Many of you will be looking forward to the World Cup which starts next month (particularly with the high concentration of Southampton players on the England team!). Many of you in your capacity as managers and HR will know that requests for time off are going to increase so employees can watch the games. Some matches will be late at night, so you may also be anticipating problems with lateness, absenteeism and poor productivity during the tournament.
Employees do not have an entitlement to take time off to watch World Cup games. However, employers may wish to relax the rules at such a time and try to accommodate requests for holiday if its suits the business.
When considering holiday requests, it is important to act fairly. If a number of employees want time off at the same time, employers should consider granting leave on a ‘first come first served’ basis or use a fair rota. Employers should also make employees aware beforehand that this is how multiple requests for holiday will be dealt with. Employers should ensure there is no discrimination in granting such requests, such as favouring requests for holiday from male employees. If employees do not have sufficient holiday entitlement, employers may wish, in the spirit of good relations, to allow unpaid leave or flexi-time.
Another issue are employees calling in sick. Whilst it can be easy to be suspicious of any sickness absence (particularly if the employee had requested holiday which had not been granted), employers should not to jump to conclusions. A fair and reasonable investigation must be taken into the absence before disciplinary action is considered. In reality, it is not going to be easy to prove that the sickness absence was not genuine unless there is strong evidence to show this. If such evidence is found during a reasonably conducted investigation, then a fair disciplinary procedure must be followed. However, this is unlikely to result in anything more than a written warning (unless the employee has previous active written warnings on their file).
We know that in previous World Cup years, some employers allowed employees to listen or watch matches at work and this can be a good compromise. As always, it is best to ensure the rules are clear around this such as ensuring that urgent work is still a priority, or if there is significant disruption occurs this may not be allowed going forwards or for future sporting events.
Alcohol can be a feature of World Cup matches, and so it can also be a good idea to remind employees of any policy or rules around drinking alcohol at work or turning up to work still under the influence of alcohol. If any issues arise, then it may be appropriate to consider disciplinary action but this will depend on the particular circumstances at the time.
Finally, there can be lots of work banter about other teams and their players in the World Cup. This can be fine and is usually done in good spirits, but occasionally boundaries can be overstepped with derogatory and racist remarks being made which offend others. Employees should be warned that such behaviour will not be tolerated and reminded about any equal opportunities policy.
We hope you enjoy the World Cup!
If you would like to talk through a situation you are dealing with, or if you need advice on any aspect of employment law, please contact any member of the Pure Employment Law team (01243 836840 or [email protected]).