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Major sporting events and employee absence risk

It is often commonplace that with any international and well-followed sporting event, employment issues arise whereby employers are required to tackle short notice annual leave requests in addition to ensuring that business needs are adequately covered. This situation could potentially result in unauthorised absence or the abuse of sickness leave as a result of having to reject holiday requests.

Although major sporting events, such as the Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Champions League and Premier League, tend to be held later in the evening on weekdays or at weekends, you may have employees or workers who are contracted to work during those times.

This short guide explains how you should deal with annual leave requests for sporting events and how you should respond to any suspicious sickness absence.

Dealing with annual leave requests for major sporting events

As per the Working Time Regulations 1998, if an employee wishes to take time off, they must give double the amount of notice of the requested holiday period (for example one day’s holiday will require two days’ notice). You can increase this period by implementing an annual leave policy as part of the employee’s contract of employment, however, it is important that you are consistent in enforcing it to minimise the risk of tribunal claims being brought against you.

It is also worthwhile sending communications to staff members in advance of major sporting events, reminding them of the notice that you require for any upcoming leave and highlighting that any misconduct will be dealt with under the appropriate policy.

Sickness absence and misconduct

If you have reason to suspect that an employee’s sickness is not genuine, you should investigate the situation by undertaking a return to work interview and investigating any allegations or evidence put forward.

Alternatively, in the instance of unauthorised leave, immediate action should be taken to explore your business’ next steps and to possibly initiate disciplinary action.

It is important to take the correct steps when dealing with sickness absence and we strongly advise that you contact a solicitor to assist you in investigating the matter.

Minimising disruption and maintaining morale

Alternative solutions are worth exploring to maintain morale with employees. By providing other options for staff, you could potentially avoid any disciplinaries, dismissals or tribunals.

Where appropriate, it may be worth allowing employees to watch or listen to the sporting event whilst they are at work or allow them to temporarily adjust their shift breaks.

You should also take the opportunity to review your internet and information technology policies to check whether viewing major sporting events on a work computer is covered and whether your business would seek to allow this based on productivity and health and safety.

If you need help with managing absences during major sporting events, contact our Employment team by calling 01332 227 596.

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