July 28, 2022

Summer 2022: Five ways to avoid disruption to your business

With the school holidays now underway, record-breaking heatwaves and travel chaos at many airports, there are some unique issues for employers to manage this summer.

And while for many the summer season means sun, sea and sand, for employers it can also mean increased absence, an influx of annual leave requests and questioning how hot is too hot to work.

Keep reading to find out how you can reduce the impact of summertime pressures on your business.

1. Dealing with an influx of annual leave requests

After two years of COVID restrictions, the UK public are looking forward to taking summer holidays abroad again. Employees are likely to be highly aggrieved in they are unable to take the time they request away from their workplace.

To manage your employees’ expectations ensure you have a fair process, and a clear and transparent policy that is well communicated.

Common ways to effectively manage holidays during the summer season include:

  • Use a holiday planner or holiday planning system.
  • Create a method for employees to request or “bid” on preferred dates for holidays.
  • Require employees to schedule time off in advance but be reasonable about how far in advance they need to schedule it.
  • Ask employees to coordinate holiday time with their coworkers and/or self-manage holiday time. This helps ensure that “back-ups” exist.
  • Develop policies that specify what criteria will be used to approve holidays (first come, first served, seniority, rotation, etc.).
  • Specify the limits for taking holiday (i.e., people with the same skill set can’t be off at the same time, maximum number of days, etc.).
  • Remind employees that meeting business demand should always be the priority when scheduling holidays.

2. Managing the annual spike in absence

Every summer we expect a rise in absenteeism as employees skip work to enjoy the sunshine, look after their children during school holidays or attend a sporting event. Having a well communicated and clear Absence Policy is the key to managing all absences, including things such as summer spikes. 

However, simple changes such as implementing return to work interviews is a great way to reduce and prevent short-term absence. Knowing that your absence will result in a face-to-face meeting with your manager on your return to work tends to prevent those who are not genuinely ill from calling in sick.

Be mindful that if you do choose to introduce return to work interviews, you will need to perform them for all absence, not just those you suspect are not genuine to avoid any discrimination.

3. Implementing summer working hours

Allowing employees to finish work earlier than normal or even reducing their working days gives employees something to work towards and in turn can boost productivity, reduce absenteeism and improve employee retention rates.

In May 2022, PwC extended their summer working hours due to the positive effect it was having on wellbeing. From 1 June to the end of August, PwC’s people will be able to condense their working week to finish at lunchtime on Fridays. So-called summer working hours were piloted by the firm in July and August 2021 as part of its hybrid working policy. Following the pilot last year, a survey of PwC staff year with more than 6,000 respondents showed 73% said it positively impacted their general wellbeing to a great extent.

4. Consider your summer dress code

If your employees are uncomfortable this is likely to have a detrimental impact on morale and productivity.

Consider relaxing your dress code over the summer months. This does not necessarily mean that shorts and flip flops are appropriate. However, employers may relax the rules around wearing ties or suits for example. Ensure that any adjustments you make could not be viewed to be more favourable to one sex then the other.

Sharing your expected dress code standards as a reminder is also a good idea. It’s easier to remind people than it is to have to send someone home for wearing something inappropriate.

5. Free ice cream can have a big impact

Is ice cream the ultimate summer engagement tool? Small gestures such as offering free ice creams on hot days can go a long way to making your employees feel valued and keeping them motivated and working hard as temperatures soar.

Next steps

To understand more about what causes absence to spike during the summer months, listen to our recent webinar where our Employment Law & HR expert Carl Hardcastle discusses ways to prevent your absence rates from increasing further.

In addition, to find out more about how you can manage an influx of holiday requests whilst minimising the risk of disgruntled employees, you can read our blog here.

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About the author

Gillian Smith

Gill has over 10 years HR generalist experience within the retail and industrial service sectors.Whilst providing HR support and services at the most senior levels Gill’s experience includes mergers and acquisitions, complex TUPE transfers, organisational development, and strategic change management. Gill has experience in the policy development process from design, consulting with directors and employee representatives through to implementation and delivering training workshops on the new polices. Gill currently is an HR policy consultant who services a variety of clients.

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