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  • 1. Sporting events: an employer’s guide Each year, the sporting calendar will include events that attract the interest of the nation’s workforce such as the World Cup football tournament or the Olympic Games. Employers need to think carefully about how their employees can follow such events while ensuring the day-to-day running of their business is not adversely affected. Issues that may arise include: a large proportion of staff requesting annual leave at the same time; a higher level of employee absence (eg an employee being too hung-over to attend work); and criminal conduct such as employees being involved in football hooliganism. This XpertHR model policy can be used to deal with absence and other issues arising at the time of sporting or other special events. The policy covers: introduction time off work flexibility in working time unauthorised absence facilities for watching the event at work For more information drinking or being under the influence of alcohol at work criminal conduct outside work or to request a demonstration Call 020 8652 4653 (quote “Sporting Events”) Law relating to the policy Email enquiries@xperthr.co.uk Go to XpertHR’s book a demo form Links to further resources from XpertHR www.xperthr.co.uk
  • 2. Policy wording Introduction The aim of this policy is to set out rules and guidance for all staff on what is expected and what concessions may be granted when a sporting or other special event is taking place, for example the Olympic Games, the football or rugby World Cup, or a wedding or funeral of national significance. The Company recognises that employees may wish to take time off at or around the time of major events (such as the football World Cup) and that this may be very important to some individuals. Any concessions granted to employees and/or flexibility in working hours implemented for the duration of a sporting or other special event will be temporary measures, and are a privilege, rather than a right, for staff. This policy is non-contractual and management reserves the right to amend or withdraw it at any time. Time off work Employees who wish to take time off work around the time of a sporting or other special event should book annual leave in the normal way, as set out in the Company’s holiday policy. Employees should apply for such annual leave well in advance of the event. However, in the case of sporting or other special events, the Company may, at its discretion, also consider late requests for time off work, including half days. The Company will, whenever possible, seek to grant the time off that employees request and will grant holiday leave on a first-come, first-served basis. However, employees should note that the Company must maintain a minimum level of staffing at all times for both operational and safety reasons. It follows that if the organisation (or a particular department or section) receives a large number of requests for annual leave at the same time, some of them may have to be refused. In these circumstances, managers will endeavour to be as fair as possible to all staff. Flexibility in working time During special events, the Company will, if it is possible to do so without creating operational difficulties, permit flexibility in start and finish times for employees who wish it for the duration of a designated special event. For events that begin around midday, employees may request to take a longer lunch-break with working time being made up as appropriate. Similarly, if an event is scheduled to begin in the late afternoon/early evening, management may permit employees who request it to leave work up to an hour earlier than their normal finishing time to enable them to watch the event at home or elsewhere. This will be on the basis that an employee who seeks such flexibility must: obtain his/her line manager’s permission in advance for any and all variations to his/her working hours; and agree to make up any lost time within [one/two weeks] at a time designated or approved by his/her line manager. Employees may also request a shift swap. They can, with their manager’s permission, swap one or more shifts with a colleague, subject always to health and safety provisions. Although flexibility in working time will be granted whenever possible, employees must understand that there may be business-based reasons why it cannot be granted. If that is the case, employees will be notified of this and required to continue to work normally. Employees should note that any variations to working time, however minor, require the prior approval of the employee’s line manager. www.xperthr.co.uk 2
  • 3. Unauthorised absence Levels of attendance at work will be monitored, and any employee who is absent from work without permission on the day of a major sporting or other important event, and who does not subsequently provide medical evidence or some other acceptable explanation for his/her absence, will be subject to formal disciplinary action. Unauthorised or unjustified absences or lateness will not be tolerated and disciplinary action will be taken against any employee who takes time off work without permission, without providing proper notification or without good reason. Disciplinary action may also be taken against any employee who, following an authorised day’s holiday on the date of a special event, fails to turn up for work at the proper time the following day. Facilities for watching the event at work The Company may, at its discretion, provide access to a television in a designated communal area in the event that a major sporting match or other important event is being televised during working hours. Employees must nevertheless always obtain permission from their line manager before leaving their work station to watch the event at work. Time off to watch the event will be granted only where it does not cause any disruption to the employee’s work, or inconvenience to customers or other employees. Where employees are permitted to watch the event on television, they may, at the Company’s discretion, be required to make up the lost work time. Similarly, the Company may, at its discretion, vary its policy on use of the internet during a major event to allow employees to watch the event on their workplace computers. Again, this is not a right and employees must obtain express permission from their line manager before accessing or watching any special event on the internet at work. Drinking or being under the influence of alcohol at work Where the Company has provided access for employees to a television in a communal area at the time of a major sporting tournament or other special event, employees will not under any circumstances be permitted to bring any alcoholic beverages with them to drink while watching the event. In line with the Company’s disciplinary rules, if (during the time of a special event) an employee should turn up to work under the influence of alcohol, or be caught drinking alcohol during working hours [including during a lunch break], this will be regarded as gross misconduct potentially leading to summary dismissal from the Company. Criminal conduct outside work Where an employee commits a criminal offence in the course of his/her time off work to attend a sporting or other special event, for example being drunk and disorderly at a public event or being involved in football hooliganism, the Company reserves the right to take disciplinary action (up to and including summary dismissal) against the employee, even though the conduct will have occurred outside of work and in the employee’s own time. In these circumstances, the Company will listen to the employee’s explanations regarding the offence and follow fair procedures before taking a decision as to what (if any) action to take. www.xperthr.co.uk 3
