Thursday, 26 May 2016

Burton worker denied funeral leave

This isn't a problem I see very often.

In this instance, the funeral request was for a close friend, not a family member.

The company policy is reasonable enough.  You get paid time off if it's a family member.  For a close friend, it's "management discretion".

Unfortunately, management used it's discretion to say no.

They said that "to agree to this request would open the floodgates to similar requests".   I did chuckle when I heard that....

They also said that as hardly anyone was off on the day of the funeral, he could take holiday.  The man protested he had no annual leave left.  Management said they had made a decision.

I supported the man at his grievance hearing a few days back.

It was clear that the line-manager had not properly understood the policy.  He was afraid that by making a decision / using his discretion, it would set a precedent.  He felt it safest to say no.

During the hearing we pointed out that if holiday was available on that day, then so was unpaid leave for a funeral. We also pointed out that this man had never taken or applied for unpaid or special leave of any type (in over ten years service).

In other words, there was no good reason why discretion was used to decline the request. I added that if management always said no in these circumstances, then they would be in breach of their own policy - as this policy requires a discretionary decision to be made in each instance.  It followed that any refusal for funeral leave should be explained with a very good business reason...

The grievance was held just 48 hours before the funeral.  The funeral was taking place over one-hundred miles away.  Management said it would take them 24 hours to investigate and convey a decision.

It was a close call.....but I'm pleased to say this man did get to the funeral.

I didn't think I did that much at the meeting. So it was good to get a call from him after the decision to thank me.  He said that it was unheard of for management to uphold an appeal in the workplace.  This was not a unionised workforce.  He said that he would never have succeeded without me there.

And that got me thinking.  Even with a relatively small (albeit emotive) issue like this, the imbalance of power between employer and worker is very evident.

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