Amid the ongoing UK heatwave, we asked UK HR professionals for their tips on how companies should address the heatwave and an anticipated increase in the number of sick days.
Laura Rennie, Managing Director of Kilmarnock-based Arena HR: “Hot weather always increases the number of sick days being called in. For many, a day off in the blistering sun is just too much of a temptation. To combat this I’ve seen more and more employers giving their staff ‘Sunny Days’, which is one or two extra days annual leave that they can use for unexpected warm days. In Britain, we really don’t know when this is going to happen so having a day or two that can be used at short notice keeps everyone happy. The number of sick days reduces and staff morale increases. It’s a win win.”
Sarah Loates, Founder of Derby-based Loates HR Consultancy: “Managing employees in a heatwave, like much of HR, is all about common sense. HSE (Health and Safety Executive) guidance cites indoor workplace temperatures must be ‘reasonable’. If several or more employees are struggling with the heat, despite attempts to cool down, the employer is legally obliged to undertake a risk assessment. The employer should listen to its employees, many of whom will have practical ideas to keep cool. Employers should also pay particular attention to employees with underlying medical conditions, such as heart or lung conditions and diabetes who may require additional measures to cool down.”
Cheney Hamilton, CEO at Darlington-based flexible working recruiter, Find Your Flex: “The current heatwave highlights a fundamental issue surrounding the way we work in the UK, namely that our organisational models are simply too fixed. After giving evidence in Parliament and the Senedd last week on the much needed move to outcome-based working, it’s clear that if we adopted this model then issues such as heatwaves and their impact on the workplace and productivity would never be an issue in the future. Working when, where and how you want, as long as you are achieving the outcomes set by the business, means that this level of micromanagement will no longer be needed. Happy sunny days for us all!”
Maddy Alexander-Grout, CEO of Southampton-based My VIP Rewards: “Heatwaves are bound to create more sick days if a company’s culture is not flexible. For those employers who offer work from home or flexible hours, they will see less sick days from their employees, because it comes with trust. If an employer says to their staff you can work when you want as long as the job gets done, employees have the option to work in the evenings when it is cooler or with their feet in a paddling pool in the garden. Employers should definitely be considering how hard heatwaves are for menopausal women and people who have auto-immune or hormone-related conditions who struggle to manage their body temperature. Sick days can be avoided when employers treat staff like humans instead of robots who make them money.”
Karen Watkins, Director at Somerset-based HR specialists, Rowan Consulting: “Since the switch to improved homeworking and employees managing their own time and priorities, a rise in the number of sick days is not something we’re seeing with our clients. As a business, if you’re still experiencing issues with people taking ‘sickies’ due to weather, I would suggest you probably have wider issues around trust and broader morale that need attention at leadership level.”