2018 World Cup: how employers can manage absenteeism

World Cup 2018 | Football Absenteeism | HR Solutions

The 2018 World Cup football tournament runs from 14th June to 15th July and will potentially cost the UK £13billion in absenteeism.  With workers pulling ‘sickies’ during the tournament, the average number of days people intended to take off work was seven, four of which were going to be ‘sickies’ according to a survey of over 2,000 adults based in the UK, by FootballTips.

The most concern for absenteeism is Monday 25th June which is the day after England’s game against Panama on Sunday 24th June.  We discuss some top tips on, how employees can keep their staff at work during the tournament.

Get your game plan sorted

Manage holidays fairly

If you think it is likely that many of your staff will be booking time off, it is important to have a clear and fair approach to managing holidays. You may consider temporarily relaxing some of the rules you have in place, such as asking for a minimum period of notice, or only allowing a certain number of staff off at one time. It may seem bias to the sport, but the more you can meet people halfway, the more staff will appreciate your nod to a work-life balance and you may even improve morale.

Help them help you:

  • Tell them now what your methods are (or will be over this period) for requesting and approving holiday.
  • Make it clear they need to wait for your approval, before assuming they are allowed it off!
  • Advise them to get in any holiday requests they want to make sooner rather than later, to increase the likelihood of it being approved.

This should help you to try and plan cover effectively in relation to any other business needs, or even reshuffle things to allow one or two more people to have time off if there is a high demand. The sooner you know the situation, the better position you will be in to manage the expectations of both your staff and your clients. It may also reduce any last minute ‘sickies’ from anyone who forgot to ask for the time off.

Try to be fair in the way that you approve or decline requests and make justifiable decisions in case you are challenged by anyone who is upset they didn’t get the time off approved.

Introduce temporary work flexibility 

Flexibility is ever-more the way in which good people management is headed. Consider whether you can offer an earlier finish time on match days, for those who want to make an evening of it, or a later start time the following morning, for those who might be nursing a sore head! You could ask staff to opt for one or the other, but ask them to let you know by a certain date so you can pencil it in. If you offer something like this, remember to extend it to all staff. Those who aren’t following the game should be treated the same and they may appreciate a little extra time in the sunnier weather!

If someone couldn’t get their holiday approved, consider whether shifts can be re-arranged or swapped, whether you can condense working hours (making sure they are getting breaks!) or even change lunch breaks around.  Maintaining productivity whilst accommodating staff with flexibility in this way, is often more achievable then you may initially think. Flexibility is regularly proven to elicit higher productivity, commitment and engagement – which all help the business’ bottom line.

Consider allowing staff to watch some football at work

If people are going to be sneaking peeks on their phones, making more trips “to the loo” or even calling in sick so they can keep up with scores, you could concede to facilitating some of the tournament being watched at work so that you can regulate it in a way which you think is appropriate.

If you have TVs in your office, consider putting the games on, even if this is with the sound off. This may make those ‘unexpected coughs and colds’ suddenly feel a little bit better and could even make the environment have a little more camaraderie!  Or if there is a lot of interest, why not really go for it? Set up a room to show the game, get lunch or snacks in and make a bit of an event of it.

Decide in advance whether people would be allowed to watch the whole thing, have a longer break, can watch it at their desks or listen to it on their phones etc. You need to know yourself what is and is not going to be reasonable and then you need to let your staff know what the ground rules are. Give staff ‘the heads up’ too and always be clear. Sending round an e-mail gives everyone the same message and a point of reference. It’s also your evidence to show that anyone unruly should have known better.

Match Day:  England V Panama the night before and the morning after

You may be able to use some the tips above to avoid absences on the 25th June. The following are some further prompts to help deal with requests for the morning off if anyone is likely to be struggling the next morning, or tips on offering a late start (you could always offer this on a condition that the hours are worked back another time, just be consistent).

Do you want to have staff forewarned pre-match?

You could send out a blanket message to all staff in advance, but pre-empting misconduct can have a negative impact on morale if you imply you don’t trust staff. It can even be demotivating just to receive it, even if you think the e-mail was not ‘meant for you’.

If anyone has been rumoured to be planning to falsely call in sick, have a private quiet word.  If anyone has been brazened enough to be upfront about not coming in, you may want to take a hard line. Consider issuing a letter confirming what to expect if they go AWOL and what to expect if they call in sick.

