With the World Cup due to kick off on 12 June 2014, many are predicting huge losses to UK businesses due to unauthorised staff absences. Whilst kick off times for England games are scheduled between 5 pm and 11 pm, it is expected that as the competition progresses, employers will see an increase in staff absences. It was reported that absenteeism during the 2006 World Cup cost UK businesses £100 million a day and it is with this in mind that ACAS has launched guidance to help employers prepare for potential issues that could arise during the World Cup period.
An increase in unauthorised absences does not have to be the by-product of this sporting event and with a little foresight, and flexibility, employers should see an increase in morale leading to a productive and engaged workforce.
So, what can employers do?
Annual leave – employers may wish to apply more flexibility, such as the number of employees allowed to be off at one time, when dealing with annual leave requests during this period. It is important that both parties come to an agreement – staff should however, be made aware that it may not always be possible for special arrangements to be made. All businesses will, after all, need to maintain minimum staffing levels.
Fairness – a consistent approach should be applied for leave requests particularly when this comes to other major sporting events. Employers should remember that not everyone likes football! Even though it is expected that the male work force will be first in line for holiday application requests, employers should ensure that holiday is granted fairly to avoid allegations of sex discrimination. Employers should also ensure that flexibility is provided to non-England supporters.
Sickness absence – levels of attendance should be monitored during this period. Employers should ensure that there are clear rules and procedures in place for dealing with absences (including late attendance due to post match hangovers) or patterns of absence. Employers should make staff aware that patters of absence could result in formal proceedings against the employee.
Flexibility – employers may choose to consider implementing flexible working practices so that employees can make up time to watch their preferred games. Allowing staff to listen to the radio or watch the TV in a communal area is also a possible option. Any change in hours or flexible working arrangements should be agreed in advance by the employee’s manager.
Use of social media and websites – there is likely to be an increase in social media and websites during the World Cup period. Employers should therefore ensure that they have a web use policy in place making it clear what is not acceptable usage.
Drinking or being under the influence – the World Cup period is likely to lead to an increase in consumption of alcohol for some members of staff. Employers should therefore re-issue “no alcohol policies” and/or remind staff that anyone found under the influence of alcohol at work could be subject to disciplinary procedures.
Careful planning will enable the World Cup period to run smoothly for businesses and provide staff the opportunity to enjoy the event. It is anticipated that employers who are flexible in their approach, are less likely to suffer from employees taking unauthorised absences.
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