Managing Absences During the 2024 Summer of Sports

The Summer of 2024 promises a multitude of sporting events, including the UEFA 2024 in Germany (in which England are amongst the favourites to win) which runs from 14 June to 14 July, and the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris, starting on 26 July.

We can also look forward to events such as the Cricket T20 World Cups, Wimbledon, the Tour de France and the British Grand Prix, all occurring at a time of year traditionally marked by a high number of holiday requests from those also hoping to enjoy the summer weather.

Major sporting events like these have the potential to disrupt the workplace, leading to distractions, increased lateness and even more frequent sickness absences around key matches and events. They can also, unfortunately, lead to conflict and, at worst, aggression, bullying, and discrimination. Therefore, it is both important and practical for employers to plan ahead to manage absences to protect their employees and minimise these potential issues. On the plus side, savvy employers may even harness the positive impact these events can have on employee morale and workplace culture.

The preparations that can be made will depend on the business and the nature of the employees’ work. In this article, we explore some practical ways to manage employees’ desires to follow and watch the sports, while limiting an unwanted impact on work performance.

Anticipating increased absences

In anticipation of an increased number of requests for time off, employers may consider temporary arrangements that help ensure staffing levels are maintained by enabling employees to watch their events and removing the need to request time off:

  1. Facilitating viewing at work: Given the potential for employees to be distracted or even call in sick to watch their favourite events, consider allowing viewing at work in a controlled manner. If feasible, set up TVs in communal areas or designate a room for watching key matches. This approach can reduce unauthorised absences and foster a sense of camaraderie.
  2. Temporary flexibility: Modern management increasingly embraces flexibility, which can enhance productivity and employee satisfaction. Consider allowing shift swaps, condensed working hours, or adjusted break times. You may allow hybrid working, such as working from home to avoid commuting on match days or the morning after.
  3. Early starts and late finishes: Offering the option for early finishes on match days or late starts the following morning can accommodate employees’ desires to watch live events without impacting overall productivity. Ensure such arrangements are communicated clearly and applied consistently to avoid any perceptions of unfair treatment – those not wanting to enjoy a game will still value some time back to enjoy how they want!

Clear communication and policy enforcement

Clear and early communication is important to manage absences. Inform employees well in advance about the policies and provisions in place for watching sports and/or any (temporary) flexible working arrangements. This can include expectations for requesting time off, watching events during work hours and behaviour standards. A well-drafted policy can prevent misunderstandings and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Sending out an email or letter outlining these policies provides a reference point for employees and can serve as evidence should any disputes arise. Ensure the message is clear and concise, detailing what is permitted and the process for requesting time off.

Encourage employees to voice any concerns or questions they may have about the upcoming period. Providing a forum for open discussion can pre-empt issues and help manage expectations.

Managing holiday requests

Most employers have basic rules in place for dealing with holiday requests and managing staffing levels. With an expected surge in holiday requests, it is vital to manage these fairly and transparently. It is worth considering whether any change in approach may be appropriate to temporarily deal with the hopes of your employees and to ensure the efficient handling of requests for time off. Flexibility may help to boost morale, mitigate pressure on your people processes, and even avoid some employees calling in sick.

  1. Relaxing the policy: A higher level of planned absences can be less disruptive than a higher number of unexpected ones. Consider temporarily relaxing certain rules, such as reducing the notice period for holiday requests or allowing a higher number of concurrent absences.
  2. Advance planning: Encourage employees to submit their holiday requests as early as possible. This allows for better planning and coverage. Clearly state that time off is subject to approval to prevent any assumptions about automatic entitlement.
  3. Fair and justifiable treatment: When approving or denying requests, ensure decisions are justifiable and consistent to avoid any claims of unfair treatment. Keeping a record of the decision-making process can be helpful if challenged. Often a first-come, first-serve basis is the fairest approach.

Addressing unwanted conduct, discrimination and harassment

Ensure the work environment remains respectful and inclusive, regardless of the sporting event. Advocate this by role-modelling respectful behaviour through your own communications. Remind employees of the company’s equal opportunities policy and the importance of avoiding discriminatory or harassing behaviour. A brief reminder of a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, including examples of unacceptable conduct which may lead to disciplinary action may be appropriate.

Consider providing advance training on unconscious bias and respectful communication. This can help maintain a positive atmosphere and prevent issues related to differing team allegiances or nationalities.

Dealing with absenteeism

It is important to ensure that a clear absence policy is in place and moreover, that all employees are aware of how they can expect their absence to be managed in advance of it occurring. This can help to deter avoidable absences and to ensure fairness.

  1. Pre-emptive measures: To mitigate unexpected absences, it may be appropriate to reiterate the consequences of unauthorised leave clearly. In some cases, rather than blanket warnings, consider addressing individuals directly if there is evidence for a specific concern – such as knowledge that an employee has booked tickets for an event despite having their leave request turned down. In situations such as this, it may be appropriate to forewarn them that if they report as sick, the absence may be treated as a disciplinary matter.
  2. Immediate follow-up: If an employee calls in sick, prompt follow-up by the line manager is essential (in line with your company policy). Ask pertinent questions about their illness and if the absence lasts for more than 7 days, a fit-not should be provided for Statutory Sick Pay purposes.
  3. Return to work procedures: Conduct return-to-work interviews to discuss the absence and reinforce the expectations for maintaining fitness for work. This can deter non-genuine absences and highlight the importance of reliability.
  4. Handling AWOL cases: For employees who do not show up without a reasonable explanation, follow your company policy and procedures. This typically entails contacting them by telephone, leave messages, and if necessary, reach out to their emergency contacts. If there is no valid reason for the absence, initiate disciplinary action as per company policy.


By preparing in advance and communicating clearly, employers can manage absences during the 2024 Summer of Sports. Implementing flexible policies, fostering an inclusive environment, and maintaining fair and transparent procedures will help balance business needs with employees’ enthusiasm for the season’s sporting events. Proper planning and communication are essential to managing absences, ensuring that both productivity and employee satisfaction are maintained.

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If you would like support in managing absences, or would like to hear more about our HR, Payroll, and Health & Safety services please contact us on 0844 324 5840, or send us an online enquiry by clicking here.




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