Five tips for managing absence during hot weather
As temperatures rise this summer, what can you do to keep your employees cool in the summer heat? And what does the law say on employees’ rights in hot weather?
The regulations place a legal obligation on employers to provide a “reasonable” temperature in the workplace. However, while there is a minimum working temperature there is no statutory upper limit.
Staff absences tend to rise dramatically during extreme weather instances due to the effects of the heat, stomach bugs, heat strokes/sunburn, and hay fever. So effective absence management and flexible working options can help maintain staff productivity and reduce the cost to businesses.
Here are our five top tips to reduce the impact heat-induced absence can have on your business.
1. Let employees know what’s 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 it will also inform your employees of what is expected form 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 normally.
- 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.
Factors other than air temperature – for example humidity and air velocity – become more significant and the interaction between them become more complex with rising temperatures, according to the HSE. Therefore you will want to keep your health and safety responsibilities front of mind in very humid or very windy conditions as well.
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’re already dehydrated.
4. Consider your dress code
Employers often have a dress code or wear a uniform in the workplace for many reasons such as health and safety protocols, or to communicate a corporate image. 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 employers may relax the rules around wearing ties or suits.
5. Be as flexible as you can 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 work from home or at an alternative office/site if possible.
- Consider altering working times in agreement with employees wherever this is 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 (although remember that employers cannot require employees to take holiday entitlement at short notice).