Staff absence advice for sporting events

With the FIFA World Cup just around the corner, employers need to keep an eye out for staff absences caused by these sporting events. Find out what you can do to encourage employees to enjoy the celebrations, without disrupting your business.

With the start of the World Cup just around the corner and the country set to be gripped by football mania, employers need to keep an eye out for staff absences prompted by the beautiful game.

England’s Group D fixtures, for the most part, will be taking place well after office hours, but it may be useful for employers to make a note of the following dates to help you plan in advance and to look out for an increase in absences:

14 June 2014 – England v Italy, Arena Amazonia, Manaus, 23:00 (BBC)
19 June 2014 – Uruguay v England, Arena de Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, 20:00 (ITV)
24 June 2014 – Costa Rica v England, Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte, 17:00 (ITV)

As an employer you have a number of options open to you: 

Use annual leave

Invite staff to book annual leave if they wish to watch sporting fixtures that occur during work time. Encourage staff to book holidays with sufficient notice if they are going to need time off. This will help you to plan ahead for any staff shortages. You could also offer unpaid leave if you have enough staff to cover absences.

Allow flexible working

Let employees leave early to watch sporting fixtures, but ask them to either start earlier, finish later or a combination of both on the same or another day during that week to make up the missing time. Other flexible approaches include allowing staff to swap shifts, if feasible.

Do nothing

You could take the view that any unauthorised absence is just that and, if staff choose to be absent on that day without taking a holiday, they leave themselves open to disciplinary action.

Watching sporting events at work 

Screening sports at work

Install a TV screen or projector screen so that employees can watch a game and use the occasion as a team-building event, so no one has to take days off. Or, if you don’t have a TV, let them listen to it on the radio. However, you should be aware with either of these options that you will need either a TV licence or a licence from the Performing Rights Society for radio use. And remember, not everyone will enjoy watching sports, so be mindful of others when making arrangements.

Use it as a perk

While you have no obligation to cater for your employees’ sporting interests, you could aid motivation by using an hour or two’s time off to watch a sporting event as an incentive, perhaps based upon individual or group performance.

Review your internet policy

Employees may try to watch sporting events online or follow instant updates on news and social media sites, so you should remind them of your internet use and monitoring policies. It is up to you to decide whether you’re happy for your employees to keep track of events online; this might cause less disruption than people taking time off, but it is worth bearing in mind that if staff are streaming live sporting fixtures on a company-owned computer, you should have a TV licence to do so.

Remember that not all employees will be supporting the England team. So, to avoid any discrimination, it will be important that, whatever you decide to do, you offer the same concessions to all employees who wish to watch fixtures involving their chosen country.