Summer is coming fast – and that brings both challenges and opportunities for human resources departments. You can expect more requests for time off to come in – and even a bump in absenteeism in some areas, especially near the beach! You will also likely have to juggle leave requests in your own department while still managing your day-to-day HR responsibilities and functions.
Now’s the time to get ahead of the game, and get a head start on all the issues that are likely to come up as we head into the dog days of summer.
Leave Requests. Employees are going to be putting in their summer leave requests any minute, if they haven’t already done so. Some families will be scheduling family vacations, or even brief absences as they drop children off for summer camps and other summer activities.
Since school’s out, you’re also likely going to have more short-term or emergency requests for leave, as parents of school-age children won’t have schools to supervise their children while they’re at work. This means an additional child care cost burden on some workers – and a reduced availability for overtime or after-hours responsibilities. Which leads us to an important potential solution for many of these employees…
Expand telecommuting opportunities and protocols. Suggest ways to increase workplace flexibility to assist parents who may need to work from home, or have some additional options regarding moving their hours around. Indeed, there is mounting evidence that workplace flexibility programs work very well, though of course, you have to do it right, and get buy-in from senior management.
If you’ve been on the fence about rolling out teleconferencing software or cobbling together a telecommuting or flexible workplace policy, now would be a great time to roll that out.
Focus on heat safety. If you have workers out in the sun, you need to make some allowances for the heat. It’s a workplace safety issue, and yes, OSHA can get involved. HR workers and company management can get ahead in the game by making sure that supervisors of work crews that are out in the heat have the knowledge and resources they need to protect workers from potentially fatal heat injuries such as heat stroke. Develop a formal heat injury prevention plan. In some jurisdictions, such as California, this is a legal requirement.
Encourage supervisors to download the official OSHA Heat Safety Tool to their Android device or iPhone. This app will give supervisors a heads-up about the risk level in their area that day, as well as provide reminders about protective measures they can take to keep workers safe and productive.
For more specific information and ideas you can put in force, see this list of sample procedures for employers put together by the California Occupational Safety and Health Admistration.
‘Tis the season for military leave requests. Summer is prime time for annual training for members of the National Guard and Reserves. Generally, USERRA applies to both Guardsmen and Reservists, since the annual two-week training event is under federal orders. Now is a good time to remind line supervisors of their obligations under USERRA: Employers cannot prohibit National Guard members called to active duty by their governors for disaster relief from reporting for duty, nor may they discriminate against them or penalize them in any way because of their military status or affiliation. They also cannot require them to use vacation time for annual training or for drills, for that matter.
For further information of interest to employers of National Guard members (and Reservists, though they are not normally deployed for disaster relief and are covered by USERRA for other mobilizations), visit Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (www.ebri.org).
Get ready for severe weather. This is for you folks in coastal communities. You know who you are. Hurricane season is officially June through November – though tropical storms can occur at any time. If you are in an area prone to tropical cyclones, take steps to prepare both employees and your offices. Update your employee home phone number alert roster and email list. Ensure you can reach every employee and get the word out in the event of a hurricane or other severe weather warning.
You’ll also want to make sure you can continue to function in case your office is damaged or destroyed, or if power in the area is cut off. For example:
- Ensure all your sensitive employee data, including medical data and PII, is backed up to a secure offsite server.
- Line up power sources, and plan for some time with disrupted cell phone service.
- Ensure business interruption insurance and other key insurance policies that you’ll need for summertime weather emergencies are updated and in force.
By paying attention to the calendar and to the seasonal aspects of your workplace and to employee psychology, HR professionals have some real opportunities to add value and go above and beyond the call of duty in supporting management and employees.