Time Off In Lieu: how to manage TOIL

    toil time off in lieu

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    In today’s workplace, flexible working patterns have become extremely common. The rigid nine-to-five regime is not always necessary for many organisations, and employers are continuously looking for ways to offer flexibility to keep their employees happy without disrupting business.

    For these reasons, many companies opt to give employees time off for working extra hours, rather than paying them overtime pay. There are many advantages and disadvantages to adopting a ‘time off in lieu’ policy.

    This article will explore what time off in lieu is and share best practice advice for employers offering TOIL at work.

    What is time off in lieu?

    TOIL is an abbreviation for ‘time off in lieu’. It refers to when an employee works overtime but receives the equivalent time off rather than being paid for the time worked. For example, if an employee works an extra three hours one evening because of a deadline, they will be able to take three hours off during a quieter time for the business.

    TOIL is an alternative to overtime pay. Depending on the individual, TOIL could be the preferred compensation for working extra hours.

    It can also be used when employees work a public holiday. If the business needs them to work on a holiday, the employee has a full day to take off when they like.

    What does the law say about time off in lieu?

    Employers are under no obligation to offer TOIL. Similarly, employees don’t have to accept TOIL if their employers provide it but don’t want to use it. You also don’t need to grant overtime to employees if they ask for it. If the work isn’t urgent, you can wait for it to be done during regular working hours.

    Time off in lieu is also still subject to UK Working Time Regulations. This means that employees do not need to work more than 48 hours each week unless they agree to opt out. So if your employee works 35 hours a week, you can’t ask them to work 15 hours overtime, as this would be against the regulations. You could face fines for making your employees work these hours if you don’t have their approval to opt out.

    Employers should also ensure they are still meeting the UK minimum wage when employees work overtime, which will be repaid in TOIL. If you end up paying less than the hourly minimum wage when your employee is working extra hours. You could be fined up to £20,000 for paying below the minimum wage.

    Pros and cons of TOIL for employers

    There are several advantages and disadvantages to TOIL.

    Pros

    • It’s an excellent way to cope during busy periods. When business demands are high, offering employees TOIL can be a good way to ensure deadlines are met.
    • It can be financially beneficial for employees. Employees can choose to be paid for the extra time worked rather than taking time off, meaning they have a chance to make some extra money.
    • An extra benefit for employees. TOIL is often considered a good benefit for many employees. It gives them the opportunity to take more time off when they need to.
    • More time off can lead to more productivity. Employees often feel refreshed after taking some time off. So offering time rather than money could be better for your business in the long run.

    Cons

    • It could be expensive for employers. Employers could end up having to pay a lot for employees who wish to be paid rather than take time off after working overtime.
    • Employees could end up working long hours. If TOIL is used too much, you could end up having employees working long hours, which leads to less productivity, stress and fatigue.
    • It’s not always universal. It’s unlikely that your TOIL policy will be universal to all employees. For example, certain employees will be required to work certain hours.
    • Employees could take advantage. It’s possible employees could take advantage of a TOIL policy and spend longer on a project than needed just to earn the time off.

    TOIL or overtime?

    Every business experiences busier and quieter times. When business demands are higher, overtime may be required to finish work on time. TOIL can be used as a cheaper alternative to paying overtime. Since overtime of often paid with time and a half or double time, TOIL can be a much more favourable option.

    However, keep in mind that employees aren’t obligated to take TOIL. If an employee works overtime and they would rather be paid than take time off, you may have to pay them unless their contract states otherwise.

    You should also be careful to not rely on overtime too often. If you need to ask employees to work extra time all the time, it could be signalling staffing issues. Overworking your employees will not lead to more productivity and lower work morale.

    If your employees find it difficult to finish projects or tasks on time, you might need to consider what is causing the problem. Your employees may be feeling overworked or stressed, or your business is understaffed.

    Tips on managing time off in lieu

    A system should be created where employees can easily record any overtime worked. A good time management system brings benefits. Once time off has been recorded, the equivalent time should then become available for the employee to take as a holiday.

    TOIL can be complicated to manage. It can be difficult to track your employees’ overtime and manage when they take their time off. Unless you have a strong system in place, you’ll need to have a lot of trust in your employees to record time correctly.

