Telling the truth about SME life today

How to keep your staff focused during summer

Despite what the weather is telling us, we are now officially immersed in British summer time. Schools will soon be finishing for the six week break, lovers of open-air Shakespeare will be sitting in Regents Park dusk in their kagouls and factor 20, and employees will be gossiping about their holiday plans and cracking out the Pimms in anticipation. We Brits are a hardy bunch; whatever the weather, the summer months are usually packed with events to look forward to.

Sporting events often dominate leisure time in summer. Last year, the Olympics consumed the summer of many workers, with people taking annual leave to enjoy their favourite sport; whether on TV or in London itself. Next year, it’s very likely that the Fifa World Cup will have the same effect. 

Then there’s music. How we love camping in muddy fields to experience that! Every year, hundreds of festivals are held up and down the country, whether it’s Glastonbury, V Festival, Download or T in the Park. Hundreds flock to the festival that takes their fancy to experience a bit of live music and dancing.

In most cases employees will put in holiday requests to take the desired period of leave, but organisations can find themselves in a difficult situation when many employees require time off a the same time. 

Sometimes an employee simply decides to take an extra day (or days) off without authorisation. Unauthorised absence is a big problem and their costs to the UK economy range between £10bn and £30bn every year. Unsurprisingly, this happens more in the summer months.

It’s easy to let your heart rule your head; particularly when you know that an employee was having a weekend of festival fun and then fails to turn up on Monday. But stay calm and investigate properly before deciding whether to take any formal action. The length of time absent and the employee’s explanation should both be taken into consideration and responses and actions taken should be proportionate and reasonable.

Ensure that you are best placed to deal with unauthorised absence over the upcoming summer months by setting the scene for your fun-lovin” troops.

  • Where festivals and events are looming, remind employees that unauthorised absence is a disciplinary offence and will not be tolerated;
  • Keep accurate and up-to-date records of attendance records to highlight any absence patterns;
  • Encourage employees to submit holiday requests early to avoid disappointment (and to avoid employees pulling a “sickie” at a later date);
  • Get into the habit of holding return to work interviews with employees after any period of absence; and
  • Make sure that your absence policy/procedure is clear and the potential consequences of non-compliance set out.

Whatever we have planned, we all look forward to a bit of time off to unwind. Most employees wouldn?t dream of acting dishonestly, but when it comes to festivals and special sporting events, an extra day of fun is just too tempting for some. Periods of unauthorised absence should be addressed as soon as they occur, and in the proper way to show the individual concerned, and the rest of your workforce, that you’re not going to let it slide. We don’t want to be summer scrooges, but we still need to clamp down on unauthorised absence and limit its occurrence.

Kate Russell is managing director of Russell HR Consulting.


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