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HR Tip: Custom and practice

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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.


Q: “Although our contracts of employment require people to work nine to five Monday to Friday they leave at about 4.00 pm on Fridays. Can we bring them back to a 5.00 pm finish?”

A: This depends upon either of two things. Firstly have they been given permission to do this? If so, then their contracts were changed and you will need to ascertain whether this was a permanent or temporary arrangement.

Ideally you will find the answer written down somewhere but, if not, you probably have to assume that the arrangement is permanent. Secondly, for how long has this been going on? If they have been leaving early without permission for only a few weeks then a bad practice has developed and should be stopped promptly.

However if the practice has being going on for a few months then a court is likely to judge that, as management must have known about it but did nothing to stop it, then custom and practice has been established and the early finishing time is now part of their contract. The lessons are:

  • Make clear whether any change to working arrangements is permanent or temporary.
  • Make a note of this arrangement.
  • Look out for any bad practices and stop then before they become established custom and practice.

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Annie Hayes

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