By Group Director, Alan Price
Employers should not wait to start talking about policy updates, particularly those to do with managing leave and working hours. To help prevent unexpected absenteeism during the World Cup, employers need to communicate to employees that they should book annual leave well in advance of the football, applying your usual authorisation methods, to avoid disappointment.
Employers should consider whether or not flexible working arrangements during the football period would be suitable for their business, e.g. varying start and finish times, allowing remote working and allowing working at alternative office locations.
Flexibility could also be considered in respect of allowing longer lunch breaks so that staff can watch matches during the working day. Employers may also want to consider screening some matches in the workplace, but in doing so should consider how to fairly choose which matches to screen and should ensure that there is a television licence for the premises.
Employers should remember that, whilst it may seem like football fever has taken over the country, not all of your staff will be interested and may feel threatened and intimidated by the behaviour of others, particularly if you screen matches at work. It should also be highlighted that not everyone will be supporting England during the tournament. Employers should be aware that sporting enthusiasm can sometimes turn into racist or sexist abuse, which must not be tolerated.
Both of the above may in themselves lead to absence of some staff who would simply rather not be at work amongst the hype. Employers should make sure it is known that equality and harassment policies apply as much to discussions at work about sport as they do to any other subject.
Despite best advance efforts to deter absence, employers may still find an increased rate of absence. Remind employees of your sickness notification requirements and the fact that return-to-work interviews will be carried out on a consistent basis to monitor the reasons for absence. Where an employer has strong evidence that an absence was not genuine, it should be addressed as a disciplinary matter.
Instil in employees that, whilst you are willing to be more flexible during the World Cup, you still expect employees to stick to the rules and anyone found to be taking advantage will be dealt with. Stick to your contractual disciplinary procedure to avoid claims of breach of contract, and always ensure that investigations into alleged misconduct are properly and fairly investigated.
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