Warnings of employee absences during big sporting tournaments are familiar articles in business and HR publications, but it was a news bulletin very much absent itself last year as the pandemic put pay to most events.
However, with the Euros warming up and a summer of sport actually set to happen this year, fans are already enjoying the familiar feeling of celebrating or commiserating en masse.
Now, experts are once again advising on how to carefully manage approaches to absences during these and other major sporting events this summer to encourage productivity and build goodwill with their workforce.
It is not uncommon for businesses to report a higher amount of staff sickness and other absences during major events but the advice is that employers shouldn’t always jump to conclusions.
Nicola Callaghan, managing director of HR Caddy, said: “Perhaps this year, more so than ever before, there is a real buzz about top sporting events like Wimbledon, Euro 2020 and the upcoming Olympics.
“Despite this, employers must not assume that every unexpected absence or poor productivity on the day of a big match is the result of an employee ‘pulling a sickie’ or being distracted.”
Nicola said that without clear evidence of this being the case employers could leave themselves open to a grievance or potentially even legal action from employees.
She added: “If there is a clear misuse of company time or there is a real drop off in performance then an employer is within their rights to bring this up with the person involved, as they are at any time, but they shouldn’t be too overreaching in the way that they monitor staff or be too quick to take action without the facts to back up any allegations.”
HR Caddy said that instead of seeking to punish poor behaviour they should encourage staff to act appropriately by providing incentives and acting flexibly.
“In some cases, it might be something as easy as allowing staff to have a screening in the workplace or to put the radio on, where it is safe and legal to do so,” said Nicola.
“Employers can also offer greater flexibility with working hours, asking staff to make up time, where they have asked to watch a particular game.
“Rather than trying to enforce tough rules, it can often be easier to discuss these issues with employees and find solutions that meet the needs of everyone – including offering similar breaks and allowances to those with no interest in sports.”
HR Caddy said that many employers had learned a lot about flexibility within the last year and that these lessons could be applied to other challenging situations in future, including the management of absences during big events.