As we find ourselves deep in the hay fever season, a significant number of individuals are grappling with the familiar symptoms of streaming eyes, a runny nose, and constant sneezing.

However, the impact of hay fever on productivity and overall well-being is often overlooked by employers, who may perceive it as a minor condition not worthy of serious attention.

This dismissive attitude can lead employees to hesitate in discussing the challenges they face on a daily basis, and reports of a lack of empathy towards hay fever sufferers are not uncommon. But what are the obligations of employers when it comes to supporting staff who struggle during the summer months?

Hay fever, also known as allergic rhinitis, is an allergic reaction to pollen or other airborne allergens. It affects millions of people worldwide, causing significant discomfort and interfering with daily activities. Despite being a prevalent condition, its impact on productivity and job performance should not be underestimated. Research has shown that hay fever can lead to a decrease in work efficiency, absenteeism, and presenteeism, where employees are physically present but their productivity is impaired.

Employers have a responsibility to create a safe and healthy work environment for their employees. This includes recognising and addressing the impact of hay fever on staff members. By taking hay fever seriously, employers can foster a supportive culture that promotes open communication and empathy.

Here are some key reasons why employers should consider the significance of hay fever in the workplace:

  1. Productivity and Performance: Untreated hay fever symptoms can significantly impair cognitive function, concentration, and decision-making abilities. Employees may struggle to focus on their tasks, leading to decreased productivity and an increased likelihood of errors. By acknowledging the impact of hay fever and providing appropriate support, employers can help employees maintain optimal performance levels.
  2. Employee Well-being and Engagement: Hay fever symptoms can cause physical discomfort, fatigue, and irritability, affecting overall well-being and job satisfaction. Employees who feel their employers understand and accommodate their hay fever-related challenges are more likely to be engaged, motivated, and loyal to the organisation.
  3. Health and Safety: Hay fever symptoms can compromise an employee’s ability to perform certain job tasks safely, particularly in roles that require clear vision, concentration, or operating machinery. Employers should be aware of these risks and make adjustments or provide reasonable accommodations to ensure the safety of their staff.
  4. Inclusivity and Equality: Treating hay fever as a legitimate concern demonstrates inclusivity and equality in the workplace. Just as other health conditions are taken seriously, employers should extend the same level of consideration to employees with hay fever. This approach promotes a positive work culture that values the well-being of all staff members.

To support employees who struggle with hay fever, employers can consider implementing the following measures:

  • Encourage open communication: Create an environment where employees feel comfortable discussing their hay fever symptoms and their potential impact on work. Encourage employees to speak up and provide channels for them to voice their concerns or request accommodations.
  • Flexible working arrangements: Offer flexible schedules or remote working options during peak pollen seasons to minimise exposure to allergens and help employees manage their symptoms effectively.
  • Workplace adjustments: Consider implementing air filtration systems, providing allergy-friendly workspaces, or allowing employees to wear masks to reduce exposure to pollen. These small changes can make a significant difference for hay fever sufferers.
  • Education and awareness: Educate employees about hay fever, its symptoms, and available treatments. This can help create a more empathetic and understanding work environment.

By recognising hay fever as a legitimate concern and taking appropriate actions to support employees, employers can foster a more inclusive and productive workplace. Investing in the well-being of hay fever sufferers demonstrates a commitment to employee health, engagement, and overall success.

Doreen Reeves, employment lawyer with legal services provider, Slater and Gordon, says:

“Struggling with hay fever on a daily basis can be incredibly draining and this may impact somebody’s output at work.

“Employers should try to help their staff by being sympathetic and maybe offering them the chance to work from home where possible when the pollen count is exceptionally high or ensuring that they work away from open windows.

“Hay fever is classed as a seasonal allergic rhinitis which is excluded as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 (Disability) Regulations 2010 and will not qualify as a disability under the Equality Act 2010 unless it is linked to or aggravates the effect of other conditions such as asthma, therefore, employers are not legally obliged to make reasonable adjustments for sufferers.”

 

 

 

 

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Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.