Two of the biggest events of the sporting calendar are on their way! The World Cup kicks off on 12 June and, once that's over, the Commonwealth Games will open in Glasgow on 23 July. Given that both events are likely to lead to an increase in unauthorised absence, employers should have procedures in place to ensure minimal disruption to their business.
There is likely to be an increase in sporadic holiday requests during this period. Employers should act fairly, consistently and in a non-discriminatory manner when considering such requests. "First come, first served"may be the preferred option in some cases.
Whilst employers should not automatically assume that sickness absence during the World Cup or Commonwealth Games is not genuine, they may have grounds to be suspicious about some employees. Employers should start making employees aware now that they will closely monitor sickness absence during the summer months and communicate how they will deal sporting-related unauthorised absences. For example, warning employees that matters will be dealt with under a disciplinary procedure should hopefully act as a deterrent. It is also worth checking contracts and handbooks to see if pay can be withheld for unauthorised absences.
However, in order to limit liability for discrimination and/or unfair dismissal claims, employers must carry out proper investigations and avoid jumping to conclusions about absences, especially where employees may already have underlying health conditions.
Another way to minimise unauthorised absence could be to implement schemes to accommodate employees watching the events. This could include things such as flexible working during the period (allowing shift swaps or early finishes) or providing access to a television at work to watch key events. It is important to ensure, however, that the business can reasonably function with such changes.
Also, many events will no doubt be streamed via social media and employees may use this to watch the games whilst at work. This may prove problematic and so employers should remind employees of the terms of any IT or social media policies now, highlighting what is and is not acceptable and how breaches of such policies will be dealt with.
Some employees may engage in post-event celebrations resulting in higher episodes of lateness or performance failings. Employers should make it clear what will and will not be tolerated, referring to its policies as required.
Lastly, employers must recognise that some employees will have no interest in the events at all. By ensuring that any benefits, changes or flexible arrangements are applied consistently to all employees while these sporting events are taking place, employers will mitigate the risk of any claims of unfair treatment.
Let the games begin!