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Managing staff during the World Cup

11 June 2018

With the World Cup about to kick off, football fans across the country are gearing up to cheer on their favourite teams and players. It’s easy to get carried away with football fever which could result in a tricky time for employers with staff requesting time off to watch matches, or even expecting to watch the games in their workplace. So, what should employers be doing? We’ve put together our top tips to help you manage staff throughout the World Cup – what to watch out for, and how to deal with common issues.

1. Managing leave requests

Some organised employees may have planned their leave requests the moment the fixture schedule was released. However, you may experience a sudden rush of requests coming through, especially as the competition progresses and we learn which teams earn a place in the final stages. You should already have a policy in place which sets out how you manage leave requests, and you should treat all requests in line with this policy. If you don’t have a policy in place, then you should ensure you treat all requests fairly and equally to avoid the risk of discrimination claims later on. To make your life even easier, think about implementing an online software system to help you ensure you always have enough staff.

2. Flexible working

Another common request from staff may be for flexible working, to fit around the games. If you don’t have a policy in place on how you manage requests for flexible working, then you need to be consistent in how you deal with requests. You will clearly need to think about the impact on your business and the suitability of the request for the duties of the role. You could agree to temporary changes but be very clear that it is only temporary.

3. Hungover staff members

As with other big sporting occasions, fans may well indulge in a few drinks whilst watching the football. If this means they are turning up to work still under the influence, or hungover, then you may have to take disciplinary action. The World Cup cannot be used as an excuse to justify turning up to work in an unfit state, and your handbook should set out your policy on this. You may want to consider reminding your staff of their obligations ahead of the games commencing. It’s also important to make sure you enforce your policies fairly and consistently. A consistent approach is key to ensuring you minimise the risk of demotivated staff in future, or even worse, costly exits. your business.

4. A member of staff calls in ‘sick’ on the day of the big game

You should have a policy in place for staff to notify their manager personally if they are too unwell to attend work that day. We recommend that your policy includes the requirement for the employee to phone their manager or HR, and prohibit emailing or texting. A phone call enables the employer to more clearly understand the nature of the sickness, and how long it is expected to last. It also means you can discuss any work scheduled for that day that may need to be handed over to another member of staff. If the employee fails to call you by the start of their working hours, it becomes an unauthorised absence. Encouraging staff to call themselves also usually results in fewer employees feigning ‘sickness’ when they are not unwell.

During, or after the, call, you should also consider if the reason for absence is genuine:

  • Does the employee often call in sick?
  • Is there a pattern to when the employee calls in?

Again, having an online management system like BreatheHR can help you identify any patterns, or excessive short term absences very quickly. We would also recommend carrying out a Return to Work meeting after any absence, regardless of the length of time off. These meetings are designed to ensure that you are satisfied that the employee is fit to return, and to bring the employee up to speed on any work they may have missed. They are also very effective in reducing the number of non-genuine short-term absences and helping you identify any underlying reasons for the absences.

If you suspect an employee is falsely claiming or exaggerating an illness you should investigate and gather evidence, reviewing their self-certification forms, or their fit for work notes. You may also want to seek their consent to obtain a medical report from their GP.

Your absence policy or employment contract should also clearly state what your arrangements are regarding Sick Pay. Many employers will only pay Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) and retain the discretion to continue to pay staff their usual pay, if they choose to do so. The first three days’ sick leave do not have to be paid if the employee is only entitled to SSP, it is critical you are consistent in what you do n terms of paying employees SSP or Company Pay to avoid unlawful discrimination claims.

5. Unauthorised absence

What happens if a member of staff simply doesn’t turn up to work when they are expected to? This would need to be treated the same as any authorised absence from work. You should first try to make reasonable efforts to contact them. You may also want to consider whether to get in touch with the employee’s emergency contact if you have these details. There may be a justifiable reason to explain the absence, like an accident on the way to work.

If you make contact with the employee, or they return to work, you will need to determine whether you consider the absence as unauthorised and potentially follow up with a disciplinary process, ensuring you follow the disciplinary procedure in your Employee Handbook.

So what can employers do to avoid these situations?

One way of encouraging staff to come into work during the World Cup is to have a TV at work showing the games. You could theme your staff engagement activities around the World Cup for this period, if that fits with the culture of your organisation.

Remember though, not everyone is a football fan so you need to ensure that you are not giving one group of workers ‘special treatment’ over others. This could lead to requests to show other big sporting occasions such as Wimbledon, or Cup Finals at work too. You can avoid this by being clear in your communications with staff that this is a special occasion as it only happens every four years, and as such, is not a regular sporting event.

You also need to remember that you may have staff that support teams other than England. Whatever arrangements you put in place may need to be replicated across all the games to minimise the risk of discrimination claims, or disenchanted employees.

Our advice to employers contemplating how to cope over the coming weeks is to ensure they are up front and transparent about their plans. Take the opportunity to remind staff of your policies and procedures, and ensure you are consistent in enforcing them. You don’t want to stop your staff from enjoying the World Cup but remind them that they still have a duty to attend and be fit for work. You may also use this as an opportunity to review and update your handbook to ensure that it is still fit for purpose too!

For help with managing absence, reviewing handbooks, or even supporting you through the disciplinary process, contact us to discuss how we can help protect your business and manage your staff.

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