World Cup Fever... and Other Related Sickness AbsencePosted in : HR Updates on 18 June 2014
It’s started... the beautiful game on the world stage. Set in one of the most iconic countries in the world from a football perspective (and arguably from any perspective). The madness (and some people really do lose it a bit) is happening between Thursday 12 June 2014 and Sunday 13 July 2014.
The kick off times for most of the games are scheduled between 5pm and 11pm (UK time), Brazil is four hours behind the UK. England is the only UK country to have qualified but eager football fans will look forward to seeing the whole spectrum of teams who have qualified play.
Employers need to be on the front foot here (if you pardon the pun) because there are a number issues which are likely to arise. ACAS have kindly grouped these as follows;
- Requests for annual leave - which may occur at short notice
- Sickness absence - False or genuine illness after ‘overdoing’ game watching.
- Website use during working hours - to keep up with updates.
Drawing a Line
Luckily this time around most games (except the 5pm starts) begin after regular office hours, however for those employers using shift work or later patterns of work, a flexible approach is recommended in order to maintain an engaged workforce (accepting that the world cup is not going to interest all employees). The late matches do however pose a problem with regard to lateness and absenteeism, with ‘after match’ illnesses creeping in.
Hopefully most employers will have thought ahead and communicated policies with regard to time off, sick leave and whether games can be viewed at work. If not, now is a good time to remind staff about what is expected during the summer.
Make a very clear statement about the rules around booking annual leave. You may be willing to make concessions and allow more flexible work patterns during the summer. This can really assist morale and reduce the likelihood of false sick leave, however for some employers this kind of flexibility may not fit in with operational requirements. If normal working patterns and annual leave arrangements still apply, remind staff this is the case.
All leave requests should be considered fairly by all employers, and a consistent approach to other major sporting events in granting leave. Not everyone likes football, and policies (even temporary ones) should not result in anyone being treated detrimentally as a result.
Remind employees that the sickness policy will still apply during this time and this policy will be operated fairly and consistently for all staff. Levels of attendance will be monitored and any patterns of absence or lateness due to post-match hangovers may be dealt with via the disciplinary policy.
Flexible Approaches Adopted
As mentioned above, some employers have found a workable option to have a more flexible working day, when employees may come in a little later or finish sooner, and then agree when this time can be made up.
Other employers have allowed staff to swap shifts or allow staff to take a break during match times.
Some employers have invested in large screens / TVs, allowing employees to watch the TV before finishing work or making up lost time elsewhere in the day.
Use of Social Networking Sites and Websites
Remind employees about your policy on web use during the working day. If employers are monitoring internet usage then the data protection regulations require that you inform all employees. A web use policy should make clear what is and what is not acceptable usage, e.g. it may be acceptable to use authorised social networking sites or check news reports during standard break times.
Drinking or Being Under the Influence at Work
Remind staff that anyone caught drinking at work or found to be under the influence of alcohol in the workplace could be subject to disciplinary procedures. There may not be a clear no alcohol policy at work and employees may need a reminder. Any employee under the influence may be asked to leave at the employers discretion.
More on Sickness & Absence
- Email/System Access for Long-term Sick Employees; Dismissal During the Probationary Period; Dealing with Sickness Patterns
- Can an employer treat maternity-related absences in the same way as standard sickness absences?
- In Brief: Important Updates from October 2018
- Mr A Hawkes v Ausin Group UK Ltd 
- Does an employee have rights while off on certified sick leave?
The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.