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Summer FAQ’s

HR FAQs

Is there a maximum workplace temperature beyond which employees cannot be expected to work?

The simple answer to this is no as none of the Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations specify a maximum workplace temperature.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 state that, during working hours, the temperature in all workplaces inside buildings should be ‘reasonable’ but with some exceptions such as work environments that require lower temperatures under other regulations, for example the storing or processing of food. What is reasonable will depend on the nature of the workplace and the activities undertaken.

The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 Approved Code of Practice guides employers by providing minimum temperatures, but not maximum temperatures.

Minimum temperature 16°C
Minimum temperature where much of the work involves severe physical effort 13°C

 

The code of practice explains that the presence of other factors, for example air movement and relative humidity, means that these temperatures may not ensure reasonable comfort.

 

What can I do, as an employer, to discourage absenteeism in advance of major sporting events?

You can give advance warning to employees that unauthorised absences without good reason and sickness absences that are not genuine, during a major sporting event, will be dealt with under the employer’s disciplinary procedure.  This should help to discourage absenteeism related to the event because employees will be made aware that you are  scrutinising absence more closely during this time.

You may also wish to put specific rules and procedures in place during the relevant period. For example, employees who are off sick (other than those who are already known to be on long-term sickness absence) could be required to notify their absence to a specified person, for example a member of the HR department rather than their Line Manager. The person to whom employees are required to report could ask more probing and appropriate questions when speaking to employees about their absence and would have readily available information for effective monitoring of the situation and identifying absence patterns.

 

 I have received a request for annual leave from an employee who is on furlough but I can’t afford to top up their pay to the full amount – what can I do?

Although furloughed employees can take annual leave without the furlough period being disrupted you are required to pay the employee their normal rate of pay for a period of holiday rather than the reduced amount they receive during furlough.  You do have the option to refuse any requests for annual leave during a period of furlough by giving the required notice equivalent to the period of leave requested.  However if the request is declined the employee must be allowed to take the leave at a later point or be allowed to carry over up to four weeks’ leave if it is not reasonably practicable for them to take it during the leave year.

 

I am worried about an employee going on a trip abroad and then being required to self-isolate, either at home or in a quarantine hotel, for up to 10 days on their return to the UK.  Can I reject their annual leave request?

Try and take a sympathetic approach and not reject the employee’s annual leave request out of hand.  It could be the case that the employee needs to travel for an important reason such as to visit relatives they haven’t seen for a long time or who could be ill.

Think about whether you can accommodate the period of self- isolation.  Depending on the role and type of work, it may be that you could arrange for the employee to work remotely during the self-isolation period, which could be working from home or even working from a quarantine hotel.

Another possibility is that the employee has sufficient annual leave to take the self-isolation period as holiday, as long as you can accommodate this length of leave.

Consider other types of leave – for example a one-off period of unpaid leave. If the reason for travelling is to deal with a family emergency, the employee may be able to take the additional time off as compassionate leave.

Ultimately, you can refuse an annual leave request if you cannot accommodate the length of the employee’s absence, or the employee has insufficient annual leave to cover the whole period.

I have seen a spike in the number of holiday requests I am receiving as we head into summer.  Some of these requests are relatively short notice so I cannot guarantee that all of them will be accommodated.  Can I turn down short notice requests?

To pre-empt potential problems with competing requests, it is essential that your rules on requesting holiday are set out clearly to the workforce, typically in a holiday policy.

The holiday policy can set out the process for making a request, including notice requirements. The policy can remind employees that requests can be turned down if:

  • they cannot be accommodated for operational reasons, or
  • the employee has provided insufficient notice.

In the absence of an arrangement to the contrary, employees must give notice equal to at least twice as many days as the number of days they wish to take. Employers can give counter notice requiring that the leave not be taken, as long as the counter notice is equivalent to the length of the holiday requested.

 

An employee wishes to cancel the annual leave they have booked because they are now unable to go on holiday or have been affected by travel restrictions – do I have to agree to this?

You do not have to agree to an employee’s request to cancel holiday already booked, unless the employee has the right to cancel annual leave under their contract of employment or another relevant agreement.

In deciding whether to agree to a cancellation request, you should take into account the needs of the business, and the employee’s personal circumstances.

It may be good employee relations to be flexible with annual leave requests in these uncertain times, or employers that are particularly busy over the summer may welcome annual leave cancellations.

However, some employers could benefit from refusing to cancel leave already booked, particularly if there is less work for employees to do this summer or there are concerns about a substantial build-up of untaken annual leave across the workforce.

 

I’m finding that a large number of employees seem reluctant to take holiday and as many of them have already carried over leave from 2020 they have more untaken leave than usual at this time of the year.  Can I insist they take a specified amount of holiday by a certain date?

HR should liaise with line managers to ensure that they encourage staff to take a portion of their leave over the summer, if at all possible.

You could take a stricter approach and require employees to take leave on specified dates or to book a certain amount of leave during a particular period. This approach would work particularly well if you know that the summer months are quieter for your business.

For example, if you know that customer demand is always down in July and August, you could require all employees to book at least two weeks’ annual leave in those months.

Your business may suit a summer shutdown, whereby all or most employees are required to take leave at the same time over the summer.

Employers can designate specific periods as annual leave, as long as they give the correct notice to employees. This is notice that is at least twice the number of working days that you are requiring employees to take.

 

I have a number of employees with school age children and some of them have already mentioned they may struggle to balance their childcare responsibilities with work during the school summer holiday period.  What can I do to support them?

It is good practice for employers to allow employees with childcare responsibilities to make use of flexible working to cope during the summer holidays.

This summer, some employers may still have their workforce mostly working from home, in which case it may help homeworkers to be flexible with working hours.

Other employers may have hybrid working arrangements already in place in time for the summer, which should assist employees with children.

Some employees will continue to make flexible working requests and, as long as it suits the employer’s operational needs, there is no reason why it cannot agree to additional flexible working requests to help employees with their personal circumstances.

If an employee comes to you asking to be furloughed for the summer months, you should remember that there is no obligation to accede to an employee’s request to be furloughed.

However, the Government’s guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme makes clear that furlough is an option when an employee has childcare problems. However, the decision to furlough is ultimately one for the employer.

 

For further information please contact Westcountry HR on 01626 367595 or email hello@westcountryhr.com

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