The recent heatwave may have gone for now, but chances are the hot weather will return again over the rest of the summer. So, whilst we are in this cooler period, it’s a good time to reflect on the heatwave and how it affected our employees, and what we can do to manage it when it returns.
What effects can a heatwave have on employees?
Unless you are lucky enough to live in an air-conditioned home, the chances of getting a good night’s sleep during a heatwave are probably low. These hot nights are particularly uncomfortable and challenging for pregnant women or women who are perimenopausal/menopausal, due to their rising core body temperature during pregnancy or hormonal changes as we get older.
Therefore, it goes without saying that employees (whether facing these challenges or not) are likely to be going into work lacking in sleep. Lack of sleep can cause us to feel lethargic, struggling for motivation, lacking in concentration and irritable, which can lead to frayed tempers whilst at work.
The heat can also make some employees feel unwell, such as suffering with headaches and feeling faint. Therefore, businesses may experience higher levels of absence as employees struggle to manage in the heat.
So, how do businesses deal with these issues from a practical point of view?
Managing frayed tempers
As the heat rises, so might your employees’ tempers. Therefore, it’s a good idea for managers to remind staff of acceptable behaviour, acknowledging that people can react out of character during the hot weather, particularly if they are tired from a lack of sleep. It’s important to let your team know that they can take time out or they should walk away if they feel that their temper is starting to spill over.
However, if an argument does occur between employees during the hot weather, employers should ensure they address the situation with the parties. If the fall out is considered uncharacteristic and likely due to the hot weather, then employers should encourage the parties to sit down and discuss what happened, explain the reasons why and suggest an apology. This will usually be enough to resolve the issue and encourage them to draw a line in the sand. However, if the issues are more serious, it may be appropriate to refer to your disciplinary procedures.
Absences due to a heatwave should be treated in the same way as any other sickness absence and employees should follow the usual procedures for reporting their absence.
You should conduct a return-to-work interview with them and if you are concerned about increased sickness absence during very hot weather, employers should investigate further.
Employers may receive a surge of legitimate holiday requests too, as people want to get out and enjoy the sun. However, employers should ensure they are fair and consistent when deciding whether to depart from the usual holiday notification requirements and allow holidays to be taken on short notice.
If you have any queries or are in need of specific advice in relation to the process of sponsorship or any Employment Law query, please contact a member of the AfterAthena team (part of the Napthens Group) who are able to offer 30 minutes of free advice to QCS members.