Is your HR department feeling the heat this summer?

news article

Jul 20 2016

With temperatures across the country already hitting 30-degrees this week, many HR professionals are poised for an increased summer workload ready to kick in.

With a combination of increased annual leave requests, school holidays, and a potential productivity nosedive to deal with, some businesses understandably tend to view the summer period with trepidation. To help you to steer clear of common pitfalls and keep your staff engaged and motivated, whilst still complying with the law, we’ve put together our top eight tips for managing the summer period:

Summer HR imageMaximum office temperatures

Whilst the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulation 1992 states that the temperature within your workplace needs to be “reasonable,” there is actually no legal maximum temperature set out.

What you consider reasonable depends entirely on the nature of your workplace and the type of work your employees carry out. Exercise your own judgement if you think the working environment is becoming overheated, particularly if physical or strenuous work is taking place.

Competing holiday requests

With sporting events, foreign holidays and various social commitments, an increase in annual leave requests is inevitable. However, it is worth remembering that under the Working Time Regulations Act 1998, you are not obliged to agree to an employee’s leave request if you cannot adequately accommodate it.

If you receive competing requests from different employees, the fairest option may be to prioritise in a way that is fair and consistent, for example on a first-come, first-served basis.

Unauthorised time off

 If a holiday request is refused but the employee is still absent from work during the requested time, it is best not to jump to conclusions. You are well within your rights to carry out an investigation to establish whether the absence was for genuine reasons.

Keep in mind that a sudden illness, family emergency, childcare issues, or even stress could all be genuine contributing factors to an employee taking unexpected time off.

Summer dress codes

Relaxing a strict dress code is a move often undertaken by businesses during periods of hot weather.

However, you should be mindful of implementing a ‘blanket policy’ across your company – consider who performs which roles, and what the appropriate attire for them may be – e.g. an employee in a customer-facing role may be expected to maintain a higher standard of dress.

Late returns from holidays

Whether it’s a delayed plane or a more serious situation, it is wise to anticipate that some employees may return back late from annual leave.

The rational approach to a situation like this is to allow the employee an opportunity to provide an explanation, including submitting any supporting evidence in the case of illness, such as medial certificate. However, if they cannot provide a suitable explanation, then don’t be afraid to refer them to your disciplinary procedure.

Summer work experience

Now is the time when many young adults look to undertake work experience with a business, and this can often be an enriching and productive experience for both parties.

By law, you do not have to pay a child or young adult of compulsory school/college age whilst they undertake work experience. However, bear in mind that all other rules and restrictions on employing young people still apply, and that you will have to work closely with both the local authority and any supervising tutors.

Flexible working requests 

It is highly likely that requests for flexible working will spiral during the summer months, with school holidays meaning many working parents will feel increased pressure to maintain their work and home life balance.

Ensure that you consider each request on its own merit, and ascertain that the needs of the business can accommodate any longer-term changes before you formally approve them.

Alcohol at work

The summer season often comes with an increase in alcohol consumption, with many employees taking advantage of good weather to have a social drink or two during their lunch break.

Refer anyone who may be causing yourself or colleagues concern to your official substance and alcohol policy, and remind people that a zero tolerance approach to drinking during working hours applies all year round.


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