Robey’s Blog: The Importance of Being Wrong: Holiday & Overtime Part 2

Life is about learning.  And sometimes learning involves being wrong.  And last week I was, in a couple of respects, wrong.


When we work, we sometime earn money in addition to our base salary: commission, bonuses, overtime and tips are all money earned in various roles that are additional to the base salary return for our time.  When we don’t work, we aren’t able to earn that money.  So if you’re on holiday, you can’t makes sales and earn commission on those sales.  This is a disincentive to take holiday and, therefore, illegal.


Overtime is paid for time worked but, often, it’s paid at an enhanced rate of, for example, time-and-a-half.  That means that someone who usually earns £10/hour would earn £15/hour to do overtime.  But if that person were on holiday, the opportunity to work the overtime wouldn’t arise and they would, therefore, “lose” the opportunity to do both the additional work and to earn the extra £5/hour to which they would normally be entitled by dint of working their overtime.

So now it’s been established that a person on holiday, who works “regular” (still not defined in law) overtime should be paid an additional amount during their holiday to compensate them for the average amount of overtime they would have worked – but only for the first 5.6 weeks[1] of their holiday per year.


Now, to some extent, “holiday” and “holiday pay” are interchangeable.  But in this case, we are definitely talking about the “pay” part of holiday, so I was wrong to suggest that additional holiday could be given in lieu of cash.  It’s possible that things may evolve in that direction and, hypothetically, you could argue that that was a reasonable interpretation of the law.  But I can’t say with confidence that this would stand up in court, so you’re on your own, chum: don’t come pointing at me!


The second thing I got wrong was about how to calculate what’s owed.  But fortunately, in that respect, I think I am a very long way from unique.  Because the fact is that there is a huge amount of doubt and uncertainty about precisely what calculations need to be done to work out the entitlement of our employees to enhanced holiday pay if they work overtime or earn commission.


[Tips, I should add are apparently excluded from this due to legal mumbo-jumbo regarding the status of tips in law, which is ancient and peculiar and doesn’t need explaining here except to say that you don’t have to account for tips in all of this.]


I’m not going to try to do the maths for you now, because that would be quite dull and, to be honest, I think I need to ruin a lot more notebooks before I’ve got my head around it.  But it did put me on to the bigger topic of wrongness.


I am frequently wrong.  In fact, ten years into this profession and I think I’m wrong as often today as I was when I started out and, because I have managed to clamber a little way up the HR totem pole, the impact of my wrongness is larger than it once was.  I’m a perfectionist and I do hate to be wrong.  But I’ve come to terms with it.


Early in my career I was lucky to work for a boss who – together with his boss – was a passionate believer in a “no blame” culture.  They talked the talk, and they walked that walk.  The drive was to create a space in which, when something went wrong, the expectation was that the person who noticed would point it out and, together, we would do what we could to fix it and to learn from the mistake.  In that three years, I never saw anyone called out or punished for a mistake they had made – except when they tried to conceal it or pass the blame.


Although I’ve seen other managers try to do the same, I’ve never been in a place where it was embraced so fully at the highest level.  I miss it, but it got me into the habit of accepting responsibility when mistakes are made.


I made a mistake this week.  It was a silly slip.  It was totally my error.  I knew my Directors were angry about it.  I raged at myself and spent several minutes swearing quite profusely in the corner while I tried to work out what to do.  But really the answer was clear: take responsibility – not just for the mistake, but for putting it right.  I’m happy to say that doing so took one, short phone call.  But it might not have.  It could easily have consumed hours of my time that ought to have been spent not fixing my own messes.  But it’s the process of taking responsibility and responding to our own mistakes that is the most effective lesson for progress.


Yes, I’ve made mistakes.  And I’ll make more in the future.  But the mistakes I’ve made – every one of them – have become some of the strongest bricks in the structure of my development as a professional and as a person.


Now… where did I put that calculator?

[1] Or 4 weeks, depending on which solicitor you’re talking to, but it looks like the wind is turning due 5.6, right now.

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