Any major sporting event held over a number of days or weeks has the potential to disrupt the workforce. Employers may find that requests for annual leave increase or sickness absence rise for the duration of the World Cup. Employees who attend work may also be distracted by more frequent online news updates and internet commentary.
Therefore, as the World Cup 2014 is about to kick off, employers should consider their policies and procedures - and perhaps update those documents to ensure they are fit for purpose. Is your annual leave policy adequate? Does your sickness absence policy clearly state the sanctions for unauthorised absence? Do you have a social media policy to deal with employees spending too much time on Facebook and Twitter?
In relation to annual leave, employers should:
- consider all requests for annual leave during the period of the World Cup fairly and consistently, including considering the reasons for those requests (bearing in mind that some employees will be seeking leave for reasons completely unrelated to football); and
- check annual leave policies and consider whether to take a first-come, first-served approach to multiple requests for annual leave or to gather all requests and distribute the leave evenly.
It is also important that employers apply their sickness absence policy consistently and fairly for the duration of the competition. Employers could find that more people start pulling 'sickies' if they've been up late watching the football in the pub the night before. In relation to sickness absence, employers should:
- ensure that sickness absence policies are clear on what will happen to employees who take unauthorised absence i.e. this will result in disciplinary action;
- consider sending around, in advance, an appropriately worded email or memo reminding employees of what is expected of them if it is anticipated that there may be attendance issues; and
- avoid a knee jerk reaction and be careful to consider whether an absent employee has genuine reasons for any absences given the risk of potential disability discrimination claims.
Employers can use the World Cup as an opportunity to develop goodwill with their employees as many employers find that flexibility can contribute towards a more productive workforce in the long term. With this in mind,
- indicate to employees that any such change to their working hours is temporary only for the period of the World Cup;
- be clear that this is a one-off concession and it remains at the employer's discretion whether such flexible working arrangements will be offered again in the future in relation to other major sporting events; and
- consider all such requests fairly and consistently and consider the impact across the business before approving ad hoc requests.
For those employees who do attend work, there may be more distractions than normal as people discuss the progress of the World Cup on social media and check news websites for regular updates. Employers should have an internet usage policy and social media policy in place to set out the acceptable parameters of employees' online activities during working hours. Employers should also be conscious of possible conduct or health and safety issues arising as some employees may be tempted to enjoy one-too-many in the pub whilst watching the game and then head to work early the next day possibly still under the influence of alcohol. If such issues arise employers should ensure that they act fairly and consistently.
For further reference, Acas has also produced some helpful World Cup advice and guidance for employers and employees which can be found here.