With longer days, warmer temperatures and school vacations, the summer months often present unique issues for employers when it comes to dress codes, social events, and hygiene, among other things, says a new XpertHR report on Summer Workplace Issues.
Many employers allow employees to dress more casually in the summer months in an effort to limit the discomfort that employees may face from commuting in the heat. However, sundresses, midriff baring tops, spaghetti strap tank tops, and short shorts, or any other excessively revealing clothing as normally worn to the beach, is never appropriate for a professional setting.
It is important to communicate the summer dress code policy to all employees and train supervisors so that they know:
- The employer’s expectations;
- When the policy is in effect;
- What is considered acceptable workplace attire (e.g., golf shirts, khakis, sundresses); and
- What is considered unacceptable workplace attire
“Employers wants employees to feel comfortable when coming to work, but not all clothing is appropriate even on Dress Down Days or during the summer,” says Beth P. Zoller, Legal Editor, XpertHR. “Clothing that the employee would normally wear to workout, do yard work, or similar activities is not suitable for work and the professional setting.”
Hygiene and Grooming
During the warm summer months, body odor and other hygiene issues may become more prevalent. An employer should address such issues head on before they have a negative effect on productivity, health, safety and public image.
A grooming policy should provide notice regarding the employer’s expectations regarding employee hygiene at work. The policy should assure supervisors and employees that any issues will be handled in a sensitive manner so as not to embarrass employees. Further, an employer should remember that poor hygiene and/or body odor may be related to a disability or a religious belief, and therefore an employer should be prepared to provide a reasonable accommodation.
Employer-Sponsored Social Events
While summer workplace parties or outings, such as company picnics, barbecues or baseball games, may encourage workplace camaraderie, boost employee morale and show appreciation, employers must take steps to decrease the risk of legal liability. To avoid wage and hour claims, an employer should make sure attendance is voluntary, hold events outside of working hours and avoid discussing work-related matters. Further, an employer should take the proper precautions with respect to alcohol and minimize the risk of any inappropriate behavior or harassment by carefully tracking alcohol intake and having managers and supervisors monitor any unprofessional workplace behavior. The employer should also make sure employees do not drink and drive. Further, to reduce the risk of workers’ compensation claims, an employer should make sure the outing is in a safe environment.
Time Off and Summer Vacations
Summer is often a time when employees take time off to enjoy vacations and special time with loved ones in the beautiful weather. Therefore, an employer should make sure that its policies regarding vacation or paid time off (PTO) are communicated to all employees and placed in an employee handbook. Further, such policies should be applied in uniform manner to prevent discrimination claims.
“A prudent employer should take note of the challenging issues the summer may present and develop a set of best practices for handling these issues in order to make the workplace more productive and efficient, as well as minimize the risk of employer liability,” says Zoller.