Dealing With "Sporting Sickies"

24 May 2018

by Louisa Gardner

Merger or Messi? Filing or Fellaini? With the festivities of the world cup to hit us next month perhaps now is as good a time as any to consider whether a workplace policy for major sporting events is necessary and what points should be considered.

Many employers may be concerned in the lead up to such a sporting event that instances of absenteeism will increase as staff take ‘sickies’ to watch the match or recover from the one the night before. Ahead of the 2016 Euros a survey completed by Robert Half found that 73% of UK Human Resources Directors believed employees are likely to skip a day of work following or during a tournament match while 21% of respondents considered it to be ‘very likely’. There is currently no legal requirement for employers to give employees time off for such events but could a flexible approach yield potential benefits with minimal disruption to the business?

In an audit of 1000 Managers carried out by the Institute of Leadership and Management following the London Olympics in 2012, 48% of those interviewed confirmed increased morale within the workplace. Amongst those interviewed, 41% allowed staff to watch the Olympics at the office. From that number over a third (37%) confirmed an increase in productivity as a result with 67% stating that the staff within the workplace bonded over a shared experience.

ACAS advice suggests that flexibility from both employers and employees throughout the event period is key to sustaining a productive business and engaged workforce. Suggesting that before the event, agreements should be in place with regards to working hours, annual leave or even the possibility of watching the event live. Having an open discussion with employees means that employers can also ensure that all are reminded of the correct procedure for requesting holidays, how many staff members can be on leave at the same time and the consequences of unauthorised absences. Such discussions could also confirm whether flexible hours, altered start/finish times or amended break periods would be approved. Employers should be clear and consistent with any discussions and it may be worthwhile recapping the relevant Drug and Alcohol Policies as well as Internet and Social Media Policies to ensure that no members of staff get carried away.

In the spirit of fairness, employers should always take into consideration those members of staff who don’t have a penchant for sporting events to ensure that they do not face an increased workload and are not put at a disadvantage. Employers should also consider members of staff who may support an international team.

Overall, while each workplace carries its own requirements with regards to staffing management, where appropriate sporting events can provide an excellent opportunity for staff engagement – ultimately contributing positively to the success of the business and potentially reducing the phenomenon of ‘sporting sickies’.


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