14 June 2022

Summer Schedules That Work for Everyone

With lakes, beaches, and cabins beckoning, few people enjoy spending Michigan’s magnificent summers in the office or on the factory floor. What to do when half your workforce wants Fridays off?

Summertime offers a great chance for employers to use flexible scheduling to show their commitment to their employees, which can boost employee morale and cause positive spillover effects for the rest of the enterprise.

A variety of flexible approaches may be available, depending on the employer’s specific needs. Employers might be able to compress their summer schedule into a four-day workweek (or alternate four- and five-day workweeks), so that employees can have more of those wonderful three-day weekends. Or employers could simply allow employees—depending on workload—to leave early on certain days without using PTO, or give employees the option to report to work early so they can leave early or take Friday afternoons off.

Here are some points to keep in mind if you are considering a flexible summer schedule:

  • Optional v. Mandatory: Perhaps the most important question is whether a summer schedule is mandatory or optional. A new mandatory policy might frustrate workers who are happy with the status quo. Optional summer hours policies obviously allow employees more freedom, but may require employers to track productivity to make sure it remains up to snuff—increased flexibility shouldn’t come at the expense of the business.
  • Consistency: Employers should strive for consistency in applying a summer scheduling policy. Treating employees differently can invite accusations of favoritism, employee resentment, and potential lawsuits. If the summer schedule you are considering would be difficult to apply consistently, that could be a good sign it’s not the right one for your team. And if you cannot articulate a sound business reason for excluding a particular group of employees from the policy, that’s another red flag.
  • Communication: It’s best to put a summer hours policy in writing. Clearly define its duration and eligibility, and state whether the modified schedule is mandatory or optional. Be sure to communicate the policy to all employees who will (or might) participate, and have HR available to answer any questions. The absence of a clearly articulated and clearly communicated policy risks accusations of favoritism or unlawful discrimination.
  • Overtime: If a summer hours policy allows employees to work longer workdays in exchange for time off, employers need to be aware of applicable overtime laws. California, for example, requires overtime pay on both a daily (hours > 8) and weekly (hours > 40) basis.
  • Exempt Employees: Even if exempt employees work fewer hours during the summer, they are still generally entitled to full salaries for each week they perform work. You may notify exempt employees in advance that their salaries will be reduced to align with fewer summer hours; but that might destroy any morale boost you hoped to achieve by providing more summer free time. But if you have not announced a salary reduction in advance, you may not deduct from exempt employees’ salaries after they have begun to work in a given workweek.

With a little planning and good communication, summer scheduling can work for everyone.