· 2 min read · Features

Out of office: Managing staffing levels during summer

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Employers must balance flexible working with the need to ensure adequate staffing and resource levels in summer

Aside from the festive season, no other time of year presents more people management challenges than the months of July and August. The increased chance of hot weather, longer days, and school holidays all contribute to a significant increase in holiday requests.

A recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimated the average weekly cost of childcare to be £228, which explains the pressure felt by many parents to take time off work during the school holidays. As a result, employers are increasingly being pressed by their employees to offer flexible working options during the summer.

Bosses are finding themselves having to balance the provision of flexible working practices with the need to ensure adequate staffing and resource levels.

The school holidays are not the only factor influencing the rise in holiday requests during the summer. The draw of a major sporting event or a British heatwave cannot be underestimated, with some workers grasping these occasions to take annual leave or, in some cases, unauthorised absences.

A review of the company’s holiday policy should be the first port of call. Such policies can vary from business to business and it is important to communicate these regularly to staff. All policies should also be made clear to any newcomers in their employment contract and induction. For example, if a firm knows that July and August are two of the biggest months for sales its holiday policy should reflect this and state any restrictions. As long as this is stipulated in policies and both parties are aware this is legitimate practice.

However, organisations shouldn't adopt a draconian approach to summer holiday allocation. A happy workforce and a healthy employer-employee relationship is far more likely to result in a successful business than the negative atmosphere created by an unsympathetic boss.

Engaging staff and understanding the needs and wants of the workforce is essential and there should be a drive within the business to foster a culture of fairness and consistency, especially where holidays are concerned.

Flexible or remote working remains an increasingly popular option for many companies, placing an element of trust in employees and allowing them to organise their work around personal schedules. While this style of working is beneficial for many, including those with childcare responsibilities, employers need to be realistic about protecting the interests of the business and ensuring smooth day-to-day operations.

A positive partnership between staff and employer should also help reduce the number of unauthorised absences. It may be necessary to make it clear to employees that such activity could trigger disciplinary proceedings. Ensuring workers understand the particular consequences of taking time off without permission is a key element of HR management.

A well-run organisation thinks about the future. Planning ahead and anticipating the effects of the summer holiday season can go a long way to help mitigate the effects of an influx of holiday requests. Working with individuals to find solutions that balance their needs with those of the business will be the best option in the long run.

Aye Limbin Glassey is employment partner and education specialist at Shakespeare Martineau