As temperatures keep getting hotter and hotter this summer, staff absences are set to rise.
This is not so much about people wanting a day off in the sun, but more likely due to the effects of the heat, such as stomach bugs, heat strokes, sunburn and hay fever.
Regulations place a legal obligation on employers to provide a ‘reasonable’ temperature in the workplace. However, while there is a minimum working temperature in the UK, there is no statutory upper limit.
Effective absence management and flexible working options can help maintain staff productivity and reduce the cost to businesses.
Here are five top tips to reduce the impact heat-induced absence can have on your business:
1. Let employees know what is expected of them
If you do not have an adverse weather policy or procedure in place, now is the time to develop one.
Having clear plans in place will help you prepare for any possible difficulties and will also inform your employees of what is expected from them in these situations.
2. Know the law
Employers and employees alike are often unclear about what they are legally obliged to do if adverse weather prevents employees from attending work.
There isn’t any specific legislation that covers adverse weather. Therefore, the normal legislation applies:
- Employees are responsible for getting themselves to work and should make every effort to attend as normal.
- They are not entitled to be paid if they do not make it in to work.
- If the employee arrives at work late, they are not entitled to be paid for the time not worked.
3. Keep cool in work
While employers are not legally obliged to provide air conditioning in workplaces, they are expected to provide reasonable temperatures.
So, if you have air conditioning, switch it on, if you have blinds or curtains, use them to block out sunlight, and if you’re working outside, wear appropriate clothing and use sun screen to protect from sunburn.
Ensure you provide your employees with suitable drinking water in the workplace. It is important to drink water regularly throughout the day and not to wait until you are thirsty, as this is an indication that you are already dehydrated.
Factors other than air temperature – for example humidity and air velocity – become more significant and the interaction between them becomes more complex with rising temperatures, according to the HSE.
4. Consider your dress code
Employers often have a dress code in the workplace for many reasons, including health and safety. Additionally, workers may be asked to wear a uniform to communicate a corporate image and a dress code can often be used to ensure workers are dressed appropriately.
While employers are under no obligation to relax their dress code or uniform requirements during hot weather, some may allow workers to wear more casual clothes, or allow “dress down” days. This does not necessarily mean that shorts and flip flops are appropriate, rather that employers may relax the rules around wearing ties or suits.
5. Be as flexible where possible
Be as flexible as possible. Deducting pay could have a long term impact on productivity and employee morale – offering the following alternatives is likely to be much more effective:
- Arrange for employees to work from home or at an alternative office/site if possible.
- Consider altering working hours in agreement with employees wherever possible.
- Allow employees to take any outstanding lieu time or flexi-time if available.
- Allow employees to take the time off as holiday, if available. Remember, however, that employers cannot require employees to take holiday entitlement at short notice.
About the author
Stephen Johnson is HR Policy Review Consultant, Moorepay.