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Sporting absence?
Apparently (so my husband tells me) the 2014 Football World Cup is almost upon us and it will continue until 13th July 2014.

As with any large sporting event, there are a few employment issues that employers should be aware of, including:
• annual leave requests
• sickness absence
• fitness to work
• websites accessed during working hours

Here is a quick summary on how to tackle some likely employment issues during that time:

Annual leave
You may see an increase in requests for last minute annual leave as teams progress through the stages. A company’s annual leave policy should give guidance as to how to book time off. However, during events like the World Cup, you may wish to consider being more flexible when allowing leave, with the understanding that this is a temporary arrangement. For instance, if you normally require two weeks’ notice before granting a holiday request, you may decide to allow a degree of flexibility while the matches run, on the understanding that this is an exception. If you have to turn it down, explain the business need and ask whether the employee can find someone to swap with them. You may find it possible to allow some flexibility in start/ finish times so that the time off can be accommodated.

Sickness absence
It will definitely be worth reminding employees of your sickness absence policy, including your absence reporting procedures, reinforcing the fact that employees must still comply with it during the World Cup. In other words, make it clear that a text sent at 11.00am to say they can’t come in because they drank too much the night before will not be acceptable and if anyone is found abusing the sickness absence policy then this will be dealt with as a formal disciplinary matter.

Fitness to work
Brazil is four hours behind the UK so many games will take place after work hours. However, this can raise issues in itself. For instance, employees may stay out late to watch matches and then attend work tired or still under the influence from post-match drinks. Employers should make it clear to employees that they will be expected to attend work in a fit state and should outline how unacceptable behaviour will be dealt with. The key is to be clear about your expectations and then consistent in terms of enforcing them.

Website use during work hours
Employers should make sure that they have a clear policy in place about internet use. However, you might also decide that, during events like the World Cup, you are prepared to be flexible in relation to that policy. You may choose to allow employees to watch or listen to matches while at work – particularly during their breaks, on the understanding that tasks must still be completed to the appropriate standard.

While the time difference will make this less of an issue in workplaces operating standard office hours, employers operating shift patterns may want to put in place such contingency procedures. This sort of flexibility can increase morale and decrease issues such as unauthorised absences. However, there is certainly no obligation for employers to permit this.

There may be an increase in the use of social networking sites such as Twitter or Facebook. Again, employers should have a strong policy in place that they can stick to, or make it clear what the exceptions are during the World Cup.

Don’t forget that you must not assume that all employees will be supporting England. If exceptions are made for England matches, they will need to be made for employees supporting other teams too. Make it clear to employees that bullying of colleagues because they support another team will not be tolerated!
Posted on 19 Nov 2016

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