Managing World Cup Fever

Caroline Cobain
Caroline Cobain
Legal Director
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Football fever is about to hit the nation with the World Cup running from 14 June until 15 July. While the World Cup brings with it excitement for individuals across the nation, it can also bring a headache for employers who suffer higher rates of employee absence throughout the World Cup games period. Here, we examine the steps that employers should take to manage World Cup fever effectively.

First and foremost, employers should make sure that they have a reliable and workable method in place for recording sickness and employee absence. Records should show and record who has been absent, for how long they have been absent on each occasion, and the reason for their absence.

An employer is going to be more likely to be in a position to manage absence effectively if they have clear rules and procedures in place for dealing with absences. These rules and procedures should be communicated effectively to employees, and should be applied consistently. All employees should be made aware of any company rules that treat certain types or levels of absence as disciplinary offences.

Employers who have the required rules and procedures in place will already have taken the first steps towards discouraging non-genuine short term absence in the coming weeks, but what else can employers do to actively discourage absences during the World Cup?

Employers may wish to consider reminding employees that the Word Cup is imminent, and encourage employees to book holidays in advance for the dates that they wish to view World Cup games. Obviously, for planning and continuity purposes, it is in the best interests of the employer that employees take holidays, rather than pull ‘sickies’.

Further, employers could consider advising employees that the organisation has designated one particular manager as the ‘point of contact’ for all employees reporting sick during the World Cup. Employers can then ensure that this designated manager is primed to ask a number of questions about symptoms etc. Hopefully, if employees know that they will be asked a few probing questions, this may discourage them from calling in sick in anything other than genuine circumstances.

If these suggested measures are taken, they should help to discourage some potential absentees during the World Cup. However, it remains to be expected that some employees will still call in sick, no matter what steps are taken to try and prevent non-genuine absences.

If a pattern of absence is found to be a concern for an employee during the World Cup, the situation should be investigated and, as appropriate, disciplinary action may require to be considered. However, employers should note that even if an employee is found to have been absent from work on match days, there is still a need to avoid taking steps that may give rise to exposure from an unfair dismissal and discrimination perspective. An employee may be absent from work on crucial match days, but if, for example, that employee is disabled, care must be taken to ensure that it is not their disability that has caused them to be absent, rather than World Cup fever.

Generally speaking, employers should consider advising their workforce that absences that coincide with World Cup games will be scrutinised more closely. Advising employees that they will be subject to a return to work interview (whether this has been previous practice or not) upon their return may, again, help to dissuade employees from taking time off when not entitled to do so.

If you have any questions about your obligations as an employer during the World Cup, or more generally about employee absence, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our team on 0141 331 5150.

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