Back to work? Post-summer issues for employers

As we enter the month of September and new school year begins, this typically symbolises the official end of the summer holiday period. This brings with it a number of considerations for employers, who will need to ensure their business operations are managed accordingly.

A large number of employees spend a significant portion of their annual leave allocation during the summer months, meaning the month of September is often attributed with the ‘back to work blues’. Employees can face issues with motivation and productivity when returning from summer vacation, especially those without much annual leave allocation remaining for the rest of the year. In an effort to re-motivate staff, employers should consider small changes to their business practices such as rewarding individuals with inexpensive perks for meeting performance targets. This can provide a welcome break from the normal working routine and increase morale and performance. With this being said, line managers should also be alert to more serious cases of depression or anxiety that can occur during this time, showing compassion and working with staff to resolve any issues.

As mentioned, September also signifies the beginning of the annual school year. This means the task of commuting may become more onerous for certain employees, with traffic increasing significantly during rush hours, meaning staff may experience difficulties getting to work on time. To mitigate this, employers should have reminded staff in advance, giving them sufficient warning to plan alternative routes which may have less congestion. Ultimately employees have a responsibility to arrive at work on time and employers should be sure to reiterate this, treating any instances of lateness in line with the company’s workplace policy on the matter. Employers must also be prepared to respond to any flexible working requests which may be submitted, especially from working parents with school run commitments. Although these requests can be refused, employers must ensure there is a clear business reason for doing so.

September is also the month in which eligible university students begin their professional work placements and employers should plan accordingly. Firms who have agreed to take on a placement student for a year should ensure there is an adequate induction process in place and consider if a workplace mentoring scheme would be beneficial, especially during the initial settling in period. It may also be necessary to carry out separate risk assessments, depending on the working environment, to take into account any added dangers posed by the individuals age and inexperience. Furthermore, employers should ensure they understand the specific national minimum wage (NMW) and working time requirements that apply to placement students of certain ages, working with payroll to make sure these rules are followed.

The end of the summer holidays presents a unique set of challenges that employers must be aware of. If handled correctly this period can allow organisations to effectively reset and plan for the year ahead. However, to do so, line managers, human resources and payroll personnel will need to work effectively and in unison.