In the modern world, working patterns are changing.
Information technology has resulted in new and evolving ways of working, of managing teams, and running a company. Fewer and fewer of us are working traditional ‘9 to 5’ hours, and companies have had to adapt to become more attractive and progressive employers in 2023.
With people working irregular hours, there may be times when your employees need to work additional hours or days. While there is no legal requirement to pay for additional time worked over and above what is contracted (provided the minimum wage is met), unpaid overtime is rarely well-received. If regular and unrecognised, it does not make for happy employees.
Ideally, employees should be compensated for additional hours worked, but budgets don’t always allow for this especially if the overtime has come when cash flow is a challenge. This isn’t an insurmountable or overly complex issue and doesn’t need to be a source of stress or confusion.
One way of ensuring staff who work overtime are fairly compensated without putting the company under a financial strain, is to offer time off in lieu or TOIL
'In lieu' means 'instead of'.
It refers to paid time off ‘instead of’ additional pay for hours worked over what is in an employee’s contract. It is essentially an additional holiday allowance. Under such a policy, if an employee was contracted for four days a week and worked five, they would be entitled to one day off ‘in lieu’. If they were contracted for 35 hours a week and worked 40, they could claim 5 hours.
There are several advantages to offering TOIL rather than paying overtime.
In the busy, demanding, and often high-stress modern work environment, time is an increasingly valuable commodity, and many people would see more value in taking a lieu day than additional pay.
It’s also mutually beneficial and appreciated in roles with high salaries where money may not be as much of a motivator as time away from the office. This is particularly true if it is following an exceptionally demanding period.
Indeed, accrued ‘lieu days’ upon completion of a project may be a powerful incentive for some to work more or longer days to meet essential deadlines.
As an alternative to paying overtime, time off in lieu helps companies to avoid a cost that they may not be able to meet without angering their staff or planting seeds of resentment that could lead to workplace issues or problems with employee retention.
This is particularly salient if the situation that has given rise to the need for additional staffing is one that is associated with a financially or professionally challenging time when management focus may need to be elsewhere.
There are, however, some limitations and disadvantages to a TOIL policy worth considering.
For one, it cannot be enforced from the top down as an alternative to overtime. In some sectors, particularly in lower-paid roles, employees may prefer to be paid overtime and thus respond negatively to the internal promotion of such a policy.
It will likely not be equally well-received across your whole staff. For part-time staff, time may not have as much of a draw as additional pay. It is, therefore, essential to consider your employees' demographics, situations, and needs. In this case, these must take priority above the needs and situation of the company, and individual preferences must be honoured and respected.
While it doesn’t have a direct or immediate cost, offering TOIL is not without expense. The company will pay for the employee’s time at some point, which may not come at a convenient time. We would argue here, though, that if the company cannot afford to pay for time in lieu or for overtime and is regularly relying on employees to work additional hours, then there is a larger business issue that needs to be addressed rather than pointing an inherent weakness in time in lieu policies.
Another point to consider is that time will have to be spent creating and agreeing to a policy which sets out how time in lieu is to be awarded and taken. This is important to avoid a cycle of staff needing to work overtime to cover those taking time off lieu.
Evidently, this creates an additional administrative burden, though you may feel that the benefits afforded by the policy outweigh this.
Lieu days should never be used in place of a clear, fair annual leave policy.
It is important to reiterate is that a ‘time in lieu’ policy cannot be forced or assumed, and it should never be misused as a way to persuade employees to work antisocial or excessive hours.
Here, much comes down to how the policy is presented. If management clearly communicates that paid overtime is not a possibility, yet there is a need for employees to work additional hours, and that the company is able to offer time in lieu, this is likely to be better received than a ‘take it or leave it’ style approach.
In summary, whether a time off in lieu policy is suitable for your company depends on whether it is right for your staff and your workplace values and priorities.
We recommend being open and transparent; speak to your employees to gain their feedback and views. If they are open to such a policy or indeed welcome the opportunity for additional paid time off, then this is something that you can promote internally.
When used effectively, TOIL offers a logical, fair, and mutually beneficial solution to periodic or seasonal fluctuations in staffing demand and particularly busy or stressful periods.
It has limitations, but most of the risk can be avoided through careful management, and a variety of online tools can help ease the administrative burden, such as Leave Dates, which can help you to schedule and approve time taken in lieu.
Remember also that for any non-enforceable policy to succeed, you must respect and honour the individual wishes of those who opt-out.
By listening to your staff and understanding their motivations and needs, a time off in lieu policy could greatly benefit both your workplace and your employees’ well-being.