Don’t Get Burned by These Tricky Workplace Summer Issues

With summer almost here, the days growing longer and thoughts of time at the pool, beach or barbecue with family and friends not too far off, it’s time to make sure you know how to manage and address the summer issues that will arise with your workforce. From time off to interns and seasonal workers to summer dress codes, there is a lot to think about.

 

That’s why prudent employers should develop a set of best practices for handling these summer issues in order to make the workplace more productive and efficient, as well as to minimize their risk of liability.

Here are six issues to consider so your company avoids feeling the heat:

1. Be Careful When Utilizing Interns, Seasonal and Temporary Workers

If utilizing summer interns, seasonal workers or temporary workers during the summer, make sure to comply with Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations and ensure these individuals are properly paid and provided with overtime for all hours worked. Most interns should actually be classified as employees and protected as such. Additionally, with regard to summer interns make sure to comply with meal and rest break laws plus work permits and hours restrictions for minors.

It’s also important to extend discrimination, harassment and retaliation policies to interns and seasonal workers and maintain a harassment-free workplace. Further, seasonal employees and interns may need to be taken into account when considering coverage under various laws that do not necessarily apply to smaller employers such as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and leave laws.

2. Keep Workers Safe from the Heat

When outside temperatures rise, make sure to protect the health and safety of employees from the heat and maintain polices providing adequate rest and water breaks to protect employee health and safety and prevent various heat-related medical issues (i.e., sunburn, sunstroke, heat stroke heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat rash).

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) imposes fines and penalties on employers who fail to take appropriate measures to protect employees from the heat. Make sure to incorporate protections for employees into workplace polices and train superiors to recognize signs of distress and heat illness. Consider providing additional water breaks and sunscreen as well as shade stations, cooling sites and even shutting down during dangerous heat waves if possible.

3. Institute a Sumer Dress Code

Relaxing the employer’s usual dress code and putting a  summer dress code policy in place is an inexpensive way to improve employee morale and maximize comfort with warmer weather. Such a policy should specifically indicate what kinds of clothing will be permissible and what is off limits.

Make sure to stress that employees remain professional and appropriate depending on the particular workplace and interaction with co-workers, clients, customers and other third parties. Additionally, employees should be on notice of the policy and when it takes effect.

Similarly, a hygiene and grooming policy may enhance good health and a clean image, especially during warmer months. Both policies should be applied uniformly unless there is a need to accommodate based on protected class status.

4. Allow Employees to Telecommute or Engage in Flexible Scheduling

During the summer months, employees may want to spend more time with family, watch children home from school and generally take advantage of the longer and warmer days. Summer may then be an ideal time to allow employees to telecommute, offer summer Fridays or allow more flexible scheduling. If an employer offers these summer perks, it should establish a clear policy requiring employees to record time actually spent working and outlining appropriate guidelines and expectations.

5. Provide Vacation Time

Providing vacation time can help employees achieve work-life balance and allow them to decompress and tend to personal needs. Although a private employer is not required by federal or state law to provide paid or unpaid vacation time, doing so may prevent employee burnout and improve productivity and morale.

Vacation time can also help keep an employer competitive in the marketplace. Therefore, it’s a good idea to provide some form of PTO or vacation time and communicate this through workplace policies in the employee handbook. Apply all vacation policies in a fair and equal manner. Also, encourage employees to take vacation time and plan for adequate coverage when they are out.

6. Plan Summer Workplace Outings Carefully

During summer months, employers may host company-sponsored social events such as barbecues, softball games and parties to show employees appreciation and encourage camaraderie. When it comes to summer outings, be extremely careful about wage and hour issues by making sure these events are voluntary and that work-related matters are not discussed.

Also, if serving alcohol, make sure to closely monitor consumption as too much to drink may result in rowdy unprofessional behavior, unwanted sexual harassment lawsuits and distracted driving and danger on the road. And finally, make sure employees are aware that all workplace policies remain in effect for the duration of the event.

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