Expert advice

Legal advice: Can friends visit me at work while I am on duty?

It’s best to meet your friends when you’re on your break – or wait until you’ve finished work 

It’s best to meet your friends when you’re on your break – or wait until you’ve finished work 

Picture: iStock

Your employer pays you to exclusively work for them for a given period and in return, you receive compensation for your time in the form of a salary.

You will have stated terms and conditions outlining where your place of work is, what hours you are to work and any breaks you are entitled to.

It is reasonable for your employer to expect you to be working when you are at your workplace during your working hours. So, if you are on your ward or unit during your shift you should be working.

If you are not working – because you are having a chat with a friend who has turned up at your workplace to see you, for example – your employer may wonder why they are paying you.

There is also the issue of patient privacy; hospital patients can expect a reasonable degree of privacy. Having visitors to the ward who do not need to be there may be a breach of that privacy.

A matter of professionalism

Another factor to consider is if you are continuously having visitors come to your place of work, taking you away from your duties, what does this say about your attitude to your work and your professionalism?

It is unlikely that anyone would complain if someone comes to your place of work to speak to you in an emergency or as a one-off situation. But if this is a frequent occurrence, it needs your attention before it becomes an issue your employer wants you to address.

A sensible approach is required that meets your needs, your patients’ needs and those of your employer. One such approach would be to limit your friends’ visits to times when you are on your break, meeting them in a non-clinical area such as a café or reception area.

Alternatively, explain to your friends that you are at work and will see them when you are not working.

Marc Cornock is a qualified nurse, academic lawyer and senior lecturer at the Open University

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