Employment Issues

The £500m cost of Black Friday to British business

1354359_57482345Black Friday, the US shopping tradition, has taken hold of the UK in recent years. In 2014, it was estimated to have cost British businesses over half a billion pounds as employees clicked and shopped for bargains online and on foot. This year, the figure is expected to rise.

Now is the time for your organisation to take steps to protect itself against hours of productivity lost to online shopping and sudden epidemics of mystery sickness bugs. As ever, communication is the key to minimising the potential for damage and complaint. By implementing sensible and fair policies, and ensuring that workers are aware of their existence, businesses can get a jump on those who are already planning their reasons to ‘work from home’ or call in sick on Friday.

Common sense dictates that absent employees won’t alert their colleagues to their shopping frenzies online or on social media, but there is no guarantee that won’t be the case. Nurturing a culture where employees feel comfortable raising concerns about their colleagues can assist employers in discovering misconduct, but it must always be subject to a fair and robust investigation of facts.

Delivery and returns

As well as the shopping itself, further absence can occur due to an onerous delivery, returns and exchange policy. It is proving more difficult for purchases to be delivered, often due to security concerns when the purchaser is not at home to take collection. Many organisations are clamping down on the additional administration costs of having personal deliveries made to the workplace, but does this cost off-set the potential cost of seasonal absence?

The employment relationship is founded on trust and this should always be the default position. Only when that trust is broken should action be taken and that action should be fair and reasonable in all the circumstances.

Some organisations have tried to combat seasonal absenteeism by introducing a bonus ‘shopping afternoon’ for all staff or by allowing deliveries be made to the workplace. Organisations which provide sensible solutions to perceived problems are more likely to win the trust and goodwill of their employees, in keeping with the spirit of the season.

A survey, reported in the Daily Telegraph last year, suggests that the 2014 purchasing orgy cost British business up to £505 million in lost productivity and employee absence, because the average customer will spend 52 minutes returning parcels instead of working. Almost one in five (19 per cent) of Britons were found to have taken time off work to return a purchase.

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