As from last night, the nation, indeed the world, is in the grip of football fever. The FIFA World Cup 2014 kicked off with a game between the host nation and Croatia. The World Cup, which will last for approximately one month, might mean increased employee absenteeism, possibly leading to decreased productivity and back logs of work that could potentially have a negative impact the bottom line of businesses.
Employers can probably expect more employees calling in sick particularly in the early-mornings and evening shifts. No doubt the excuses will be varied and entertaining such as “my cat had a nervous breakdown” or “my eight year old stole the car”.
There is no such thing as an employee’s right to request flexible working arrangements to watch sports. The right to flexible working arrangements relate to serious matters like looking after children, or caring for vulnerable adults. The relevant laws include: the Work and Families Act 2006, s.47 of the Employments Act 2002, the Flexible Working (Procedural Requirements) Regulations 2002, the Flexible Working (Eligibility, Complaints and Remedies) Regulations 2002, and the Flexible Working (Eligibility, Complaints and Remedies) (Amendment) Regulations 2009. Employees have the right to request changes to their working hours, the time and the places that they are required to work.
But whilst an employer can potentially get away with firing an employee for consistent unauthorised absenteeism on misconduct or under performance grounds, it is not necessarily the best way to deal with absenteeism to catch up with the World Cup. After all the World Cup comes only every four years, and the UK is mad about football.
Another suggested way of dealing with World Cup absenteeism might be to have a World Cup policy which could turn around a likely negative impact on your bottom line to a positive one. Many businesses already have a policy for major sporting events.
Employers could allow some authorised flexible working hours and unpaid leave during the World Cup. Employers might introduce half working days on Friday’s during the World Cup. Further employers’ social media policies could address the increased use of social media to catch up with World Cup results. ACAS, who have a Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures (2009), have issued guidance for employers regarding the World Cup on their website website
Let’s face it we love football in the UK, and might have a weakness for bunking work to catch up on the big games, but employers can turn a potential problem into an opportunity to reduce work stress, boost general morale and improve employee productivity.