We have noticed that a couple of our employees are spending a significant amount of time on betting websites while at work. They only seem to be going on them during breaks, but we’re concerned about the amount of time – not to mention money – they are spending on them. How can we mention to them that we aren’t keen on them using work PCs to place bets, and raise the concerns we have about the level of betting they’re doing?

You can adopt a policy to regulate the use of IT systems and internet access by employees. The policy should set out the rights, responsibilities and limitations on both the employer and the employee, addressing in particular when and how internet use will be monitored (having regard to your obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998 and soon-to-be-introduced General Data Protection Regulations). You can consider less intrusive ways of monitoring, for example putting a simple automatic block on certain websites or filtering words in order to restrict access to certain websites.

If you already have these policies in place, you should review your existing policy to see whether it covers this situation and whether it states how and when your employees can use the internet for personal use. Do they specify that accessing betting websites is not permitted? Staff should be reminded of the contents of the policy. If you do not have these policies in place, then you should consider updating or implementing a policy to ensure it covers personal usage of your IT equipment, along with guidance as to what will and will not be considered acceptable going forward.

If a breach of the policy becomes apparent, an informal warning may serve to prevent a repetition. However, depending on the seriousness of the breach or if there is a repeated breach, formal disciplinary proceedings under your disciplinary procedure. Dismissal may be appropriate have the formal warning process has been exhausted.

Gambling can become an addiction, so if you become aware or suspect that an employee has an addition, your approach in the first instance may be to ensure that they seek help rather than invoking the disciplinary procedure.

Ultimately you are entitled to decide what your equipment and systems are used for, even during breaks and after working hours, or limit personal use to specific times, exclude specific websites or categories of site. However, any limitations or restrictions that are implemented must be made clear in workplace policies, as must any means of monitoring.

I and a lot of my colleagues have decided that 2018 will be the year we get fit. Luckily, the site at which we work has a well-equipped gym, which is free for staff to use during breaks. However, due to the size of the factory, and whereabouts in it I work, it’s a good 10 minute walk each way to use the facilities, by which time most of my hour-long lunch break has gone and using the gym seems pointless. I’ve raised this with my manager, who told me that I could ‘just go for a run’ instead of using the gym. It strikes me as unfair, though, that staff who work closer to the gym get to use it, while I don’t – what can I do about it?

If your employment contract specifies that you are entitled to a one hour lunch break, then I'm afraid this is all that you will be allowed to take.Subject to any term or policy to the contrary, it is up to your employer to decide whether you will be allowed to take a longer lunch hour to use the gym, and if so, when and if you will be expected to make up that time. The difficulty is that other employees may well complain that you are being treated preferentially if you are given a longer lunch hour than others.

The only exception to this is if the location of the gym places you at a substantial disadvantage because of any disability you may suffer. In those circumstances, the employer may be under a duty to make reasonable adjustments to your hours to give you reasonable access in common with non-disabled employees. You do have the right to make a formal flexible working request, which you could utilise to request a longer lunch break on certain days to allow you to use the gym. Any overall reduction in hours, however, is likely to result in a reduction in pay. However, the employer may have good reason to refuse your request. Of course, as an alternative option, if the gym is available at other times, you could always go before or after work.

Many of our staff travel to work by train, as we are only a short walk from a station. As a result, they have no real need for a car. However, our train operator has recently started a long-term strike over pay, meaning trains are now hardly ever running. A significant number of employees have been using this as an excuse to say they can’t get into work. How can we get around this? We're obviously keen to avoid having to hire a load of temporary staff because of a train company’s industrial action…

Firstly, consider the terms of your contracts of employment, collective agreements or policies covering lateness, absence and/or travel disruption.

Subject to any such provisions, employees have no legal right to be paid if they are unable to get into work, even if this is because of travel delays or cancellations outside of their control. You should remind your employees that they should try their best to get into work on the days of any planned industrial action by other means if possible. Is there any assistance you can give them? Can you arrange car sharing?

If they are unable to get in, they should advise you as soon as possible. They could put in a request to take annual leave on those days (although in granting such leave you will need to consider whether you have sufficient cover), or work from home, another site or office if that is feasible.

What is feasible will depend on the nature of your business and the number and type of employees that are affected. Are there any employees who could work overtime or on their day off who are not affected, and who can cover the absence of those who are? For a temporary period, it may be appropriate to adjust start and finish times to allow employees a longer to get
into work, if that is practical in the circumstances.

Each situation should be approached on a case-by-case basis and you should ensure that all cases are dealt with fairly and consistently.
If this is a frequent issue, we recommend that you publish and circulate a site-wide policy document so that employees are clear about the company’s position on travelling to work.