World Cup 2018: dealing with absent employees

World Cup 2018 and dealing with employee

How to manage employee absence during the football season

On 14 June, the 2018 World Cup in Russia kicks off and continues until 15 July. Major sporting events can add an air of excitement in the workplace and can be a great way to help boost staff morale. Our blog helps you to understand the World Cup 2018 and dealing with  employees.

As many of the games will be broadcast during normal working hours, it is a good idea to have a clear policy in place, so that staff know exactly what is expected of them when important matches are in play. By taking a proactive approach before the games begin, your business can minimise any disruption to your office and operations.

Did you know…

Surveys suggest that during high-profile sporting events, there is a greater tendency for employees to phone in sick? This is likely to be as a result of employees taking time off to attend or watch a game – or, perhaps being too hung-over to go into work the next day!

If you are considering giving access to a television in your workplace, you need to consider offering a different perk for people who are not interested in watching the event, otherwise there is a risk that some of your employees may feel disadvantaged. Why not offer these people an equivalent? For example – this could be flexible working time during match days.

World Cup 2018 and dealing with employees

Before you make any decisions or announcements, spend some time checking your internal procedures to see whether you can effectively manage any employee absence during the forthcoming World Cup season. Your management of the World Cup 2018 and dealing with employees is key to running an efficient business and keeping your customers happy. Review your sickness absence policy – check whether it will be effective for managing employee absences and does not present any risk of potential discrimination. You could consider implementing a ‘time off policy’ for major sporting events – read our previous blog for more details on this.

What should I do if I suspect that an employee’s absence is not genuine, and is due to taking time off work to watch a football match instead of sickness?

It is essential that employers do not automatically assume employee sickness absence is not genuine during the forthcoming World Cup, or any other major sporting event. Employers need to tread carefully – you may have grounds to be suspicious about certain employees due to a history of sickness absence, however, you need to avoid discrimination.

  • Question the employee. When he or she initially reports the absence, query their reasons, and then conduct a return-to-work interview when they get back to the office.
  • Are there any clear absence patterns? Ask your employee for a full explanation. If you have reasonable belief that the employee’s absence is not genuine (due to evasive or inconsistent answers to your questions), you may decide to take the matter further.
  • Do you have unequivocal evidence that your employee was not sick? Perhaps they were spotted in the pub watching a match? If so, this will become a disciplinary matter. Unauthorised absences and falsely reporting sickness absences are serious disciplinary offences that should result in some form of disciplinary action.

As an employer, if you have doubts about an employee’s absence, but there is no evidence to incriminate him or her, we advise carrying out a further investigation. Without a proper investigation, you could put yourself at future risk in terms of liability and unfair dismissal claims. Never jump to conclusions – always follow a fair procedure, especially if an employee suffers from any health issues.

How to avoid discrimination during the World Cup

Never assume that only male employees will be watching the football – many females also enjoy watching the World Cup. Therefore, be careful not to prioritise time off for male employees. Also, never assume that your employees will only be interested in watching the England matches; you may have a mixed workforce with multiple nationalities. Therefore, the same rules should apply to everyone, no matter which country they wish to support.

As an employer, you should also be aware of the potential for harassment after certain football matches. For example – there are national rivalries, which could lead to intimidating behaviour or offensive comments between employees. In the heat of the moment, you may face instances where employees behave in this way, even though they did not intend to be hostile to others. Check your procedures and remind employees of your harassment policy. You need to make it very clear that any behaviour that amounts to harassment or discrimination will be dealt with as a disciplinary matter.

Tips on enabling employees to follow events: 

We have listed a few points below to help you consider the actions you could take to allow employees to watch the World Cup during working hours:

Watching events at work: Many employees place great importance on allowing their people to follow major sporting events, as this is a great way to increase staff morale. As a result, many companies choose to screen major sports events in the workplace, and this can help to avoid unauthorised absences. Depending on whether this is feasible, arrangements will need to be put in place, along with set rules on what is expected of employees. For example – will you allow your employees to drink alcohol during the event? Will they be allowed to start work late or finish early? Will they be expected to make up any lost working time? Create an approval process involving line managers.

Watching events on the internet: This can be an easier way to allow employees to follow sporting events, as watching events online at their desks may reduce unauthorised absences. However, as an employer, you need to set clear ground rules reflecting your internet policy. You might decide to relax your rules on personal internet use during working hours for the duration of the World Cup. However, you need to monitor this carefully for excessive or unreasonable use, and any disruption this may cause to your operations. For example – you may need to manage a large number of employees attempting to stream matches from their desktops simultaneously, as this could have a big impact on your IT systems. You could arrange for employees to only use internet facilities during pre-agreed breaks and lunchtimes.

Taking annual leave to watch events: As an employer, you are likely to receive a large number of annual leave requests for the World Cup. If it is not possible to accommodate all of these requests due to potential staff shortages, then you will need to ensure that you deal with these fairly. You could choose to operate a “first come, first served” system for annual leave requests during this period, but you must make this clear to employees, as soon as possible. To avoid the risk of any grievances, we advise checking your annual leave policy and managing employees’ expectations in advance of the event. You might consider adding a statement to say “while we will make every effort to accommodate annual leave requests for major sporting events, it may not be possible to grant every request due to operational requirements”.

The information in this article is only a brief summary about the World Cup 2018 and dealing with  employees; it should not serve as advice for you to plan and manage potential employee absence during the World Cup, whether authorised or unauthorised. Always speak to a professional before implementing any relating HR procedures to reduce your liability and avoid any risk of unfair dismissal.

 We hope you all enjoy the forthcoming football season!

If you would like help with your HR policies and procedures, or you need extra support to manage employee absenteeism during major sporting events, please contact us.

 Call us today to discuss how we can help 01455 231982 | 07716 918272



Business efficiency, Discrimination, Employee absence during sporting events, Employee Sickness Absence, Employment Documents, HR Procedures

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