The BBC reported this week that the fast food chain McDonalds were piloting a scheme whereby two members of the same family could substitute for each other's shifts without notifying or seeking the consent of management. The McDonalds suggest this scheme is "the first of its kind" in the UK.

The principle of the scheme may not be particularly novel as many employees already arrange with their colleagues to "switch shifts". If McDonalds are providing employees with a right to switch shifts with family members without seeking prior consent from management in their contracts of employment then McDonalds ought to be ensuring the contracts are tightly drafted to prevent employees switching their shifts with a family members who are not suitably skilled or trained to do their jobs. Employers often try to rota employees who work well together on the same shifts in a drive to increase productivity and job satisfaction. This will not be possible under McDonalds' new scheme, however they have demonstrated an innovative and flexible approach to managing employees and preventing reduced productivity.

This added flexibility may be of benefit to McDonalds' employees but those whose status as employee, agency or temporary worker is unclear should be wary of their employers following McDonalds' lead in an attempt to use the lack of any requirement for personal service to argue against employee status in any subsequent claim brought against them.

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