How seasonal changes affect your employees

June 21, 2016
 

How seasonal changes affect your employees

It’s that time of year again, where your workplace runs to the soundtrack of sneezing, and is seen through itchy, watery eyes. Yes, hay fever season is once again upon us, and it can have a real affect on your business, as you may have read about in our previous blog “Hay Fever Hangover“.

In today’s post we take another look at what hay fever means for your business, along with other HR issues that the summer months can bring up for your business.

Hay Fever

Hay fever is still a huge problem for UK businesses, and costs £7.1 billion in lost productivity according to HR magazine. With 40% of sufferers saying they struggle to concentrate and half saying they operate on only 50% capacity, it’s no wonder that productivity can nose dive.

And as we saw in our last post on the subject, there are around 1.3 million hay fever sufferers who will all be displaying similar symptoms of a hangover.

So how can you maximise your productivity in a time where concentration is low?

Having an understanding of your employee’s medical conditions is part of your duty of care, so speaking with any of your employees who suffer at this time of year should be your first port of call, and working with them to create the most comfortable solution should keep employee’s happy, and your productivity reasonably intact.

Self-medication may not always be the wisest choice for your employee as allergy tablets are known to cause drowsiness, which is not going to aid productivity, and can cause potentially dangerous situations should your employee need to handle machinery.

But taking basic steps such as moving an employee to work in areas where windows are not open during working hours, or moving on to a different task if they are too unwell to complete their usual duties, could keep staff morale up, as well as your productivity levels.

Paula Whelan of Shakespeares suggests looking at flexible working hours too if possible. So, if a worker suffers most with hay fever first thing in the morning, that person could start an hour later, and finish an hour later, still completing their full day of work.

If you’re left baffled as to what to do when you are faced with a hay fever nightmare, speak to the friendly experts at HELP for honest advice on moving forward.

Working Temperature

In the UK, we are not all that familiar with working in high heats when the summer hits. And though we have limits of a minimum temperature we can work at (16 degrees Celsius), there is no maximum limit of temperature.

HSE used to say “an acceptable zone of thermal comfort for most people in the UK lies roughly between 13 degrees Celsius and 30 degrees Celsius” but now only states that workplaces should be at a reasonable temperature within working hours. This is mainly due to working environments working at varying temperatures throughout the year anyway.

There are calls from TUC to introduce an upper limit on workplace temperature, which would mean employers have to act when the temperature reaches 24 degrees Celsius, and employees would have to be sent home if temperatures in the workplace hit 30 degrees Celsius.

Until then, this means it is up to you as an employer to decide what is acceptable for your employees, this is usually completed through a risk assessment, (through the management of health and safety at work regulations 1999), which require employers to make a suitable assessment of the risks to their employees, temperature of the workplace being one of these.

HSE suggests that employers should consult with employees (or their representatives) to establish a sensible means to cope with high temperatures.

Common sense should prevail when you consider your employees work performance, and (within reason) take heat complaints seriously. Take into consideration HSE’s guide to thermal comfort and heat stress, to decide when it’s ‘too hot’ to work, and take precautions to make a comfortable atmosphere for your employee’s. This article from The Guardian also takes into account employee’s questions when temperatures begin to soar, which have some good points to consider, such as ensuring dress code during the summer months is established in your employee’s handbooks or contracts to agree a standard for everyone from the very start of employment.

If you are looking to create a temperature policy, or make adaptions to your handbook, we can HELP you with those to ensure you are fully compliant.

Holidays

As stated by GOV.uk, almost all workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks paid holiday per year, and as an employer, you can include bank holidays as part of that annual leave.

This means that most workers who work 5 days a week will receive 28 days paid leave per year. With part time workers also receiving the same ratio of holiday, but worked out based on their actual working hours.

Bank holidays do not have to be given as paid leave, but as an employer you can choose to include bank holidays as part of your employee’s annual leave.

It is important to remember that workers have the right to:

  • Be paid for leave
  • Accrue holiday entitlement whilst on maternity/paternity/adoption leave
  • Accrue holiday entitlement while off work sick
  • Request holiday at the same time as sick leave.

How much notice do employees need to give you? As stated on GOV.uk, the considered general notice period is at least twice as long as the amount of leave the worker wants to take, unless their contract says something different. Employers can refuse a leave request that hasn’t left sufficient notice, but can’t refuse to give leave out at all.

You are also allowed to tell staff when they can take their leave (such as bank holidays or Christmas) and restrict when leave can be taken (such as busy periods).

 

Struggling with holiday policies? Contact the experts at HELP to get you back on track. We offer a straight forward and friendly service on your terms, without any ties into a long term contract, call today on 01543 431050.

This post is in: Employee Relations Blogs

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