Companies are becoming more and more flexible in the way they work. From introducing core hours over the 9-5, to working from home schemes, business leaders are realising that in order to attract top talent, you have to have a focus on output and not on presenteeism. As these policies become more mainstream however, in order to stand out, businesses are pushing the limits on what constitutes flexible working.
A rising number of companies, particularly in London, are introducing ‘hangover days’ to their offering. The policy appears to have differing rules from company to company, with some having to book the day in advance and others requiring you still work but just from the comfort of bed. Whatever the requirements however, ‘hangover days’ are consistently causing controversy.
Criticised by alcohol harm charities, including Alcohol Change UK and Drink Aware, the policy has been accused of encouraging heavy drinking. Whilst a study of 3,400 British workers found that 42% of us are already coming into work hungover, they’re worried that it will encourage this to become a more regular occurrence, with Andrew Misell, Director of Alcohol Change UK, writing, “there is nothing wrong with having a drink, but knowing in advance that you’re going to drink to the point where you can’t get into the office the next day is a different story.”
There is unfortunately some reason to worry, as a London-based companies statement that hangover days “allow consultants to entertain clients better” becomes more sinister when coupled with the fact that Drinkaware recently found more than ½ of people in work feel pressure to drink, when socialising with colleagues.
This underlying pressure could get businesses into legal hot water, as hangover days could not only be seen as discriminatory to those who can’t/won’t drink, but they could also be seen as actively harmful. Victoria Albon, Associate at Dentons, suggests that “it could conflict with an employer’s duty to take reasonable care for the health and safety of their employees”.
Despite this, there have been positive responses to these schemes, which companies claim change very little except for allowing employees to be more honest about the true reason for an absence. The Audit Lab, who had one of the most talked about ‘hangover days’ policies, with features in papers such as The Independent, CNBC and Daily Mail, claim the move has gone down great with millennial employees. One such employee, Ellie, a PR Manager, states this is because “the idea behind it is that parents have a lot of perks at our business but there are not necessarily any for people who don’t have children.”
Trading off a school sports day for a hangover day, does put this benefit into perspective, after all as The Audit Lab state this is essentially a “sexed-up working from home day” and taking peoples different lives into perspective is important when creating a rounded benefits package. However, companies might want to be careful of how they present these last-minute days away from the office, in order to stay away from discrimination and Drinkaware’s wrath. We like Managing Partner of Humber HR People, Kate Van Der Sluis’ perspective; “of course, anyone in our team can, and should, take a ‘hangover day’, or a ‘catch up with sleep’ day, or a ‘stop the world I need to get off’ day. Work should be measured in output, not input. We are all adults after all!”