As the sun sizzles, work schedules are at risk of going up in flames…

After a frankly dreadful summer, the promise of an Indian summer lies ahead. But it’s not all sunshine for employers…

According to software provider BrightHR, there was a 24% uplift in annual leave taken on Monday 4 September, compared with an average Monday in 2023. Plus, annual leave requests made via the platform on that day skyrocketed by 42%, compared to an average day, with sickness rates increasing by as much as 32%.

So, with temperatures set to soar as high as 32°C this week, HR teams may find themselves experiencing a flurry of last-minute requests for annual leave. CEO Alan Price issues his own heat warning to employers:

“As a heatwave strikes, it can unleash the full force of managerial mayhem—from staff pulling sickies to soak up the sun, to last minute leave requests— and it can rapidly become too hot to handle.

“It’s common for business owners to see a spike in absences anytime we approach a heatwave. And given the summer has been lacking in the weather department to say the least, it’s no surprise that employees are chomping at the bit to enjoy the warmer temperatures we apparently have in store.

“In fact, if we look back to 2022, Britain’s hottest day last year saw the UK baking in temperatures that in some, parts, reached the 40s—as well as a 33% increase in annual leave requests. It seems to be in our nature to want to enjoy the sun when it makes a rare appearance. But there are ways for employers to lessen the burden when it comes to managing their employees during a heatwave.

“In many cases—particularly as we start approaching the last couple of months of 2023 and as some employees will have a surplus of holidays to take before the year is out—employers will welcome requests from employees to use annual leave, even at short notice to enjoy the sunshine. But whether employees can take holiday on a whim depends on what their employment contract says. An employer will often stipulate in a contract, policy, or an employee handbook how many days’ prior notice is required to take holiday. Circulating this to all your staff will serve well in minimising an influx of last-minute requests.

“Employers do, however, have reasonable grounds to refuse a leave request if it would leave the business at detriment, for example if it will leave them short-staffed. This is where online absence management systems come in handy: by making it simple to instantly spot any clashes that might sting your business.

“Plus, such a system also allows you to easily identify any recurring patterns. For instance, that particular employee that always seems to have a sickness bug when the sun comes out? Accurately tracking absences can help you confirm that burning suspicion and proceed with the appropriate action.”

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