With a busy football-viewing month just around the corner and many matches kicking off at inconsiderate times such as 5pm, businesses may face the odd staff request for not-so-compassionate leave. How should employers deal with these situations and what steps can they take to prepare?
World Cup "sickie" threat for employers
Osborne Clarke London
With the World Cup kicking off on 9 June many employers are worried about the potential employment issues they will face during the month of the tournament. Research by YouGov has found that 1 in 7 employees is considering taking a "sickie" to watch (or recover from watching!) a World Cup match and that 13% of men and 4% of women have previously called in sick to watch a sporting event.
In addition to absenteeism, other issues facing employers are likely to include having to consider a large volume of requests for time off or flexible working, alcohol in the workplace, lateness caused by hangovers and even the repercussions of an employee's criminal behaviour in Germany!
What should employers be doing to prepare?
This is a time where your workplace policies and procedures (particularly disciplinary, annual leave and sickness policies) will be crucial and it is important to review them now to ensure that they will assist when dealing with any of the above situations. You may also want to make some temporary changes during the World Cup, for example to allow employees to leave work early to watch a match provided they make up the time. Ensure that your employees are fully aware of all applicable policies now, especially if you intend to make any temporary changes. This will ensure you treat employees fairly and can also act as a deterrent – reiterating the company's sickness policy will remind employees of the seriousness of calling in sick to watch football.
If you do not have a relevant written policy, for example on drugs and alcohol, consider circulating a memo on the company's approach before the World Cup, to ensure that employees are clear how they will be treated.
Dealing with requests for time off
- If you are expecting more requests than the business can cope with, ensure you have a fair policy for granting or refusing requests – for example, first come first served, or drawing lots for each game to allow every employee a chance for each day.
- Consider allowing flexible working e.g. working from home, or leaving early. However, think about whether this will cause problems with working parents, or employees who have been refused time off for religious reasons. You could face a discrimination claim if you do not treat all requests equally.
- Consider rewarding the non-fans who cover shifts during the World Cup.
Dealing with World Cup "sickies" and other disciplinary issues
- Do not jump to conclusions – if you suspect an employee was not genuinely ill, talk to them first and carry out a proper investigation before you commence any disciplinary action.
- With any disciplinary offence, ensure that you carry out a fair procedure in accordance with both company policy and statutory procedures.
Screening matches at work
- Many of this year's matches are in the evening, so consider the possibility that employees will want to drink alcohol and have a clear position on how you will deal with this. Some companies may provide their own alcohol in order to control alcohol consumption.
- Consider the nationalities of your staff and ensure that all matches are given equal treatment. Also think about whether displays of patriotism are likely to cause problems between employees, or even raise a risk of racial harassment in the workplace.
- Think about whether you should offer a similar perk to non-football fans.
In conclusion, employers should perhaps view 9 June to 9 July as a tactical game all of it's own. Laying down the ground rules at the start and ensuring everyone plays fairly and consistently should avoid the need for employers having to dish out any red cards.