A team-building trip is a trip whose aim is to stimulate team spirit, as well as to bring the employees together during common activities and games that improve their contacts, and at the same time show the employer the employee’s predispositions, which can later be used to achieve goals and profits that are important for the company. As the employer is the beneficiary of the benefits of this form of team-building, it is also important from the employer’s point of view whether employees will go on the trip, whether they can be told to do so, and whether the employee can refuse.
Refusal to participate in a trip and working time
The question is whether such a trip is obligatory. In practice, it is generally accepted that there is no obligation to take part in such trips, and it is rare for such trips to be obligatory. For the majority of employees, such a trip is attractive if it does not collide with their private life, so there is no need to encourage them, especially considering the alternatives – as discussed below. However, if an employee does not go on such a trip, it does not mean that they have a tacit approval from their employer for a day off. If he sees it that way, the employer is fully entitled to correct him. To be entitled to remuneration, an employee who has refused to participate in this type of integration should be on that date ready to provide services to the employer, possibly at the place designated by the employer, i.e. come normally to the workplace or work remotely, or possibly take leave in accordance with the rules for granting leave.
In the situation where the employer issues a business order in connection with such a trip, the employee may not refuse to participate on account of Article 100 § 1 of the Labour Code, which specifies that the employee is obliged to perform work conscientiously and thoroughly, and to follow the orders of superiors which relate to work, if they are not contrary to the provisions of law or the employment contract. In this matter, the Supreme Court voiced its opinion in the judgment of 4 June 2008, ref. II PK 323/07: “employer’s orders may be of a formalised nature, in the form of a regulation providing for an obligation of the employee to follow certain procedures. An employee’s behaviour that does not comply with these procedures, referring to a different practice, constitutes a breach of his duties that may justify termination of the employment contract.” In practice, the employment relationship is not terminated by this type of refusal to take part in integration, but as we see in the jurisprudence in this case siding with the employer, it can end unfavourably for the employee.
In the situation where a business order has been issued and the employee goes on such a trip, the employer must be aware of the consequences in terms of accounting for working time. If a business order has been given, such a trip is treated as a business trip and, consequently, it is accounted for in the same way. In this case, since during the day of the working week regulated in Article 129 § 1 of the Labour Code the employee is obliged to work 8 hours, and the rest of the spent time can be treated as work in the extra system – overtime, an appropriate compensation should be paid here. However, this issue is debatable, as some doctrine maintains that the employee should then provide work. However, it is difficult to assume that an evening meeting involves the provision of work. The Labour Code does not directly regulate whether participation in a team-building event counts as working time. That is why issues related to such forms of spending time were left to the free interpretation of employers and labour courts. Additionally, with reference to Article 100 § 2 pkt. 6 of the Labour Code according to the Supreme Court “the obligation to follow the rules of social co-existence at the workplace also includes refraining from such behaviours outside the workplace and outside working time, which cause or strengthen the negative attitude of co-workers and conflicts in the work environment”, verdict of July 9, 2008, I PK 2/08 may refer, therefore, to a situation where an employee very meaningfully demonstrates to the employer his dissatisfaction with the duty to carry out an official order, as well as makes this clear with his behaviour after the end of the “working time” in connection with the less official part of the trip (also if he participates in it and by his lack of moderation in the consumption of beverages which may contain alcohol he externalizes himself too much about the employer, thus violating the rules of social coexistence). Therefore, this leads to the conclusion that during this time there is not necessarily the provision of work.
A team-building trip, when it becomes a business order, is accounted for as a business trip, and consequently, employees are entitled to a daily allowance in certain cases. The employer, as the organiser of the trip bearing its costs and providing a meal at the same time, even if it is scheduled after the hours of the determined working time, no matter whether the employees wish to consume it, automatically releases itself from the obligation to pay a daily allowance to which the employee is entitled during the business trip.
There is no denying that many employees have contact with each other after working hours, so despite the possibility of refusing such a form of integration, it is worth to consider the advantages of such a trip. The positive aspects will definitely include a day off from standard work week duties as well as the strengthening of relations during the integration with other co-workers, not at your own expense. As we can see, it is a good way to have a rest from everyday duties in a different form, which brings advantages such as motivation not only for further actions, but also the will to stay in the company. From the employer’s point of view, a better solution is to make the integration trip such an attractive event that it is not necessary to issue a business order, which, as we can see, may introduce complications on the grounds of labour law. Alternatively, the employee may perform “normal” work or take a day off. Therefore, it is not necessarily attractive for an employee to resign from a team-building trip.