We’re beginning to enjoy the start of the summer weather – but as an employer, you may be anxious about the chaos that this time of year can bring.
Wedding season is approaching, there’s barbeques, parties and sporting events to keep us busy, and we’re all dusting off our suitcases for our next stint abroad. Amidst all the excitement, work can often take a back seat – leaving employers to deal with a loss of productivity and costly absences.
As the summer approaches, we discuss three key challenges that may cause disruption to your business and the practical steps you can take to keep the heat off.
1. Distracted employees
Whether it’s the FA Cup final, Wimbledon or the Tour de France, the summer sports calendar is sure to keep us all busy. The more avid sports fans among us will book the day off, but those who do find themselves at work may end up distracted, stealthily looking at their phones to check the score or the latest update. Added to this, with better weather, employees may be more tempted to pull out their phones to make plans for after work rather than focusing on the task at hand. This all adds up, and before you know it, the day has been wasted on distractions.
What can I do?
It’s important to have a clear policy in place which sets out the rules concerning the permitted use of mobiles phones in the workplace. Within this, you may wish to:
- Restrict the use of mobile phones to lunch or rest breaks, or to deal with an emergency that cannot wait until the end of the day.
- Require that mobile phones are kept on silent mode or switched off altogether during the working day to minimise distraction.
- Set rules on whether employees should be allowed to keep their phone in their pockets or on their desks, or whether they must have them leave them in a locker, staff room or wherever they store their other belongings.
Of course, you may want to take a more generous approach. If you’re feeling flexible, you may decide to allow employees to watch an important match as a one-off social event, allow for an extra-long lunch break, or let particularly invested individuals swap hours with a colleague. These could even be presented as incentives in a bid to improve performance leading up to big sporting events and make up for any down time.
Often, working with employees rather than against them and giving them just enough leeway can actually prove the most effective solution.
2. Employees pulling sickies
Bogus absences disrupt your business. However, while you may have every reason to suspect that a ‘sick’ employee is in fact watching sport, attending a festival or just wants to enjoy the sunshine, you should tread carefully.
This doesn’t mean letting it slide, but you do need to be careful if making allegations against an employee without clear evidence. If you’re too quick to jump to conclusions, the employee may have grounds to suggest that such allegations amount to a breach of trust and confidence. Subsequently, if they have been employed for more than two years, they could claim constructive dismissal.
However, an employee calling in sick and then posting pictures of themselves on Facebook enjoying a barbeque or relaxing on a beach somewhere is a whole other matter and should be dealt with as a disciplinary issue. The level of punishment will be determined by the facts but could potentially include dismissal without notice.
How should this situation be approached?
In these situations, prevention is better than cure. Taking proactive steps to discourage absences will avoid having to go sleuthing on social media to catch employees out. Consider:
- Improving visibility into staff absences by ensuring line managers log all instances of sickness, including the duration and reason for the time off. Our HR Management Software is a great tool for managing absence and allows you to collate and visualise this data.
- Measuring and reporting on absence by calculating employees’ Bradford Factor. This can help prevent bogus absences by highlighting repeat instances of short-term sick leave. If an employee’s score is unusually high, HR can intervene to question that person about their time off.
- Conducting return to work interviews. This is an effective way to deter sickies as it shows employees that their absences have been monitored, that their manager is recognising specific trends and that disciplinary action may be taken against them.
3. Hungover employees
What employees do in their own time is up to them; however, if they show up for work hungover, it immediately becomes your business, as it may mean that they struggle to perform their work, make costly mistakes and are largely unproductive.
You may feel that hangovers are harmless, but if clients or service users see or hear of employees being hungover, it can reflect badly on your business and damage your reputation. Not only that, but if the employee works in a safety-critical position, there are more serious implications.
What can I do?
As summer approaches and there are more occasions to drink, there are a few steps you can take to minimise disruption to your business:
- Remind employees that alcohol can stay in the bloodstream for up to 24 hours and that drinking heavily may render them unfit for work.
- Create an alcohol policy that outlines how you will deal with employees who turn up under the influence or hungover. This should set out what constitutes a violation and clearly explain the consequences.
- Ensure the policy is communicated to all employees. You may wish to get employees to sign to confirm that they have understood what is expected of them and what will happen if they don’t comply.
- Keep written records of any incidents to support any disciplinary action that needs to be taken should coming into work with a hangover become a regular occurrence.
From a legal point of view, establishing a clear and fair alcohol policy and being upfront with employees about what is and isn’t acceptable will provide protection for your business when dealing with employees who violate the rules. Enlisting the support of an HR company will help to ensure the correct wording and provide the best protection for your business.
Don’t sweat it
There are far better ways to spend your summer than dealing with HR issues. If you need practical support, our HR and Employment Law Advisers can draft bespoke policies and handbooks and provide pragmatic advice on tricky situations to help take the pressure off. Call 0345 226 8393.