    Here are some tips to help you when you’re implementing TOIL:

    Put a system in place for recording and tracking TOIL

    You will understandably want the process for recording and tracking TOIL to be as easy as possible. Luckily, there are many options out there for software that can help you keep track of overtime and TOIL. Make sure your employees are aware of any software and how to use it. Try to avoid complicated manual processes, like spreadsheets, as there are more likely to be errors with this type of rime recording.

    Have a clear policy on time off in lieu

    It’s essential that you have a robust and clear policy if you’re going to implement TOIL. Problems are extremely likely to emerge when people make up or assume the rules. You should always ensure that you give employees the choice of whether to take time off or receive extra overtime pay.

    Nurture trust between employer and employee

    Trust is essential when it comes to using TOIL, especially if your employees work remotely. You don’t want it to seem like you’re hovering over your employees and watching everything they do, but you certainly don’t want any employee to take advantage and claim overtime that hasn’t been worked. If you don’t have trust in your employee, you may want to address the underlying issue.

    TOIL when an employee is leaving the company

    If an employee has unused TOIL and they are leaving, you can simply treat it as having an unused holiday. You can ask if they would rather take the holidays before they finish or have the money included in their final paycheck.

    What to include in a TOIL policy

    TOIL may sound like a simple concept, but drafting a TOIL policy that works for everyone can be tricky. It usually makes sense to give different groups of workers different rules for TOIL. However, you will want to keep in mind not to favour some workers over others.

    For example, an employee at the management level may be required to work a little extra every now and gain. However, they will receive a much larger salary to make up for that. On the other hand, a lower-earning employee might not be expected to work over their contracted hours, and they don’t receive a high salary to balance that out. Therefore, you could offer a TOIL policy to the lower-level employee if you need them to work extra hours.

    It’s also important that you don’t create a TOIL policy that employees can easily abuse. If your business has a TOIL policy, this should be included in the employee contract. It’s also a good idea to include your TOIL policy and procedures in an employee handbook that employees can easily find at any time.

    Here are some of the key things you should include in your TOIL policy:

    Written consent

    Make sure your employees are aware that they need to get written consent before working overtime. Without this, your employees could work as many extra hours as they wish, and you have to compensate them regardless if you agreed to it or not. Overtime should normally only be worked as a last resort when the business needs it but should not relied upon.

    Set a limit on overtime hours

    You should also make sure you agree on limiting the number of extra hours the employee should work. This not only ensures that you keep the time off you need to grant to a minimum, but it’s also in the interest of the employee to make sure they’re not working all night.

    Set a minimum amount of time TOIL can be accrued from

    You should also set a minimum amount of time TOIL can be accrued from. For example, staying at work for an extra 5 minutes probably won’t be enough to accrue time off to take at a later date. However, staying an extra half hour could be enough to earn some time off. Of course, the amount of time allowed for TOIL is ultimately up to the employer.

    Set a clear time when TOIL can be used by

    Another thing you have to make clear is the date when TOIL can be used. For example, you shouldn’t allow an employee to save up TOIL for years and take it all at once.

    It would be good to encourage your employees to take time off sooner rather than later. If you’ve asked your employee to work into the late hours to ensure a deadline is met, it’s sensible for them to take some time off the following day or later that week to ensure they fully recover from having to work late.

    Most employers will set out that time off accrued from overtime will have to be taken by the end of the holiday year or even by the end of the month. Each business will have different rules regarding holidays, so make sure your TOIL policy fits in line with that. For example, you may require a certain amount of notice before granting holidays, and your TOIL policy should outline the same.

    Set a minimum amount of TOIL to be taken at once

    If employees are entitled to TOIL, you may find that they try to use it sporadically. They may start leaving early or coming in late to work. This flexible working model doesn’t work for all businesses, so you should create a minimum length of time for employees to take TOIL. You could set out that it can be taken once they reach a half-day or full-day of TOIL.

    What if an employee is abusing TOIL?

    It’s possible that some employees will take the opportunity to record extra time just to accrue the time off to take. This is why you should have a pre-approval system in place. TOIL should be used when the time is required to complete a project, and it should be clear what the employee is working on.

    Time off in lieu FAQs

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    Legal disclaimer

    The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

    Author

    Gill Laing is a qualified Legal Researcher & Analyst with niche specialisms in Law, Tax, Human Resources, Immigration & Employment Law.

    Gill is a Multiple Business Owner and the Managing Director of Prof Services - a Marketing & Content Agency for the Professional Services Sector.

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