All over Britain, we’ve gone from complaining about the cold to slating the sun. It’s hot, hot, hot in offices right now, so if you’re a boss, where does that leave you? We’ve asked for the opinion of Carole Burman, an inspirational ‘female founder’ who created her own HR consultancy after years working in-house in HR roles.
Here’s what she has to say….
We can plan for all kinds of scenarios as HR advisors.
We’re often waiting like a coiled spring for the next recruitment wave for one of our clients, or their sudden requirement on a tricky dismissal, or responding when a member of staff walks in the office and announces they’re seven months pregnant!
Weather is such a tricky one.
While many of us are, for the most part, delighted to see such a long stint of sunshine, blue sky and balmy heat, it does have its implications for the workplace.
Bearing in mind we’re set to see this unusual run of hot days continue for some time yet, here’s a few of the features and factors you’ll be wanting to take into account if you’re an employer.
Thongs and Sarongs
No no. We’re not talking that kind of thong. We’re talking the flip-flop kind.
Office summerwear is inevitably less formal than the wintry period of suits and multiple layers, but there is, of course, a need to emphasise ‘a line’ over which it’s not acceptable to cross when it comes to business fashion.
Do you have a right to impose a dress code? Can you reprimand or warn an employee if you feel they’re a bit too scantily clad? The answer, thankfully, is yes. And this is where a robust dress code policy that is not only legally compliant but also reflects the practices of your Company is worth its weight in gold!
We find in the first instance, a reminder of such via email or an intranet, can be a good approach, depending on your size of organisation.
This can be a very informal gentle reminder to staff about what you do and don’t expect, and any further requests you have for those meeting with clients.
If you find yourself really unnerved or unhappy with a particular staff member’s approach, then yes, you can certainly raise it with them and suggest it’s not wholly appropriate. Again, refer to your Company policies and procedures to ensure you are fair, reasonable and lawful.
You’d want to note this, and consider it as a tracked ‘gentle warning’ in case that person persists.
Remember that you’re not just looking out for what ‘offends your eye’, but you’re helping a whole team of staff feel more fairly treated as part of a collective. Most employees are proud to be working and representing a business, so it’s only right to keep the same standard for all.
Too Darned Hot
Is it ever too hot to expect your staff to work?
Do your employees have a right to say they can’t tolerate particular conditions?
Well, it’s not entirely straightforward, because naturally you’ll want to take into account what the work is (manual labour vs sitting at a desk vs working in the paint-shop spraying area of a car manufacturer) and what environment you’re providing the staff with.
Do you use air conditioning? Do you provide an office fan? Is it possible to have windows open to maintain a cooler temperature.
This is such a many and varied scenario that you really do need to consider carefully the health and safety implications of your staff continuing to do their duties as they would ordinarily.
Feel free to call us if you want to run a particular situation by us.
Oh – and an ice cream and some cold drinks for staff never hurt anyone!
Skiving or Sick?
This one comes up more and more as we enter the official ‘summer holidays’.
It’s even more likely to be questionable where staff are looking outside and thinking their family is busy enjoying incredibly un-British sunshine.
How do you check that that person is ‘really sick’ with food poisoning when they call up on what happens to be the hottest day of the year?
We’ve heard of all sorts of employers checking out Facebook posts and the like, just in case a member of staff is sharing photos from a theme park or beach somewhere.
There’s really no need to feel you have to resort to such analysis.
By far and away the best judgment is to take your employee on trust initially. If the ‘illness’ persists, you may need to take a more formal approach (yes that well written policy should guide you through).
For future relations, however, it’s usually far far better to assume that person genuinely is poorly from the family barbecue, and that they’ll be back at their desk in no time.