FORGET BREXIT AND GDPR - WORLD CUP 2018 - ARE YOU AREADY?
“They thought it was all over” - well not quite this year. All England fans and footie fans from other nations, involved or not, will be eagerly awaiting the onset of ‘the greatest football show on earth’ and once again we have the quadrennial quandary – what do we do with those employees whose desire to watch the games impacts on their requirement to attend work?
It turns out that the kick off times for the England group games are scheduled at 7pm on 18th and 28th June with a 1.00pm kick off on Sunday 24th June (UK time), so for those with the traditional “nine to five, Monday to Friday” job it might not be a major issue. Employers with evenings, late or night shifts or with fans of other competing nations will though be at risk of ‘absences’ or late arrivals from those watching games played during their shift.
It is more complicated at the last 16 and Quarter Final stages where matches are scheduled for 3.00pm and 7.00pm.
Two anticipated questions are:
- How do we deal with formal requests for time off to watch a game?
- How do we deal with those who simply do not turn in for work or we suspect have ‘pulled a sickie’?
In addition there may be issues with those who are overcome by the excitement of it all, celebrating or commiserating to excess and who do not make it into work the day following a match.
The scheduled fixture list can be found here (other sites are available) https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup/schedule/group-stage so you have an easy guide / reference so that if an employee does not attend, you can look to see if there is a match (or has been a match) which might account for an employee’s absence.
The starting point is to make it clear what your policy will be with regard to this event. However you communicate this (memo, letter, e-mail, intranet, notice board) make sure that all employees know your expectations.
Don’t get caught ‘off-side’ by unplanned absences.
You may have holiday rules allowing only a certain number of employees to be off at one time probably on a first come first served basis. If you know that a number of employees are going to want the time off forewarn them that requests must be made in advance and will be dealt with on this basis.
If you have a flexi time system in operation you may wish to review the rules and temporarily amend them to meet the needs of employees who wish to watch a game. You may also wish to introduce a temporary flexible working arrangement if you do not already have one.
Consider allowing radios or TV’s to be on in the workplace (where safety is not compromised and providing you have appropriate PRS/TV licence) but advise staff that this is a privilege that will be withdrawn if abused.
Remember – employers are in no way obliged to implement any changes to the normal working requirements and you would be quite within your rights to hold to that line. Our experience of many ‘World Cups’ does indicate that you should anticipate an increase in unplanned absenteeism. If your business can easily accommodate some temporary changes then you may find that the unpredicted might just be avoided.
Dealing with Absence – Brandishing the Red or Yellow Cards
There will always be a number of employees who decide not to attend work on a match day or the day after the match by phoning in sick or just not turning up.
This behaviour could be deemed unauthorised absence and render the employee subject to disciplinary action under your disciplinary procedures. You must advise all employees this is the action you will take should they act in this manner. Minor offences are likely to warrant a ‘Yellow Card’ warning.
If you suspect an employee is not genuinely ill then this may move you into serious or gross misconduct ‘Red Card’ areas. You may require them to produce medical evidence to this effect but remember you may be required to pay for a medical certificate if you insist when the employee has been sick for less than a week. For dishonest absence where the employee has fabricated reasons, you may well end up showing the Red Card.
When applying discipline do it consistently and fairly and above all – don’t lose on penalties!!
- Remember supporting football is not only for males: don’t assume someone is not interested in football because of their gender and we can all see that England's Ladies team usually gets further in competitions that their male counterparts;
- Remember to be fair to those not interested in football. Don’t give benefits (e.g. additional paid time off) to football supporters, without providing similar benefits to those not interested in football.
Will there be a ‘Whistle Blower’?
Of course, disgruntled staff or those not interested in football may ‘blow the whistle’ on colleagues who are taking advantage or perhaps, more seriously, if measures you put in place present unacceptable health and safety risks.
Either way, be ready to address potential workplace fall out depending on who plays who and where national allegiances lie.
And finally, lets hope we nudge ahead before the final whistle and thereby avoid the dreaded penalties….