Employee Absenteeism During Major Sporting Events

How to Deal With Employee Absenteeism During Major Sporting Events

As Wimbledon is about to start (1 – 14 July 2019) and both the Cricket and Women’s World Cup are both now well underway, how do you manage multiple employees wanting to take time off to watch their favourite sports? As many sporting tournaments are broadcast during working hours, especially the tennis, this can cause big problems when it comes to managing your workforce.

As an organisation, it is important to know how to manage employee absences during sporting events. If you are unable to grant someone time off to watch a match, you will need to avoid any risk of discrimination or unfair practice. Our advice would be to act wisely and invest some time into your employee absence procedures. As an organisation, it’s important to show that you advocate a good work-life balance. Allowing people to enjoy major sporting events will prove that you respect your employees, leading to better morale in the workplace. After all, a happy workforce is usually more productive. However, employees do need to remember it is still business as usual.

Many corporate organisations install a big TV screen or multiple monitors to enable employees the ability to watch important matches whilst taking a break. This gives employees easier access to live sports without having to take time off work. However, depending on the nature of your business operations, this might not be possible or financially viable.

Flexible working policy during sporting events

One approach to managing staff during major sports events would be to support a flexible working culture. By proactively managing employees’ time off in advance, you can plan ahead, instead of working reactively and having to deal with unexpected absences. By investing a little time into internal procedures before sporting tournaments begin, you will save yourself a lot of time in the long run. If you do not make preparations for the impact of major sporting events, you will have to deal with unauthorised absences. This could lead to employee investigations, taking statements, checking facts and possible disciplinary procedures, which is a waste of your valuable time and resources.

Implement a ‘time off policy’ for major sporting events

By implementing a policy that covers employees taking time off for major sporting events, you will need to consider the following factors:

  • As June, July and August are peak holiday times, how can you manage the usual level of annual leave requests with the additional pressure of those wanting to take time off for sporting events?
  • Is the summer period a generally quiet or busy time of year for your business, and if it’s the latter, what will be the impact of people taking time off?
  • Will employees need to use their annual leave allowance or, in this instance, will they be allowed to take unpaid leave?
  • How will you manage people taking extra time off, especially if they are key players within your business, i.e. will this be on a ‘first come first served’ basis?
  • Do you know what to do if an employee calls in sick and you’re in doubt when it comes to the reason for their absence?

Check your sickness absence policy for legal compliance

Review your sickness absence policy; is this still effective for the way in which your business operates? Look for previous absence patterns before or just after a sporting event; are there any absenteeism trends and do any appear after an employee has been refused time off?

As an organisation, you need to ensure there is no risk of any discrimination within your procedures and that you have a clear process for your employees to follow. For example, if an employee calls in stating they are unfit for work, they must speak to a manager before 9.00am.

When reviewing your sickness policy, you will need to consider the following factors:

  • Does it confirm methods and timings for appropriate communication during periods of absence?
  • Does it state a requirement to provide a self-certification form/fit note dependent on the length of absence?
  • Do you reserve the right to request the employee to see occupational health/a GP?
  • Does it state whether an employee will be paid during a period of sickness?
  • Does it state whether payment is conditional upon a procedure being followed?
  • Are the consequences stated when an employee fails to follow the procedure?
  • Does the policy allow for a return to work meeting?

For more advice and tips on enabling employees to watch major sporting events, please read our previous blog, World Cup 2018: dealing with absent employees.

The information contained within this article is only a brief summary; it should not serve as advice for you to plan and manage employee absenteeism during major sporting tournaments, whether authorised or unauthorised. Always speak to a HR professional before implementing any policies and procedures to reduce your liability and avoid any risk of unfair dismissal.

We hope you all enjoy the summer sporting season – game, set and match!

If you need advice with any aspect of managing employee absences, or you would like us to review your existing policy, we would be happy to help. Please call Jude Read-HR Consultancy on 01455 231982 or send an enquiry via our contact page.

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