Football's Coming Home - World Cup 2014 - Absence & Issues

Football's Coming Home - Absence and Issues during World Cup 2014 - 
The football World Cup 2014 commences on 12th June 2014 in Brazil. The first England game is scheduled for 14th June. Employers will face demands for time off or an ability to follow the games whilst at work. How should you deal with them?

Annual Leave Requests - employers should be consistent and fair in dealing with requests. Either a "First come, first served" basis or a rota should be employed. However, care should be taken to avoid discrimination on grounds of sex, race or any other protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. If employees have insufficient leave then unpaid leave could be granted at the employee's discretion.

Watching Whilst At Work - employers could allow staff to watch the game on a TV at work (if there is a licence) or follow the game on the internet during breaks, after work or in the background. The employer should emphasise that any abuse, e.g. racist behaviour, or significant disruption to work would lead to the privilege being withdrawn and, dependent on the level of abuse and an investigation, possible disciplinary action. Unless an authorised works event, alcohol should be expressly forbidden with disciplinary proceedings for any breach.

Absent Without Leave? - refusal of leave may result in an employee taking a "sickie" to watch the game. Current case law allows employees to re-categorise holiday as "sickness" and reclaim the holiday entitlement. However, careful legal advice should be sought before acting. Employers should be slow to rush to a negative conclusion. A proper and fair investigation should follow in the shape of a return to work interview with the production of medical evidence.

We can all enjoy this sporting event and employers can, if carefully handled, minimise impact on the business and maintain, as well as foster, staff goodwill. If there is a potential issue take timely legal advice before acting.

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