HR Tip: Custom and practice on employees leaving early

12th Apr 2007
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These questions are being answered by Learn HR, a market leader in the provision of HR and payroll training and nationally-recognised professional qualifications.

Question: "I recently took over a new department in our large organisation, which is in a building outside and a little way from the main site. The employees' contracts of employment are almost identical to those of the people on the main site including a requirement to work from 8.30am to 4.30pm Mondays to Fridays. However I found to my surprise that for the last couple of years at least they have been going home at 2.00pm on Fridays with no loss of pay. Our HR people knew nothing about this and the previous manager, from whom I took over, is deceased. Can I bring them back to a 4.30pm finish on Fridays?"

HR Tip: Two years is such a long time for this to have been happening that almost certainly it has become custom and practice and thus part of the employees’ contracts of employment. Either they have been given permission or their management has turned a blind eye to the practice. You could try to persuade them to revert to a 4.30pm finish on Fridays but I would not hold out much hope for your success. The best thing, I suggest, is to renegotiate their contracts of employment the next time you feel disposed to increase salaries. To avoid custom and practice developing, watch out for bad habits creeping in and nip them in the bud.

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By Jeremy Thorn
12th Apr 2007 15:23

I was really interested to see this issue had hit HR's desk.

As with many such issues, isn't this, at least, also a senior line-manager's responsibility?

(Incidentally, as a historical note - many engineering companies I knew, in the W Midlands at least, instituted early closing at lunch-time on Fridays, partly as a response to the sad, bad old days of the early 1970's and the Three Day Week/first Oil Crisis. I would be surprised if this still applies very widely however. In many cases I believe this practice was successfully 'bought out' through subsequent pay-reviews quite some time ago - as the Tip helpfully suggests.


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