Cut out World Cup sickies

On 9 June, the football World Cup kicks off and, judging by previous major sporting events, the number of sickies being taken will rise sharply, causing grief for small businesses up and down the country.

As many as one in seven men have admitted to calling in sick to watch a match or to due to a hangover caused by football-related activity the night before while a more respectable four per cent of women have confessed to the same misdemeanour, according to a poll conducted by YouGov for workplace issues specialist Croner.

The youth of today were the main offenders; men and women aged between 18 and 29, 16 per cent having thrown a football-related sickie at some point.

But this is not an inevitable by-product of major sporting events. A little foresight and flexibility from employers could not only cut out unauthorised absence but may boost staff morale.

For example, providing TV access during work hours for daytime games shows a willingness to accommodate employees’ interests and can improve workplace relations. Croner also advises updating annual leave policies now to include special advice for employees on the procedure for taking time off for sporting events.

‘Rather than worry about employees being struck down with “World Cup-itis” on match days, businesses should be thinking of how temporarily relaxing the rules can have positive returns for their business,’ advocates Richard Smith, employment services director at Croner. ‘We’re strongly advising employers to provide on-site TV access to important games and to encourage employees who wish to enjoy alcohol during games to request annual leave around match days. Annual leave policies should be updated with clear guidelines issued to all employees, emphasising that unauthorised absence could lead to disciplinary action.

‘Even though it’s likely that younger males will be first in line for holiday at this time, employers must ensure it is granted fairly, otherwise they could be guilty of sex discrimination. It’s worth remembering that not all staff will be interested in watching World Cup games, so we’d also suggest that employers who decide to provide TV access consider a similar perk for those staff who aren’t fans, who may feel left out.’

Croner believes the following should be made clear to employees:

  • Employees who wish to take time off to watch a sporting event must book annual leave using the normal procedures
  • Annual leave will not unreasonably be refused, but may not be granted in order to maintain minimum staffing levels
  • Disciplinary action may be taken if an employee is absent on the day of a major sporting event without a valid or medical reason
  • Employees absent without authorisation will not be paid for the time not worked
  • A TV or radio may be provided at the employer’s discretion
  • Employees are not permitted to consume alcohol on work premises or during working hours
  • This policy is non-contractual and the organisation reserves the right to amend or withdraw it at any time.

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