  • 4. Law relating to the policy Leading statutory authority Sex Discrimination Act 1975 Race Relations Act 1976 Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/1660) Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006 (SI 2006/1031) Working Time Regulations 1998 (SI 1998/1833) The biggest concern for employers when a major event is taking place is likely to arise where the scheduling of the event overlaps with employees’ working hours, for example an important football match taking place and being televised during working hours. Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, employees have the right to take up to 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave (which can include public holidays). Employees may also be entitled to additional holiday under their contracts of employment, which may also set out the procedures for booking and taking holiday. The Working Time Regulations 1998 provide that in the absence of any provision in the contract a worker wishing to take holiday should give notice to the employer that is equal to twice the number of days’ leave that he or she wishes to take. The Regulations also allow the employer to veto the holiday dates requested provided that it gives notice equal to the number of days requested that the worker should not be absent on those particular days. This provision provides employers with flexibility where, for example, a number of employees apply to take the same days off and where, for operational reasons, this cannot be accommodated. Where an employee takes time off work without authority, the employer will be entitled, following an investigation, to regard the matter as misconduct potentially leading to disciplinary action against the employee. Where an employee is granted time off work and, in the course of that time off, commits a criminal offence, for example by being drunk and disorderly, committing assault or being involved in hooliganism at a public football match, the employer will need to give careful consideration as to whether or not disciplinary action (and possibly dismissal) would be appropriate. It would be immaterial whether the offence was committed in Britain or overseas. Whether or not dismissal is a reasonable response will depend on the particular facts. Before deciding what action to take, the responsible manager should take into account the employee’s job duties and level of seniority and assess whether or not the particular conduct is likely to have an impact on the employee’s ability to do his or her job. It is reasonable to assume that higher standards can be expected of senior employees and those who deal directly with the organisation’s customers/clients. If there is a report in the press about the charge and the organisation is mentioned in the report, thus causing bad publicity, there may be stronger grounds for dismissing the employee. For the purposes of defending a claim in an employment tribunal, the dismissal would be for “some other substantial reason” since the employee’s conduct will have brought the organisation’s name into disrepute, even though he or she may not have breached any company rules. When considering requests for flexibility and/or time off, employers should also bear in mind the need for equality of treatment for men and women, employees of different nationalities and religions, and employees in different age groups. Managers should not make assumptions about the sexes, for example by assuming that only men will want to watch football matches. Similarly, care should be taken not to favour men (or younger employees) in terms of any privileges granted to staff during a sporting event. Additionally, where the employer has decided to screen popular football or other sporting matches within the workplace, it should not automatically assume that only matches involving, for example, England will be of interest to staff. Staff of different nationalities (including Scottish, Welsh and Irish employees) should be given equal consideration. www.xperthr.co.uk 4
  • 5. Relevant case law Post Office v Liddiard [2001] All ER (D) 46 (Jun) CA The employee, a postman, was convicted of football hooliganism in France following a clash between rival supporters. He was tried and convicted in France and sentenced to 40 days’ imprisonment. The activities of the football hooligans subsequently received a great deal of publicity in a UK national newspaper’s “name and shame“ campaign. Mr Liddiard was dismissed on the ground that he had brought the Post Office’s name into disrepute. The Court of Appeal decided that the dismissal was fair due largely to the adverse press publicity (rather than the employee’s conviction). The employer had been entitled to take into account newspaper coverage of the matter to support the decision to dismiss. Notes Surveys have suggested that during the football World Cup and other major sporting events there is a greater tendency for employees to phone in sick. This may be due to employees taking time off to attend or watch a game, or being too hung-over to get into work the next day. Warning Employers that provide employees with access to a television at the workplace should consider offering a different perk for those staff who do not wish to watch the event, and may otherwise feel disadvantaged. An example could be equivalent flexibility in working time on the days in question. More information on XpertHR If you found this policy useful, you may also be interested in the following XpertHR content: Model holiday policy Model shift-swap policy Model e-mail and internet policy for employees Line manager briefing on timekeeping From the XpertHR FAQs section Where an employer suspects that an employee is working under the influence of alcohol, what action can it take? How should employers treat the problem of employees not coming in to work on the day following a work-related social event? Can workers take holiday whenever they like? Can an employer refuse holiday requests during a particular period? See Working hours for the full range of XpertHR policies and documents on working hours. Request a demonstration XpertHR is the most cost-effective online information source for good practice, compliance and benchmarking for HR professionals. Let us show you how XpertHR can immediately benefit your organisation by requesting a demonstration today. Call 020 8652 4653 (quote “Sporting Events”) Email enquiries @ xperthr.co.uk © Reed Business Information Go to XpertHR’s book a demo form www.xperthr.co.uk 5