The heat is certainly on in parts of the UK this summer, with temperatures hitting 31°in London. This in itself poses a challenge for employers trying to keep their workplace comfortable and safe, but what about other issues such as holidays, or appropriate dress codes?
Here, we give our advice on how employers can keep on top of some common summer issues.
Maximum office temperature
There is no maximum temperature for workplaces in the UK, as it’s not often hot enough to justify having one. However, the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that workplace temperatures need to be “reasonable”.
This can often depend on the type of work being carried out. Ed McFarlane, our resident Employment Law expert says: “You can’t say there must be a fan or an air conditioner, but if a workplace is uncomfortably hot, a worker would in theory have the right to leave the workplace on the grounds of health and safety and not have any action taken against them.”
Summer dress codes are at the employer’s discretion, and can be relaxed to make things more comfortable for employees. Just how casual can depend on the nature of the work, but should also remain professional.
The dress code should be communicated to employees so they know what is acceptable or unacceptable, and when it is in effect.
If more than one employee submits a holiday request, it makes sense to give priority to whoever submitted theirs first. However, depending on the needs of the business, this might not always be feasible. Where possible, clear rules should be set out for everyone.
If you set out restrictions on when holidays can be taken, be sure to avoid indirect discrimination by favouring employees with certain characteristics or circumstances over others.
Examples would include allowing time off for certain religious festivals but not others, or favouring people with children during school holidays.
If an employee has a holiday refused but then calls in sick anyway, it can be a major frustration for employers. It’s important not to jump to conclusions (however tempting that may be).
As with any absence, hold a return to work interview once the employee returns to work. This will provide an opportunity to discuss the absence, and the reason for it.
It’s important to be honest with the employee and discuss how their absence might not look genuine – even if it was. If the absence was more than seven days, ask for medical evidence as the employee should provide a fit note.
If there are reasonable grounds to believe that the absence was not for a genuine illness, then it may be necessary to take disciplinary action against the employee.
Late return from holidays
It’s tempting to assume that employees returning late from annual leave have cheekily added on some extra time to their holiday, however remember that this may not actually be the case.
Treat it the same way you would any other unauthorised absence, first by contacting them by appropriate means, then by holding a return-to-work interview and investigating if you feel suspicious. Always let the employee state their case and provide medical evidence if needed.
If it still appears to be a non-genuine absence, follow your disciplinary procedure.