With Euro 2024 having already begun and the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games just around the corner, it certainly is a summer to look forward to for sports fans. For employers, however, these major sporting events can lead to disruption and decreased productivity, especially as many of the events are televised during working hours. It’s important to take a proactive and practical approach to manage employees’ expectations in advance of the event, to minimise the potential impact and conflict that this may cause.

In this blog, we will explore how employers can manage absences and holidays around the Euros and Olympics if your team are keen to spectate.

Annual Leave

You may have already started to see an increase in holiday requests from employees who want time off to watch matches and events. Where possible – and ensuring you are still able to maintain the required working level – having a flexible and pragmatic approach to annual leave requests can be key to keeping your workforce engaged. The company’s annual leave policy should advise how to book time off and how much notice is required. However, you may wish to allow requests at short notice for special occasions. All requests must be managed fairly and consistently to avoid any claims of unfair treatment. You could choose to operate a “first come, first served” system for annual leave requests during this period, but you must make this clear to employees as soon as possible. Where holiday requests cannot be granted, be open and honest about the reasons for this and ensure the employee understands the business needs at the time. As an alternative, it may be possible to be flexible around working hours instead.

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Sickness Absence

Employers should have a clear sickness absence policy in place to manage absence and this should be clearly communicated before major sporting events, reiterating the consequences of unauthorised leave. You could consider implementing a ‘time off policy’ for major sporting events to set out expectations.

Employers may wish to warn employees about unauthorised absence, for example, ‘pulling a sickie’ to watch games, or taking sick leave on the day after a game because they have a hangover. This could result in the Company following its internal disciplinary policy. If you suspect that an employee’s reported sickness absence is not genuine and is due to them taking time off to work to watch a match, this will need to be investigated. Upon the employee’s return, conduct a return-to-work interview to discuss the absence and reinforce the expectations for maintaining fitness for work. This can help to deter non-genuine absences. However, never jump to conclusions and always follow a fair procedure.

Major sporting events can boost employee morale, so employers could use this occasion as an opportunity to improve engagement and have a bit of fun. For example, you could allow employees to watch key matches during working hours, decorate workspaces with flags, allow employees to do a sweepstake and perhaps relax your dress code.

Implementing flexible policies, setting out clear expectations, fostering an inclusive environment with open communication, encouraging engagement and maintaining fair and transparent procedures will help balance the needs of the Company with the excitement of employees during this summer’s sporting events.

If you would like help with your HR policies and procedures, or you need extra support to manage employee absenteeism during major sporting events or any other time, please get in touch.

Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash