World Cup ‘Fever’?!

Raworths Solicitors HarrogateThere are two important issues facing employers from 11 June to 11 July 2010 with World Cup fever – how to diagnose, and how to prevent an epidemic!

Most employers will already have the necessary treatments in place; a sickness absence policy and procedure and flexible working arrangements.  If you don’t have these already you may want to consider introducing them, at least for that month.

The anticipated problems are:

increased requests for holiday which you may not be able to accommodate for all;
employees who call in sick on those days when the matches are scheduled;
those employees who call in sick the day after due to the excesses of celebration or commiseration claiming to be ‘off sick’.

The easiest and most rewarding approach for both employee and employer (if it can be done) is to agree some kind of flexible approach.  This is the most effective way to reduce disruption to your business and engender some appreciation from employees. If you can accommodate half-day holiday requests or consider special unpaid leave requests that is one option.   In granting these you will have to adopt a fair and consistent approach, i.e. on a rota basis.  Alternatively, if there is a T.V (with licence!!) or radio available within the workplace and your business can accommodate the absence of employees during a match, then lunchtimes could be deferred until the match starts and an agreement made to make up the additional time over and above the standard lunchtime, at the start or the end of that day.  This must be clearly communicated and understood by all concerned.  Be prepared for other sport fans to make a similar request when their major sporting event approaches!

If this level of flexibility is not an option because the needs of the business, then, once again, how you intend to deal with unauthorised absence or reported sickness must be clearly communicated to all employees in advance or at least as soon as possible.  Your sickness absence policy will be a crucial document for this approach and if you do not have one, now is the time to put one in place.

In addition to your normal policy you may want employees to know that any absence due to sickness during this timeframe, even a day, will need to be supported by a doctor’s certificate.  You will need to add this into your policy for this period of time.  As that is an increased requirement (the statutory position requires a doctor’s certificate after 7 days absence), you will be required to cover the cost of GP’s certificate (£10 approximately).

If an employee calls in sick and does not have a medical certificate or simply fails to attend work, they need to know that such an absence will constitute an ‘unauthorised absence’ and will result in disciplinary action. Equally, if anyone attends work and is, in the manager’s opinion, under the influence of alcohol that will also be a disciplinary offence and will be dealt with pursuant to your disciplinary policy.

Once communicated by email, letter or memorandum to employees they can be in no doubt how such matters will be treated and dealt with.  You need to be consistent in your approach so that all staff, whether male or female, suspected football fan or not, are treated in the same way.

The reason you are advising employees of such issues in advance is so that the change in your current policy is communicated and deemed fair and reasonable when you seek to rely on it but, most importantly, to try and prevent the absences in the first place and thereby reduce the disruption to your business.

If you require any assistance with a sickness absence policy, or amending the one you have to take account of such circumstances please contact us we will be happy to assist.

Deborah Boylan, Employment law specialist at Raworths solicitors Harrogate

Deborah Boylan, Employment law specialist solicitor advises on 'World Cup fever'

Deborah Boylan is head of the Employment Unit at Raworths LLP, a partner and a qualified mediator. Please telephone 01423 566666 or visit our offices at Eton House, 89 Station Parade, Harrogate HG1 1HF. Or visit our website on www.raworths.co.uk or email deborah.boylan@raworths.co.uk

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