Winter is coming – 5 key issues for employers to consider

Love it or hate it, winter is well and truly on its way. With weather, illness and seasonal celebrations to contend with, winter can throw up a number of HR issues. Here we look at a few of the most common ones and give some advice for employers to consider.

Promoting wellbeing

The long, dark nights over the winter months can sometimes result in employees seeing little or no daylight throughout the course of the working week. The consequences of lack of sunlight are widely known, often doing little to boost the mood. Regardless of how busy they are, employees should be encouraged to take their breaks, ideally getting out of the working environment. Holding meetings outside the workplace is another way to see that employees get out and about during the short daylight hours.

Other ways employers might look to boost employee wellbeing during winter is to arrange or support physical activities for employees to participate in. Yoga and Pilates are popular choices as they can usually be undertaken in an office environment and can be enjoyed by people with varying abilities.

Avoid the last minute annual leave rush

With many employers running their holiday year from January to December, as the end of the year approaches, it’s important to see that employees are given every opportunity to use all of their allocated annual leave. This being said, there can be a tendency for employees to leave their remaining holidays to the last minute to take, creating a concentrated period of people wanting to take time off. If this has happened in previous years, send a communication out to all staff at the earliest opportunity asking for requests to be made in good time to try and avoid clashes.

Employee dress codes during winter

We all deal with cold weather differently and striking a balance between a comfortable working environment and one that’s either too warm or too cold can be difficult to achieve. During particularly cold spells, you might consider relaxing your dress code to allow those that feel the cold more than others to stay wrapped up. This might go some way to avoiding disagreements between staff over the level of the thermostat!

Illness

The winter months often give rise to an increase in the number of viruses and illnesses that are around for employees to catch. One approach being increasingly taken by employers is to arrange a flu jab clinic for employees, or to otherwise cover the cost of staff getting the flu job at their own convenience. Whilst this can reduce the impact of flu on employee absence, it doesn’t cover all bases. Employers therefore need to be sure to have a robust sickness absence policy in place, also being mindful of following the correct procedures themselves with return to work interviews following periods of illness-related absence.

Travel to work in winter weather

The winter can present particularly difficult conditions for commuting to work and we all know how notorious our public transport systems are for grinding to a halt when snow or heavy rain hits! If poor weather is forecast, you might consider allowing employees to work from home should they have the facility to do so. In the event that employees are unable to attend work, or are late due to bad weather, a reasonable and consistent approach should be followed. Similarly, if we do get bad snow or the risk of flooding this winter, finishing the working day early to allow employees to get home safely may be a good idea.

These are just some of the many issues that employers have to contend with over winter. There are several others, not to mention the many considerations around and in the run up to Christmas! For help and advice in relation to any employee-related matter, please contact us.