If you have turned down a holiday request, but the individual has insinuated they won’t be coming in anyway, you may want to advise that calling in sick could be regarded as fraudulent and that they may face disciplinary action (you would, of course, have to investigate first in case anything genuine had come up).

Are staff calling in sick?

The same day (and immediately) line manager should speak to the individual on the phone, the better for getting the truth…

Remember that your employees may call in sick, but if you have doubts whether this is genuine, you can ask questions.  Ask them what is wrong and when it came on? It might be reasonable to ask them to consider coming and seeing how they get on. Ask them if they have ever had it before and if so how did it affect them then and how long did it last for. Ask them if they can do anything to alleviate it. Often false sickies use ailments such as headaches, migraines, flu, sickness and stomach bugs. Provided you don’t work with food or this is not part of a known long-term condition etc, then it can be reasonable in this situation to suggest they take some paracetamol and whether they could try coming in to work to see how they get on.  (As above, if you suspect it’s an outright lie and if they would get sick pay, this could possibly be fraudulence – especially if statutory sick pay accrues.)

Are staff AWOL?

If they are AWOL, absent without leave, then call them, leave a voicemail, call again later and then try their next of kin. On the 25th June, treat any football fans who are AWOL as you would anyone else. You should assume there is a genuine reason have not turned up (in case they have been in an accident for example.) You always need to be consistent, but in many businesses, being AWOL is totally unacceptable conduct and warrants starting disciplinary action.

If they call you back, tell them to get in to work! If they think they are unfit to work because they have stayed up too late (or early) or are hungover etc, this is also unacceptable conduct. Sunday might have been their own personal time, but they have a duty to ensure they are fit for work the next day!

 

Red and yellow card offenses

Possible yellow card caution – Are they actually working?

If staff are stood around talking about the football, manage it in the same way you would if they were stood around talking about X-factor. Nip it in the bud by simply asking staff to keep their in-depth reviews to their breaks or before and after work. If this keeps getting ignored, sit them down for a private chat about why they don’t think they have to do what you ask of them!

Possible yellow or red card – Are they calling in sick?

On the same day (and immediately) line manager should speak to the individual on the phone, the better for getting the truth. Remember that your employees may call in sick, but if you have doubts whether this is genuine, you can ask questions.

Ask them what is wrong and when it came on? It might be reasonable to ask them to consider coming and seeing how they get on. Ask them if they have ever had it before and if so how did it affect them then and how long did it last for. Ask them if they can do anything to alleviate it. Often false sickies use ailments such as headaches, migraines, flu, sickness and stomach bugs. Provided you don’t work with food or this is not part of a known long-term condition etc, then it can be reasonable in this situation to suggest they take some paracetamol and whether they could try coming in to work to see how they get on.  (As above, if you suspect it’s an outright lie and if they would get sick pay, this could possibly be fraudulence – especially if statutory sick pay accrues).

Possible red card disciplinary – Are they AWOL?

If an employee is AWOL, absent without leave, then call them, leave a voicemail, call again later and then try their next of kin. On the 25th June, treat any football fans who are AWOL as you would anyone else. You should assume there is a genuine reason have not turned up (in case they have been in an accident for example.) You always need to be consistent, but in many businesses, being AWOL is totally unacceptable conduct and warrants starting disciplinary action.

If they call you back, tell them to get in to work! If they think they are unfit to work because they have stayed up too late (or early) or are hungover etc, this is also unacceptable conduct. Sunday might have been their own personal time, but they have a duty to ensure they are fit for work the next day!

Possible red card disciplinary – Discrimination, harassment, bullying or aggression

Not everyone may support the England team and so anything positive you put in place for England matches should be extended in the same way to anyone supporting different nations.

The word ‘banter’ is infamous in HR circles. Comments about other players or nationalities may be more likely over this period and so it is ever important to be familiar with your equal opportunities policy. You may even want to take a leaf out of Starbuck’s book and look into training about unconscious-bias.  Remember harassment can be a single act when it comes to discrimination, and employers can be vicariously liable for the actions of their employees – including in any work-related social events.  Make sure your working environment is prepped to promote equality and respect, so everyone stays at work and is happy at work.

Do you need HR support and guidance? For information about outsourced HR services call HR Solutions on 0844 324 5840 or contact us online.

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