How to prevent sunny days turning into sick days
As many parts of the UK bask in a heatwave employers need to plan ahead by adapting work routines and offering guidance for working in the heat to avoid rising sick days, says Adrian Lewis, Director at Activ People HR.
This advice comes after many Britons complained it was ‘too hot to work’ this week[i], and employers are possibly facing record numbers calling in sick next Monday after Sunday which is likely to be the hottest day yet[ii].
Mondays are most popular day for workers to call in sick according to MetLife[iii]. The expected record temperatures next week have also prompted Government to start drawing up the first ever heatwave emergency response[iv], so employers also need to prepare.
Although there are no employee rights or upper limit on working in hot weather from the government, regulations such as the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations of 1992 say that temperature conditions must be ‘reasonable’[v].
Employees can complain if the temperature gets too hot and employers are legally obliged to carry out a risk assessment. Employers also have a duty of care.
Adrian says, “When it’s hot employers are likely to see an increase in absences, with people calling in sick because they can’t face a hot commute or office, and some wanting to take advantage of the nice weather. Combine this with people who are genuinely sick or have Covid and employers could suddenly be short staffed.
“A sensible approach is to bring in measures to support people such as letting staff work at home if it’s feasible, working more flexible hours, allowing them to travel at more convenient times such as avoiding rush hour on the trains and even factoring ‘sunny days’, a couple of days extra leave employees can take during hot spells.
“Employers could also think about renting air conditioning units if the office doesn’t already have it or a fan and providing staff with cold drinks and ice creams to make the working day more comfortable.
“Staff should also be encouraged to take regular breaks, whether they are working in the office or remotely. They could even consider offering a ‘siesta time’ and changing the working hours during the heatwave so people can work in the cooler parts of the day, if this can be accommodated just like they do in Spain.
“Continuing to monitor and record absence using absence management technology is also important so that employers can spot trends such as someone who always calls in sick when its hot weather.
“Regular offenders will need to be reminded of the absenteeism policy as well as given the chance to put forward their case if they have a particular reason to be off during hot weather, such as caring responsibilities or having pets where hot weather causes extra distress.
“With a bit of forward planning and innovative thinking employers can offer support to minimise the impact of the heatwave and ensure its pretty much business as usual as far as possible.”
For more information on Activ People HR visit: www.activpeoplehr.co.uk.