Healys' employment law solicitor, Victoria Regan, considers how a major sporting event can affect a business.
The FIFA World Cup 2010 is only days away, running from 11 June 2010 to 11 July 2010, but many employers are still unprepared and yet to consider how best to minimise the level of disruption within the workplace and to manage staff who want to watch and celebrate the football.
Employers need to take steps now to limit the level of disruption to business and to protect themselves against FIFA Fever.
- Policies and procedures
If you have not already done so, now is the time to be checking the policies and procedures that you have in place, relating to annual leave and sickness absence. Obviously you are the best judges as to how your staff will react, and whether it would be appropriate, but you may want to send either an internal memo or email notification to all members of staff to inform them of the positive measures that you are taking to enable them to enjoy the World Cup, to remind them of the polices that are in place and also to explain to them that any failure to adhere to these policies will potentially result in disciplinary action e.g. if they attend work late or not at all without prior authorisation.
- Requests and rights to take time off
There is obviously not a statutory right to take time off to watch the World Cup, however, you should consider how you are going to deal with any requests. Simply refusing requests without due reason will only succeed in breeding ill feeling within the workplace and may ultimately prove unproductive.
Having reviewed the procedures that you have in place relating to annual leave, it will also be necessary to decide upon what arrangement your company will be prepared to accept and how best to deal with leave requests e.g some businesses may decide to operate this on a ‘first come first served' basis.
In the absence of an annual leave policy, under the Working Time Regulations 1998, employees are expected to provide their employer with notice that is equivalent to twice the number of days that they are seeking to take. You can refuse any such request, so long as you give notice equivalent to the number of leave days that have been requested.
Whatever arrangement you adopt, it is essential that you apply this equally and fairly. You may also wish to give further thoughts as to whether you are prepared to apply these arrangements to other major sporting events e.g. Wimbledon, Test Matches, Olympics.
- Alternative/flexible working arrangements
You may wish to consider introducing temporary flexible working practices, allowing employees to take longer breaks or to leave early in order to watch a particular match on the basis that they make the time up, or alternatively to take longer breaks to watch parts of other matches. You may also allow employees to swap their shifts with other colleagues. If you are intending to agree to this, it would be advisable to ensure that any changes are monitored to ensure that this is not abused.
If an employee has exhausted their annual leave entitlement, you may wish to agree to allow them to take the time off as unpaid leave. It is important that you check their contracts of employment.
- TV/radio/internet at work
You may wish to adopt the "if you can't beat them join them" approach and allow staff to watch matches at work or allow them to listen to their radio in the background.
If you are happy to do this, it is important that you make it clear that this is being allowed on an entirely discretionary basis. It would be advisable to revisit your alcohol at work policy, remind employees of this and ensure that it is not abused. There may also be health and safety considerations to bear in mind, especially if employees operate machinery. You do not want to find that you are vicariously liable for any personal injury claims as a result of an employee's drunken conduct!
The level of internet usage may well be dependant upon the content of your policies, some employers may prohibit internet use outright whilst others allow reasonable access and/or only during lunch periods. You should make it clear to employees what level of access, if any, is acceptable and furthermore specify at what point in the day and the length of time when use is permitted.
- Dealing with absenteeism/FIFA "sickies" and Disciplinary Issues
You may experience an increase in employee absenteeism or ‘sickness' as a result of over indulgence the evening before. Staff should be reminded that absence and misuse of alcohol be will unacceptable, as will be attending work the following day still under the influence and incapable of performing their duties. You should remind staff that disciplinary action will be taken in respect of unauthorised absence without good reason or being unable to perform duties or misbehaving at work.
If you suspect that any absence is not genuine, you may wish to arrange a return to work interview with the employee and investigate the matter thoroughly. If an employee has failed to attend work without notification, this may well entitle you to commence an internal disciplinary procedure. If disciplinary action is necessary, you must remember to follow the ACAS Code of Conduct to ensure that a fair procedure is applied. Proper procedures and investigations will limit liability for disability discrimination or unfair dismissal claims.
Avoid any breach of contract claims by reviewing your contract of employment to see if there is a contractual obligation to pay sick pay. In the absence of a contractual entitlement, statutory sick pay does not commence until day 4 of any sickness absence.
In the event that a member of staff is arrested and/or convicted for (alleged) hooliganism, it will still be necessary for you to undertake your own investigation and fair procedures. It is not acceptable to simply dismiss an employee on the grounds of gross misconduct without having conducted a fair investigation, allowed the employee the opportunity to explain and furthermore to consider what, if any, repercussions there will be on your business.
For all your employment law needs, please contact employment law solicitor Nicholas Evans (email@example.com) or by telephone 020 7822 4141.