National Workaholic Day – Key Facts for Employers

Today, 5 July is National Workaholic Day.  A workaholic is a person who is addicted to work.  The phrase is derived from the words work and alcoholic.

Whilst the person may love their work the phrase workaholic has negative connotations  as the person can neglect other aspects of their lives such as family and personal relaxation.

Characteristics of a workaholic include wanting to work every day, taking few holidays or whilst on holiday thinking about work, overbooking the diary, saying yes to all colleagues, thinking about work all the time, arriving at work first and leaving last, being stressed if  not at work, having no hobbies, not taking lunch breaks, being too accessible at work.  The workaholic will micromanage and be unable to delegate.

Workaholism is not the same as working hard, it relates more to conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorders and addictions just like with alcohol and drugs.  For the employer this can pose some problems.  Working excessive hours consistently is not good for health and can be very destructive to working relationships.  Also it is not particularly productive.  Therefore it is important for the employer to take some important steps to manage such a situation and encourage a good work life balance banishing the long hours culture that hast long persisted in the UK and which may have been further encouraged by the declining economy and fear of redundancy.

An employer has a duty of care to all their employees.  This means they must provide a safe and healthy workplace ensuring that employees’ health, safety and wellbeing is paramount.   It is also a legal requirement governed by the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.  Employers also have a moral and ethical duty not to cause nor to fail to prevent physical or psychological injury.   An employer must  not condone long working hours and they therefore should be regulated to promote the duty of care.

The Working Time Directive imposes a duty on employers to limit working hours to no more than 48 hours per week over a reference period of usually 17 weeks.  The legislation allows for rest breaks and rest periods that should be adhered to.  However the ability for employees to sign an opt out form allows them to work much longer than this.  In such situations employers should be keeping a close eye on the working practices of their staff to prevent excessive working.

Employment legislation provides for 28 days annual leave and many workaholics may choose not to take all or part of it.  It is therefore up to the employer to ensure that employees take all their annual leave entitlement and not to take advantage of those who seem reluctant to do so.  There should be a carefully worded annual leave policy in place and monitoring throughout the year to ensure that annual leave is taken on a regular basis so that a surplus number of days is not left over at the end of the annual leave period which may not prevent the employee from taking it due to essential workloads.  Employees who seem unwilling to take all of their holiday entitlement should be notified of specific days on which they should take holiday.

It would be best if an employer has in place a working hours policy.  A policy should state the responsibility an employer has to take care of employees’ health and safety and how they will fulfil that duty.  The policy should spell out how the employer aims to prevent excessive hours being worked on a regular basis.   It should be carefully monitored for effectiveness.

All jobs should be reviewed to ensure that jobholders are not over-burdened unnecessarily with work.  Role targets should also be reviewed to ensure that they do not encourage excessive working and are achievable.