With Euro 2012 about to kick off, employers need to consider their strategy for keeping control of employee absences during the tournament
Football fever: Not a legitimate illness
Employers should consider if their business is likely to be particularly affected by the football competition. The demographic of the workforce in some sectors may mean more employees are likely to be interested in football than others.
Employers need to communicate with all their employees early on and set out clearly what is and is not acceptable behaviour.
It may be helpful to remind employees before things get going that 'throwing a sickie' during the tournament will be an unauthorised absence and may result in disciplinary action.
As Euro 2012 is being staged in the Ukraine and Poland the matches are generally being played in the evening after office hours. While this may reduce the amount of unauthorised absences for many businesses they may still have to deal with an increase in holiday requests and/or requests to work different hours. It is unlikely that these will all be able to be accommodated and so dealing fairly and consistently with requests will be key.
Employers should consider whether there are any particular health and safety risks for their business. For example, if employees have drunk a lot the night before they may still not be fit to drive or operate heavy machinery the morning after.
On a positive note, Euro 2012 could be a cheap and easy way to boost staff morale, for example by providing a big screen to show matches on work premises.
Employees should be encouraged to book annual leave early to ensure that business needs can still be met.
- Consider if you will allow an extra element of flexible working during the competition so that employees can swap shifts, take unpaid leave or temporarily change their hours? If so, communicate this clearly to employees and ensure special arrangements are consistent across the organisation.
- ACAS suggests employers put in place a temporary flexible working arrangement whereby staff can "bank"' time to watch matches by making up the hours in advance. However, remember that any such arrangement should also apply to those who are not interested in watching Euro 2012 matches, to ensure fair treatment of all.
- Employees may try and keep track of games via the internet, but if large numbers are doing so this could have implications for an organisation's IT systems. Decide whether you are happy for employees to use your IT systems in this way or whether you will take a zero-tolerance approach? If the latter, make sure this is very clearly communicated and employees are left in no doubt as to the consequences of breaching such a policy.
- Although the issue should be easier to manage because many will be able to watch matches after work has finished, employees may still be coming to work suffering from lack of sleep and over-indulgence in alcohol the night before. Employers should remember their health and safety duties and assess the likely risks to employees and others as a result. Consider what measures can be put in place to reduce any such risks.
- For employees who will still be working while matches are on, do you have the space to have a special screening room for matches or will you allow staff to have TV/ radio on in the background? Consider the drawbacks of the latter - will staff find it too distracting and will it cause resentment among staff with no interest in football or in following England, but who are having to work harder to compensate for colleagues who do?
- Employers with a diverse workforce may find there is significant interest in teams other than England and if a TV/radio is to be allowed in the workplace then foreign workers should be given equal access to this.
- Be clear about what is acceptable absence. It may be helpful to issue special guidelines for employees to make clear that being too hungover to make it into work after a big match will not be regarded as a genuine illness and will be treated as unpaid leave.
- Remember that not all employees will be interested in the football, and they should not be made to feel excluded if they do not want to get involved.
The crucial message is that however employers decide to manage the event, policies must be communicated to staff in a timely manner, in advance of any games, and then enforced consistently.
The clock is ticking until the first games kick off, so don't leave it till the final whistle to put measures in place!
ACAS has issued guidance on issues which may arise for employers during Euro 2012.