Have we seen the last of summer already? Or will sun-drenched days return to our shores once more?

It’s fair to say that most of us enjoyed (and already miss) the recent heatwave. But for some employers, it wasn’t such a walk in the park.

Over a fortnight, our team took 736 extra calls from people needing advice on heat-related issues, such as whether to relax dress codes or what to do if they suspect someone stayed off to enjoy the sun.

And we thought we’d share the answers to some of the more common queries we heard. Because if the sun does return, you’ll know what to do…

What not to wear

If your business has a dress code, rising temperatures might mean staff asking you if they can wear cooler clothes.

There’s no law to say that you have to agree, but it can encourage staff to attend work on hotter days if you do. And more comfortable staff may even produce better quality work.

If you do relax the company dress code, you can make a policy for summer attire or explain it to all staff in a notice or email. Don’t be more stringent with the rules on one gender as this can be sex discriminatory.

But whatever your industry, maintain company dress standards during summer. For example, customer-facing retail staff should have a professional appearance and construction workers should still wear safety gear.

Drowning in holiday requests

When the schools break up for summer and the weather improves, you may find yourself struggling to manage a deluge of staff holiday requests—all for the same days.

Deal with competing requests as normal. If you have a company policy of reviewing requests on a first-come, first-served basis, then stick to it.

You can decline your employees’ holiday requests for business reasons, like if your customer demand peaks during summer, but you must give them the right amount of notice.

Short-staffed summers

Speaking of customer demand peaking during summer, you might need to take on some extra workers.

You can use fixed-term contracts to employ people until a specific date or completion of a task. The law protects fixed-term staff from less-favourable treatment by giving them the same pay and rights as a full-time employee.

You could issue full-time contracts to staff and terminate the relationship at the end of the busy period. This can create continuous service where you use the same staff each summer, creating an expectation that they have guaranteed work for you every year.

Students on work experience

During summer, you might offer work experience placements to young people. If so, the law imposes some responsibilities on you that you need to know about.

You should pay minimum wage to work experience students over compulsory school age (usually 16) and are carrying out work. If the experience simply involves observing or shadowing others, you don’t have to pay the minimum wage.

Depending on their age, those carrying out work have different working time limits and rest breaks. When working for more than 4.5 hours, a 15-year-old gets a one-hour break whereas a 17-year-old gets a 30-minute break.

If you want to take on someone still at school, you may need approval from the local authorities.

Sick leave… or skiving?

Have you ever employed someone who always seems to be off sick when the weather’s nice? You’re not alone. For some, it’s all too tempting to stay sat in the sun or have an extra drink or two as the weekend winds down.

If you see an increased amount of short-notice, unauthorised absences and suspect staff are faking sickness, carry out an investigation to see whether they’re giving you genuine reasons. Deal with the disciplinary issues under your standard company policy.

You may find an unauthorised absence happens after you refuse a holiday request and your employee rings in ill for the same period. Again, carry out a full investigation and disciplinary procedure.