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Track runner jumping over hurdles

Summer 2014: World of Sport.

Date: 20/06/2014 | Employment & HR

Summer 2014 sees a world of sporting events hit UK shores.

With the World Cup currently dominating the evening TV schedules and the imminent arrival of the Tour de France in Yorkshire and then Scotland hosting both the Commonwealth Games in late July and the Ryder Cup in September, there is certainly a lot of sport to look forward to this summer.

But what effect will this have on your workforce?

Absence procedure
For one thing, employees may wish to take time off – perhaps to volunteer, perhaps to spectate, perhaps to recover from a 2am kick off in Brazil – resulting in an increase in planned and unplanned absence. There are a number of ways employers may wish to approach this, but the common rationale underlying them all should be to avoid doubt.

Some employers may wish to relax rules – such as allowing for temporary adjusted working hours/shift patterns or additional unpaid leave. Given that these events take place during the summer months, employers should also take care not to prejudice those workers who may not have any desire to take time off to enjoy sporting events, but wish to take usual leave for holidays etc. In order to accommodate everyone, it may be wise to hold discussions with the workforce as a whole (or their representatives) to determine the most suitable way forward. Once introduced, the process for requesting additional leave/adjustment of hours should be clearly set out, as should the time period for which it is effective.

For those employers who cannot afford such flexibility, an open and preventative stance is highly advisable. Employees should be reminded of existing absence request procedures, unauthorised absence reporting procedure and, perhaps most importantly, disciplinary procedure, before major sporting events are underway. With one YouGov poll reporting as many as 1 in 4 men aged 24-34 may take unauthorised leave over the World Cup period, making a clear statement as to how such absences will be treated ahead of time, may go some way to avoiding the situation altogether.

Issues may arise as to conduct of those employees who continue to work during these periods. Workers should be made aware that coming in late, under the influence of alcohol or otherwise unable to work will not be overlooked and will have the usual consequences under disciplinary procedure.

Other policies which employees may need reminding of are existing procedures on use of social media and data. With many events taking place during working hours, some workers may be tempted to either stream these online or comment on social media which – notwithstanding the effect this will have on performance – may be in breach of social media acceptable use policies, or have an effect on internet speeds. Again, flagging up these potential issues in advance could go a long way to avoiding them completely and ACAS have recommended that employers make employees aware if they plan to monitor internet usage during this period.

Clearly then, from a workplace perspective, the key to enjoying this remarkable summer of sport is to take a clear and open stance. There is certainly value in terms of morale and performance to allowing for greater flexibility over this period, but where this is not feasible, or in areas such as conduct where there is simply no question of allowing standards to slip, this may be a good time to remind employees of standards and practices.

ACAS have issued specific guidelines for employers regarding the World Cup, which can be found at http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=2953. If you are considering flexible working options, wish to update your existing procedures or have any other concerns arising from this article, please do not hesitate to contact Davidson Chalmers’ Employment Team, who will be happy to provide their advice and assistance.

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/money/work-blog/2014/jun/10/flexible-working-during-world-cup.

Further Information.
Davidson Chalmers are specialists in employment law, providing clients with a first-rate, cost-effective and personal service. If you would like further details about these changes to UK employment law then please do not hesitate to contact Davidson Chalmers’ Employment Team, who will be happy to provide their advice and assistance.

The matter in this publication is based on our current understanding of the law.  The information provides only an overview of the law in force at the date hereof and has been produced for general information purposes only. Professional advice should always be sought before taking any action in reliance of the information. Accordingly, Davidson Chalmers LLP does not take any responsibility for losses incurred by any person through acting or failing to act on the basis of anything contained in this publication. 

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