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Back for its eighth season following a 2015 revival, Love Island has a summer-long grip on the nation, eager to keep up with the recouplings and updates from the Mallorcan villa. Typically comprising of contestants in their twenties, looking to couple up with a fellow islander in the hope of finding love and winning the £50,000 cash prize, Love Island has enjoyed commercial success, but also attracted criticism for the aftercare offered to its contestants.
In this article, we consider a different angle on the show, looking at the potential Employment Law issues presented if an employee ‘puts all their eggs in one basket’ and wishes to spend a summer looking for love.
Please can I have eight weeks off?
This series of Love Island is scheduled to air for a total of eight consecutive weeks, one of the longest in its history. Before appearing on the show, the current islanders are from a range of employment backgrounds. These include those from the public sector, a paramedic, the self-employed, who own their own businesses, and those seemingly working as employees, including a hotel waitress. This therefore raises an interesting question as to employers’ rights if one of their employees wishes to take part in a reality television show.
Typically, contracts of employment will contain details of the holiday entitlement for that individual as well as any other paid leave such as for bank holidays or birthday leave. Therefore, for an employee who works on average five days a week, this could potentially mean a request for up to forty consecutive days of holiday once you factor in weekends. Does an employer have to agree to this? In short, no, however some employers might provide opportunity in their absence policy for employees to request sabbatical leave.
From an employer’s point of view, you’ll likely want your employee to ask for permission to take part in the television show, but what if they don’t? If they’re requesting excessive amounts of consecutive holiday, or sabbatical leave, then the employer will naturally want an explanation. The existence of any sabbatical leave policy does not guarantee the right to take time off and employers may have legitimate concerns about business needs for such a long period, as well as the possible reputational impact.
Reputation and Reality Television
An employer may have genuine concerns that the behaviour of their employee whilst on a national television show could bring the employer or their reputation into disrepute. Love Island is an extremely public forum, with the actions and words of all islanders scrutinised on a daily basis. Part of this analysis means that employees could say or act in a way that an employer could view as detrimental to their company. This could even include the risk of them expressing negative opinions about their employer.
If an employer is happy for their employee to appear on TV (or if the employee does so without the employer’s prior knowledge), what happens when the employee misbehaves and says or does something that doesn’t paint them in glowing colours? The potential for reputational damage can provide grounds for a disciplinary process, and even dismissal. However, caution should be exercised and cases of this nature are rarely straightforward. The employer would need to show a legitimate link between the behaviour alleged and the damage suffered as a result by the company. For example, loss of clients/customers.
On the flip side, it’s worth bearing in mind that Love Island, and other reality television shows, can also provide a platform for contestants to promote their work and lead to positive change and publicity for their employer. A key example of this is Dr Alex George, a 2018 islander, who has gone on to work as the UK Youth Mental Health Ambassador and champions mental health initiatives around the country.
‘Can we go for a chat?’
Importantly, any employee considering joining a show such as Love Island, with its considerable influence and public profile, will need to ensure that their employer is aware and supportive of their decision to take part. This will involve a clear dialogue between the parties and appreciation of what the experience, both positive and negative, could bring.
There is unlikely to be a company policy on reality television participation and therefore it is important for employers to take a practical approach to such requests, considering them on a case by case basis. What’s the show, what sort of behaviours might the employee be likely to display or activities will they get involved in, what opportunity might there be for the employee’s performance to reflect well on them and in turn, on the business? Weigh up all of the pros and cons before making a decision, bearing in mind that a no might mean you lose the employee. What if they turn out to be a national treasure? No doubt you’ll be balancing that risk against the sort of Love Island challenges they could be getting involved in, lap dance anyone? …