Employment Law

Given the current economic conditions facing employers in New Zealand, it is predicted that pay rises for employees will be at far lower levels than those seen during the past two years. However, employees are also aware of the relatively tight labour market and are themselves facing increased living costs, which may mean they are willing to look for other employment opportunities if their expectations are not met. This can provide a difficult situation for an employer. The need to keep pay increases to a minimum will need to be balanced against the need to retain valued employees and limit the costs of recruitment and training for new employees. So, is there anything an employer can offer that won’t negatively impact the bottom line but might keep employees motivated and committed?

Well, one possible solution could be the introduction of “Summertime Hours”. Put simply, Summertime Hours represent a set period of time during those (hopefully) warm, sunny months when employees are able to end their working day a few hours earlier to make the most of the (fingers crossed) great weather. For example, Summertime Hours could be specified as being a 3.00pm finishing time on Friday afternoons during the months of January and February.

The upside to Summertime Hours? Firstly, your employees will be even further convinced that they are working for the right employer, meaning that more employees will choose to stay in your employment and will not be tempted to look elsewhere for alternative roles. Secondly, it will boost staff morale on the whole, and a happy workplace leads to better results all round. Furthermore, this initiative is unlikely to cost you anything. It is very possible there will be little impact on productivity levels because employees will show their gratitude by ensuring they put in extra effort throughout the rest of their week as a show of appreciation (and to ensure the Summertime Hours happen again next year). As was seen with the introduction by some employers of four day weeks, employees continued to have the same level of output even when working within the condensed time frame. Finally, it is a great way to boost your public reputation as a good employer, meaning you may be first choice for potential employees looking to be hired.

There may of course be reasons Summertime Hours would not work. For example, it may be difficult for some businesses to implement Summertime Hours if there are certain employees whose roles necessitate them remaining in the workplace until the usual close of business time (while everyone else is flying out the door with their beach towel slung over one shoulder). You don’t want to create division as this may lead to frustration and feelings of unfairness, but workarounds might be found (ie. those particular employees take the time off at a different time or day of the week). Another reason Summertime Hours may not work is if they become an administrative hassle to organise (ie. if employees want to take advantage of the early finish, but request for it to occur on a different day to the one you were willing to offer). This may mean that more time and effort goes into the implementation of the policy than was initially expected.

Overall, Summertime Hours do seem able to provide a real benefit to employees that will boost the morale of the whole workplace, while not adding to wage and salary costs and having no detrimental impact on productivity. As such, it may be an idea worth serious consideration.

The key to successful implementation of a Summertime Hours Policy is to ensure that the terms of the policy are clear and workable. The first step might be to raise the idea with your managers and/or employees and get feedback as to whether it would be something they think is a good idea (note: we predict they will say “yes”), how they see it working in your workplace (ie. the most appropriate day, how they will plan their time to ensure all required work is completed as usual), and to get ideas about what the parameters should be (for example, it will only happen on a Friday afternoon, and only until the end of February).

If you want to discuss a possible policy for your employees, or any other employment related policy ideas that you might have, we are happy to help and will ensure you have a clear and well-drafted document for everyone in your workplace to follow.

If you have any general employment related queries or topics of interest that you would like us to cover in our upcoming articles, please let us know!