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What's New? > Employers should plan to avoid World Cup absenteeism

Employers should plan to avoid World Cup absenteeism

Published: 3rd September 2010

Many employers are bracing themselves for hours of lost time this summer as football fan employees call in sick, or request time off at short notice in order to watch the World Cup. HR Magazine reports that, according to research by PriceWaterhouse Coopers, 53% of working males and 21% of females intend to watch the afternoon games live.

What then should employers be doing to prepare for the coming weeks?

Firstly, there is probably no need to panic. The time difference between the UK and South Africa is only one hour, so there are no morning or midday matches, as there were in 2002.  Englandís only group stage match that takes place in normal working hours is the match against Slovenia at 3.00 pm on 23rd June.  If England win Group C, all remaining matches right through to the finals are scheduled for the evening; but if England are runners up in Group C, their round of sixteen and quarter final matches would be in the afternoon.

Regardless of how the England team may perform, employers should not be complacent, and there are certain steps that should be taken before the event starts, to avoid making up policy on the hoof.

Firstly, employers should remind employees of their policy on unauthorised absence. Normally this means that failing to turn up for work or leaving early without a reasonable explanation is a disciplinary matter.

Secondly, employers should remind employees of their procedures for reporting sickness. If the employer does not have a set procedure for this, one should be put in place at once.

Thirdly, employers should consider how they will deal with short notice requests for time off to watch a match. This could be a difficult area because allowing time off at short notice could set a precedent that might lead to serious disruption, or it could lead to resentment if one employee is given time off to watch a World Cup match, but another employee is refused time off to watch some other event that they are following.

Employers should consider taking advantage of the event to boost staff cohesion and morale. For example, on 23rd June flexible hours might be allowed, so that staff who wish to do so can start early and work through lunch, and then watch the Slovenia game together on television in the office or at the local pub. If they watch the game at the pub, staff who drive to work that day need to be warned not to drink.

Said employment law expert Anissa Hallworth of Ward Gethin Solicitors: "The important thing is that employers should have a clear policy that is accepted as fair and understood by all staff. Too restrictive an attitude may be resented by a significant section of the staff, who may have little to cheer about at the moment, while favouring football fans too much might be resented by another section of staff."

For advice on Employment related matters, please call 01553 660033 and ask to speak to Annissa Hallworth or Kim Faivelowitz.

This article aims to supply general information, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However, no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek our specific advice.