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Keeping Your Eye On The Ball When It Comes To Your Employees

View profile for Theresa Carling
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Many of the nation’s football fans will be delighted to see the UEFA European Championship kicking off today, Friday 10th June 2016 and watching it through to its conclusion on 10th July 2016.

As the games take place in France there are no ridiculously late night or early morning games like their can be with the World Cup Tournament and the majority of games will kick off at 2pm and 8pm. This means that some of the fixtures will be played during normal working time. There is no question that many employers will find themselves affected by the competition, including issues around:-

  1. Requests for annual leave;
  2. Sickness absence; and
  3. Internet and social media use during working hours.

So, what can or should you do in this situation?  Ideally, you will be a very proactive business with an engaged workforce and you might have already indicated that you will allow a degree of flexibility during the working day so that interested staff can watch the games.

The key for a reasonable employer is to think about how you can be more flexible with staff with regards to working hours or annual leave. It may not be possible to permit all employees to take on different working hours or to have leave and you as the employer will almost certainly need to maintain a certain level of attendance to allow business as usual.

So what issues might arise in the next month?

Annual Leave

Your leave policy on booking and taking leave should be very clear. Most employers grant leave on a first come first served basis, so you need to consider that. Whilst you may have particularly stringent lines of making permission requests for annual leave, you might wish to be a little more flexible in this instance to allow employees a few hours of down time to watch football matches as a temporary arrangement. Provided that you let employees know that these are temporary or special arrangements for the period of the Euro's and, provided that you say that reasonable requests which you can accommodate will be allowed, then this can be useful.  A consistent approach will need to be applied to other major sporting events if you do grant leave as not everyone likes football.

Sickness

It may be that your refusal to allow employees time off results in an increase in sickness absence around this period (either through malingering or hangovers in consequence of enjoying the game in the pub).  Keep an eye out and check patterns of absence along with any unauthorised absences; this is where monitoring absences will come into play. Obviously, any Sickness Absence Policy needs to be applied consistently across your whole workforce.

Alcohol Policy

You may have a zero tolerance policy on alcohol at work so, if your employees are permitted to leave to attend the local hostelry to watch the game during working hours, they might need to be reminded of this policy, ideally in advance of them going. If employees still come in to work under the influence then appropriate disciplinary action can be taken as required.  I successfully defended a tribunal case where a manufacturing employer dismissed an employee who had consumed a can of lager in the hours before coming into work, way back in 2002 when the World Cup was being played. The employer’s clear policy meant that I was able to defeat the employee’s claim for unfair dismissal.

The key is to make sure that you have set clear rules in place before any of this becomes an issue so make sure that you revisit your alcohol policy if you need any further guidance.

Use of Social Networking Sites and Websites

It is expected that there will be an increase in the use of social networking sites or sporting websites during this period while staff check scores or watch highlights. You should ensure that your Social Media Policy is quite clear on what use of social media is acceptable during working hours although, again, you might wish to be more flexible during this period. What is vital is that you make the position clear across the board if you are not providing any facility to watch the game or if you believe that this might be a problem within your own workplace.

The key to walking the fine line between running a business and making sure that you keep staff happy (and present) is to have clear measures in place for football enthusiast employees which allow some degree of flexibility where possible.  Perhaps you could allow staff to swap shifts or take a longer than usual break during games, making up time by coming in early or leaving late? Staff will appreciate any concessions you make and will see that you are being flexible and reasonable.

You will have noticed that I have mentioned quite a few policies in this article. With this in mind myself  and Joan Casson are always pleased to help you  with any queries and ensure that you don’t score an own goal!

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