How to prevent your staff getting sent off this World Cup.
It is a standing joke that every employment law blog should, at some point, carry an article on two particular topics. One, usually to be published annually in late November is on the perils of the office Christmas party. The second, and more modern example, is to produce an article on how employers should handle large sporting events such as World Cups or the Olympics.
If this blog has now fallen victim to that joke then so be it, but so too have ACAS, the Advice Conciliation and Arbitration Service who published guidance earlier this month on this very subject and offer very helpful guidance on all manner of workplace issues.
Showing an eye for a good soundbite, ACAS Chairman Sir Brendan Barber said “the World Cup is an exciting event for many football fans but staff should avoid getting a red card for unreasonable demands or behaviour in the workplace during this period”.
Leaving aside the obvious urge to send Sir Brendan back to the changing rooms, ACAS offer some useful pointers for employers in how to handle the next four weeks.
The games are generally scheduled to take place between 1 pm and 8 pm during the week and ACAS recommends that employers show flexibility to staff when allowing employees leave during this period. On the other hand, employees should be reminded that it is not always possible to take time off, particularly during core working hours. Consistency to requests is vital and employers should remember that not all staff like football but may wish to take time off for other reasons. For that reason employers need to demonstrate consistency in granting requests for time off.
ACAS recommend that attendance at work continues to be monitored in line with the employer’s attendance policy. The risk of post-match hangovers is likely to be increased but, again, consistency needs to be adopted if disciplinary proceedings are envisaged. To avoid those sorts of difficulties arising, it may be wise for an employer to adopt a degree of flexibility in relation to working hours after big matches. It may be that a particular match, perhaps one involving England although this is unlikely, could be used as an office wide “team bonding event” although again remember that not all members of staff like football.
No guidance on workplace behaviour is complete these days without a reminder about the use of social media. Beware what is tweeted or posted during the euphoria of a win or the depths of defeat. Being rude about Cristiano Ronaldo may be socially acceptable, but don’t do it on the company’s Twitter feed. For games that are happening during working hours, if employees are tempted to go for a drink, they should be reminded of the company’s policy on alcohol consumption during working hours, if one exists.
The ACAS guidance can be found atwww.acas.org.uk.