During the summer, the warm weather and the draw of the beach, barbeques, and travel may lead to increased absenteeism and reduced productivity. Below, we identify some common workplace issues during the summer months and how you can prevent and respond to them.
Dress Code Violations:
As the temperature rises outside, dress code violations tend to increase as well. Now is a good time to remind your employees of your dress and grooming standards. If you adopt a more relaxed dress code during the summer months, provide employees with guidance on what is acceptable and what is not, such as "open-toed shoes are permitted, flip flops are not." Be sure your policy doesn't unfairly single out a category of employees, or discriminate against a particular group. Additionally, your policy should not differ greatly between men and women, or impose a greater burden on one gender over the other.
If you learn that an employee has violated your rules, consider what can be done to resolve the issue that day, such as allowing the employee to wear a company shirt to cover prohibited clothing or sending the employee home to change. If you ask the employee to go home to change, allow the employee to use accrued paid time off for the missed time.
Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), rest breaks lasting 20 minutes or less must be paid, even if the employee takes a longer unauthorized break. However, the FLSA permits employers to exclude unauthorized extensions of rest periods from hours worked as long as the employer expressly and clearly advises employees in writing that:
- Breaks may only last for a specified duration;
- Unauthorized extensions are in violation of the employer's rules or policy; and
- Policy violations will be punished.
Note: A number of states have their own rules concerning rest breaks. Check your state and local laws to ensure compliance.
Make sure your attendance policies make clear that employees must be ready to work at their scheduled start time each day and include procedures for informing the company of a late arrival or early departure. If an employee is frequently late or leaving early, and he or she is not following company protocol, address the issue promptly. If you find that your employees are having trouble balancing work/life responsibilities, and if it makes sense for your business, consider flexible work schedules that allow employees to vary their work hours each day, or on selected days, of the workweek.
Absenteeism Around Paid Holidays:
Some employers may see a rise in unscheduled absences before and after holidays, such as July 4th and Labor Day. To help address this, consider requiring non-exempt employees to work the day before and after a holiday to receive holiday pay (unless the time off was scheduled in advance). Note: This type of policy isn't permitted for exempt employees, since exempt employees must generally receive their full salary in any workweek in which they perform work. Employers aren't permitted to reduce an exempt employee's salary when the company is closed for a holiday; however, if the employee is absent for a full day for personal reasons (other than sickness or disability) and the company is open, a deduction is generally permitted.
Multiple Vacation Requests:
The summer is a popular time for employees to request vacation, making it challenging for employers to ensure adequate staffing levels. To help prevent issues, provide employees with instructions for requesting time off and clearly communicate how vacations will be granted (based on scheduling needs, seniority, first-come first-served, or a combination of these factors). Give supervisors guidance on handling time off requests and hold them accountable for ensuring proper coverage. Consider policies that aim to avoid last-minute requests, such as requiring a month's notice before vacations of a week or more, or requiring all summer vacation requests to be in by a certain deadline. You may also want to consider rules that limit or prohibit vacations during your busiest months.
While managing these issues is rarely "a day at the beach," there are steps that you can take to help make the summer months fun and productive. Carefully develop policies and procedures to help you manage summer-related challenges and enforce your rules consistently.