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Give Work Place Absenteeism the Red CardGive Work Place Absenteeism the Red Card

» Posted on: 22 May 2014

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In a mere three weeks' time, thirty two teams will begin their challenge for the World Cup title in Brazil. With sixty three matches due to be played before the competition's final in 13 July, it is time for employers to ensure they give work place absenteeism The Red Card.

Surprising statistics

It has been suggested in recent reports that one in ten staff will skip work during the tournament, with as many as one in four 25-34 year old men taking unauthorised absence to either watch a game or recover from the excesses of the night before.

While the timing of the games means that most of the football will not be played during normal office hours, employers nevertheless need to plan ahead to minimise disruption. It is anticipated that almost all employers are likely to encounter some problems, with issues such as over-demand of time off, maintaining staff levels, inappropriate sickness absence or misuse of the internet at work.

Steps to take

There are a number of steps employers can take to reduce the risk of employees "pulling sickies" on or following match days:-

Communicate to employees: send a memo to all employees explaining the company's plans and expectations during the World Cup period.

Be fair but firm: Warn employees about the rules and procedures in place for dealing with any absences.

  • Make it clear that employees absent without authorisation will not be paid for the time not worked;
  • Remind employees about the impact of celebratory/commiserative drinking and potential breach of any substance misuse policies. Even if they do manage to drag themselves to work, they may be driving to work and operating machinery under the influence, not to mention that their productivity may suffer and the standard of work may slip.
  • Implement return to work interviews for every absent employee on their return to work (even if this was not the prior practice).

Consider policies: It is important that employers have clear policies that are fairly applied in the context of staffing levels. Consider whether there are flexible working options that you can employ which might allow staff to follow these sporting events but that will still meet staffing needs. For example, early or later start or finish times to the working day, job-sharing or revised work patterns. Consider whether home-working is a feasible option. Think about how you will deal with any requests from staff for such arrangements. Will a pre-existing flexible working policy or home-working policy provide a suitable framework?

Encourage annual leave: Encourage employees to book holidays on the match dates they wish to watch or the day after the match if they intend on a late night. Remind them that whilst annual leave will not be unreasonably refused, minimum staffing levels must be maintained.

Screenings: Consider allowing employees to watch key matches on a TV in the canteen or other communal area. This is a relatively easy way to give office-based employees access to the games in real time. In organisations where staff work set shifts, you may want to try to accommodate requests when allocating shifts to staff and/or allow staff to swap shifts between themselves providing they obtain prior management consent. Employers may also allow staff to take time off to watch matches outside the workplace by starting late or finishing early with the requirement to make up the time at a later date.

Engage with employees: Consider encouraging employees to bring in flags and banners and allowing employees to wear their team's shirt on match days.

Beware of discrimination: Of course, many employees will have no interest at all in the World Cup. It is important to ensure you do not discriminate against, for example, those employees who may not be interested in football and also, members of staff who may not want to watch the England team matches, in the way that requests for time off or flexible working to watch matches are handled.

Don't let your business be left of the sidelines: Being prepared is key! This should not be an obstacle to productivity but an opportunity to engage in goodwill and improve the ethos and morale amongst the workforce.

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