With the weather showing some signs of improvement in recent days – thoughts are now beginning to turn to summer holidays: for many employees a chance for much deserved and needed rest and recuperation.

It would be easy to think the summer, with blue skies and warmer temperatures, might be an easier time for business – yet unfortunately the figures show otherwise, and many organisations can expect to see higher levels of stress-related absence and absences caused by musculoskeletal issues over the coming months than at any other point in the year.
Why is this the case? In terms of musculoskeletal absences, the simple fact is that people tend to have more accidents in summer than at any other point in the year. Many employees are likely to be more physically active during the summer months – perhaps taking part in sports, or even making improvements round the house. Unfortunately, many of these activities increase the chance of injury, leading to higher levels of musculoskeletal absence through strains, breaks and tears; issues that can also bring on increased anxiety if employees are laid-up for a prolonged period of time – potentially leading to cases of stress-related absence.
Summer is also the peak point of the year for stress-related absence, yet many of the cases that organisations can expect to see over the coming months will be principally due to personal, rather than work-related stress.
A holiday in the sun sounds incredibly appealing, but for many employees it can be a source of anxiety as they face up to the cost of their breaks, while also trying to complete tasks or handover to colleagues.  Employees can also face increased demands on their time during the summer months – either because they have childcare responsibilities during the school holidays, or if annual leave has left their teams depleted, piling on the pressure and adding to their workloads.
Many of the causes of these types of summer absences are non-work related, but while this does place some limitations on what employers can do, it does not mean they are entirely powerless. It is vital that employees carefully manage annual leave if they are to avoid staff shortages that put additional pressure on those employees in the workplace. Equally, while employers cannot intrude on their workers’ private lives, they can recommend cautions for those taking parts in sports or DIY, and can provide invaluable support in signposting support services (such as the Samaritans) for anyone struggling with concerns over holidays, childcare or other factors.  Employers can also undertake duty of care follow ups with their staff to make sure short-term stress does not develop into a long-term problem.
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