tested in a Tribunal yet but I'm sure it will be, and will be interesting to see. I suspect the reputational damage to the employer would outweigh any benefits they get from taking disciplinary or legal action.

  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    11 Jan, 2024 11:42

    In reply to Gary:

    Thanks, Gary.
  • I was *on holiday*! XD

    I'm not entirely sure what the question is asking. If you mean "how do we make sure that people come to the office on days they are supposed to come to the office, and don't on days that they aren't?" then the answer is... to tell... them...?

    If someone were to persistently refuse to come in when you needed them to and instead works from home (and I've seen this quite a lot in some businesses) then the question that has to be asked is "why are we actually asking them to come in?" If there is specific work that can only be done in the office that they aren't doing because they are at home, then this is certainly a potential disciplinary matter. If, on the other hand, everything you need from them is getting done just... not where you can see them, then what, exactly, is the problem? I suggest a conversation about increasing their amount of time working remotely so that the needs of both parties are met. This would be a more adult and constructive approach than to discipline someone who, other than their specific geographical location, is otherwise giving you exactly what you need from them.

    Alternatively, perhaps you are coming to us from a position of moving away to an office-based working arrangement to a hybrid one and you have no experience of this, prompting someone, somewhere to ask "well, if they're not in the office, how can we be sure that they're working?"

    This is a very obvious question to ask. But because it is a very obvious question to ask it must also follow that many businesses have asked it before *and yet* they have still allowed people to work on a hybrid or remote basis and these businesses do not seem to have been part of a systemic collapse. So rather than asking how a business can be sure that remote-workers are actually working, let's ask a slightly different and more interesting question: how can a business be sure that *anyone* is working?

    If the answer is "because I stand over their shoulder and watch them do it" then I would suggest that maybe you have a cultural problem that won't be fixed by hybrid working and that, yes, you may find that, without someone actively whipping them, they may not do anything. However, on the assumption that it's not actually possible to watch what 100% of people are doing 100% of the time even in the office, they probably are already doing everything they can to avoid doing any work, regardless of where they are doing it.

    To speak practically, the way we - HR and management - are *supposed* to ensure that people are doing their work is by setting them clear (SMART) objectives and then regularly checking in to ensure that those objectives are being met. If this already your practice, as it should be, then switching to hybrid or remote working should be no challenge because you simply continue to do this. However, if you are one of the many, many workplaces that have allowed this simple practice to slack off through a fixation on leadership over management and the appearance of productivity over actual measurable progress towards a well-articulated overall goal, then you may find that this is a hard sell. Asking "leaders" to actually manage staff rather that simply glaring at them until they do something productive can be difficult if there is no culture of management.

    The fact is that employees have a right to request flexible working and employers have only a limited number of grounds upon which to refuse. Employers who fail to adopt basic management practice to accommodate at least some degree of remote working are going to find themselves at the sharp end of a lot of legal claims or, at least, are going to struggle to retain and attract staff to their general detriment.
  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    15 Jan, 2024 10:40

    In reply to Robey:

    Robey said:
    I was *on holiday*! XD

    Hope you had a good one,  

  • Funnily enough I have written about this topic on my blog today. Can an employer discipline or treat this as a performance management issue? Yes. If they have it clearly stated as a requirement and the employee is failing to adhere to that, they can. Is it a good idea? That depends. I would argue that it should not be a first resort.

    An employer has the right to require people to come into the office (assuming their contract provides for that). They have, broadly, the right to set this requirement as long as they are following all relevant employment legislation. They may also monitor this attendance to determine whether this requirement is being met.

    I would start with understanding why people are not coming in. Is the requirement clear? What is the reluctance? Is their reason related to their personal situation or something organisational that can be addressed? Common reasons in my experience vary from the commute is expensive (less a concern for an employer) to I am not productive / there is no place for me to work effectively if I need to work on Teams. Which is something the organisation should be looking at.

    There is no single answer to this - organisations need to find a balance between push and pull. Pull people in through providing a valuable experience that meets people's needs, and clarity about what they should be doing and why this matters. And then, if employees do not do what is asked of them you are within your rights to treat this in the same way that you would any other refusal to do their job as you need them to.
  • Steve Bridger

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    Community Manager

    24 Jan, 2024 14:12

    In reply to Gemma Dale:

    Many thanks,  Wave