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Napping at work…

2nd December, 2019

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­It was recently reported on the BBC that the US government is prohibiting staff from sleeping at work.

Napping at work has long been accepted in Mediterranean countries but in the UK it can have a negative connotation as being lazy or anti-social to your colleagues.

There is no law in England to prohibit or encourage employees to nap at work; therefore it is up to the employer to take a view on the activity.


Michael works for a large sofa company and is entitled to a one hour lunch break in his contract. Michael’s new line manager Marie notices that unlike the rest of the staff who sit together at lunch, Michael seems to disappear often reappearing just after his lunch break is meant to end.

Marie asks the other staff members who inform her that Michael likes to take an afternoon nap in his car or on one of the sofas in the store room. Marie is shocked by this and confronts Michael calling him lazy and launches an investigation into how many hours of work time Michael has lost with his napping habit. She discovers that over the 2 years that he has worked for the company Michael has not worked sufficient hours and owes a significant amount of time back, she promptly issues him a written warning for his habit and informs him that he must work late to accrue time back [make up for lost time].

Michael is shocked at this thinking that Marie knew that he suffered from fibromyalgia and his naps help him get through the day. He tries not to let it interfere with his work day hence why he sleeps on his lunch break but admits that he occasionally sleeps over into his allotted work time.

Michael feels targeted at being treated by this and issues a grievance against Marie.


On the facts of this short case study Michael should have discussed with Marie when she first started that on his lunch break he likes to have a nap or that he suffers from a medical condition which makes him drowsy and agreed this with her.

However, even if Michael had not made Marie aware that he was taking naps, prior to taking any disciplinary action, Marie should have considered the reason why Michael was taking naps to understand if there was any underlying medical condition which could impact him at works before jumping to the conclusion that Michael was ‘lazy’.

The key point here is that communication between employees and employers is paramount for a healthy work environment and understanding the needs of employees can amount to a productive workforce.   Whilst an employee is not under an obligation to tell its employer that it has a medical condition, it should do so if it is likely to impact them at work.

However, an employer can still be liable for claims of disability discrimination if it knew, or should have known, about an employee’s disability. Many disabilities are invisible and employers should therefore take reasonable steps to consider whether any behaviour in the workplace could be due to a medical condition.

If you, or your HR department require advice in relation to addressing the needs of employees with medical conditions or any other employment law related matter. Please don’t hesitate to contact Claire Brooke.

Claire Brook


Email: [email protected]
Tel: 01244 405 575

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