With Britain seeing the longest heatwave since 1976, no doubt you’ve had a few moments where the heat has had you sweating this summer. Most of us cherish the rare few days of sunshine our British summer delivers. However, when the heat continues, and realisation hits that life inevitably has to go on regardless of how uncomfortably hot it might be, it’s not unusual for employers to start sweating at the prospect of the potential negative effects of this glorious weather.
It is also not unusual for employers to see a positive correlation between increased heat and unauthorised absence. Whilst initial absences may be linked to employees simply wanting to head off to the beach or light up the BBQ, as the heat continues, there may be other causes that employers should consider that may be making employees less willing to fulfil their usual work duties.
Inadequate air-conditioning, stuffy unnegotiable dress codes and hay fever are all potential causes of both unauthorised absence and decreased productivity and morale. It is a common HR myth that there is a maximum working temperature for the workplace. However, if you want employees to work to optimum levels, the working environment should be optimum as well.
If you have a strict dress code, consider relaxing it if possible. It is important to remember that dress codes should be relaxed for all employees to avoid unfair treatment. With 9 out of 10 people in the UK allergic to grass pollen, employers may benefit from speaking to employees about how they can assist them and make an effort to consider flexible working options where possible to reduce absence. Prescription hay fever medication can sometimes cause drowsiness. Employers have a duty of care to their employees for their safety and the safety of others so extra attention should be given to those using hay fever medication.
Another effective method of controlling unauthorised absence is to ensure that sickness policies are in place, regularly reviewed, communicated and available to access for all employees. Whilst we can’t control the weather or the air-conditioning breaking down, employers can put plans into place to prevent the negative effects that the summer may bring for both the organisation and employees.
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