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Managing employees: how to have a stress-free summer


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.

Between weddings, barbeques and trips abroad, work can often take a back seat, leaving employers to deal with a loss of productivity and costly absences.

As summer approaches, here are some of the challenges that may cause disruption to your business and the practical steps you can take to keep the heat off.

1. Distracted employees

With better weather and a jam-packed sporting calendar, employees may be more tempted to pull out their phones to check the latest score or make plans for after work. 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 permitted use of mobiles phones in the workplace. Within this, you may wish to:

• Restrict the use of mobile phones to rest breaks or emergencies.
• Require that mobile phones are kept on silent or switched off altogether during the working day.
• Ask that employees leave their phones in a locker, staff room or wherever they store their other belongings.

Of course, you may want to take a more generous approach by allowing employees to watch an important match as a one-off social event, permitting an extra-long lunch break, or letting 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 downtime.

Often, working with employees rather than against them and giving them just enough leeway can prove the most effective solution.

2. Employees pulling sickies

Bogus absences disrupt your business. However, while you may suspect that a ‘sick’ employee is in fact making the most of the weather, you should avoid 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 constitute a breach of trust and confidence, and could make a claim for constructive dismissal if they have been employed for more than two years.

If you do have clear evidence, such as photographs on Facebook, this 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.

What can I do?

In these situations, prevention is better than cure. Taking proactive steps to discourage absences will avoid having to resort to sleuthing on social media. Consider:

• Improving visibility into staff absences by ensuring line managers log all instances of sickness, including reason and duration.
• Measuring and reporting on absence by calculating employees’ Bradford Factor scores, which will highlight repeat instances of short-term sick leave.
• Conducting return to work interviews. This can effectively deter sickies by showing employees that their absences have been monitored, that managers are recognising specific trends and that disciplinary action may be taken.

3. Hungover employees

What employees do in their own time is up to them; however, if they turn up to work hungover, it immediately becomes your business. Not only are hangovers likely to impede productivity, but if it’s brought to a client’s attention, it can reflect badly on your business and damage your reputation.

What can I do?

As summer approaches and there are more occasions to drink, minimise disruption to your business by:

• Reminding employees that alcohol can stay in the bloodstream for up to 24 hours and that drinking heavily may render them unfit for work.
• Creating an alcohol policy that outlines how you will deal with employees who turn up under the influence or hungover. This should state what constitutes a violation and clearly explain the consequences.
• Keeping written records of incidents to support disciplinary action 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.

Need support?

There are far better ways to spend your summer than dealing with HR issues. For advice on overcoming summer employment challenges, contact Bira Legal on 0345 450 0937 or email bira@elliswhittam.com.

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