With the World Cup beginning on the 11 June, hopes and dreams will be placed upon the national team doing well and of course lifting the Cup on 11 July. Inevitably the talk around the water cooler will be centred on football but what other impact is this month of sport going to have on the workplace?
With matches kicking off during the normal working day, many employees may be tempted to spend work time following the games especially as live games can be accessed over the internet. Employees may prefer to watch matches somewhere other than the workplace. So what should employers look out for?
Trip to South Africa – Annual Leave
An employee is entitled to up to 28 days annual leave (including bank holidays) and therefore may request to take holiday when the matches are on. But does the employee have an automatic right to take annual leave whenever they want? The answer is no – an employee must give the employer notice that they want to take annual leave, but the employer does not have to grant the request.
Extra time – Unauthorised absence
If an employee takes time off without prior permission from his employer, this may amount to unauthorised absence and may lead to disciplinary action. It is important to refer to company policies and the employee’s contract of employment to see whether this situation has been specifically dealt with. The employer may take the view that as the employee has not undertaken work as required by their contract of employment, they should not be paid for the period of their absence. The employer will need to make sure they know the reason for the employee’s absence before taking any action as there may be a legitimate reason for the absence.
Injury time – Sick Leave
An employee may also try to “pull a sickie” to avoid coming to work, either during the game, or because of the after effects of an evening spent celebrating/commiserating. Again, reference should be made to company policies and the employee’s contract of employment. If the employer is sure that the sickness absence is not genuine, then they may be able to take disciplinary action against the employee.
Fantasy Football League – Internet Use
For those employees who have come to work during the game, the temptation to keep an eye on the score may be too much and they may spend the afternoon on the internet. Once again, reference to policies should be made as failure to follow the internet policy could lead to disciplinary action. As a general rule employees should give their work full attention, failure to do this in itself could lead to disciplinary action.
Yellow cards – Am I going to spend all summer disciplining people?
If your policies are clear, hopefully your employees will not spend the World Cup month slacking off and pulling sickies. But there are ways to work with your employees during this period. For example, making sure your employees are aware of the policies before 11 June, offering flexible working, screening matches in the office, or using the World Cup as an opportunity to implement team building and morale boosting by uniting members of staff in the national game.
WAGS – What about everyone else?
Remember many employees will not be in the slight bit interested in football, and may feel aggrieved that their colleagues are getting special treatment. Also bear in mind that those who are left in the office with the burden of colleagues’ work may feel resentful. There is a danger that a disgruntled employee may claim sex discrimination, on the basis that stereotypically football fans tend to be men. This may also apply if flexible working is temporarily offered, as mothers will be more likely to seek flexible working patterns.
You will also need to remember that there are many 32 nations competing, and therefore it will not only be your English employees who may want time off, treating one nationality differently may lead to an allegation of race discrimination. You will also need to ensure that there is no harassment on the grounds of race – whilst a minor amount of teasing might be permissible in the circumstances, you should be careful to ensure this does not lead to continued bullying or harassment.
This article was written by Harriet Broughton from Bevans Solicitors, who have offices in Bristol and London.