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Avoiding Kick-offs: World Cup and Sporting Event Guidance

Even the most hardy non football fans are likely to know that the FIFA World Cup kicked off in Brazil last Thursday and will continue until 13 July, when the World Cup final will take place. With Wimbledon fast approaching, it would be wise for employers to consider the potential issues created by such large sporting events. Indeed, such is the possibility of pitfalls, that ACAS have produced guidance (available at http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=2953), which confirms that the main issues that will affect both employee and employers are:

Sickness Absence/Fitness For Work

We recommend that you familiarise yourself with your company's sickness policy and ensure that it is applied fairly and consistently to all staff during this period.

Consider your attendance policy and monitor attendance levels: suspicious unauthorised absences or patterns could result in formal disciplinary proceedings. Detailed records should firstly be obtained, and you should also make it clear that unauthorised absences will be considered in line with your disciplinary procedure.

Remind employees they will need to be in a fit state to work during working hours, and be clear that disciplinary action could arise if staff are found drinking alcohol during working hours or are under the influence of alcohol in the workplace. If you do not have a "no alcohol at work" policy you may want to emphasise your expectations to employees, for example, by reminding employees that late/non attendance caused by hangovers may result in disciplinary action being taken.

Requests for Annual Leave

We suggest you ensure that you remind employees of your annual leave policy specifically detailing how employees should book time off, as you will likely receive increased requests during this time. You may want to try and be flexible with requests (e.g. making agreements to come in earlier or later, swapping shifts, allowing reduced notice or providing facilities for watching the matches at work) but be clear that this is only a temporary arrangement and that there is no guarantee requests will be granted.

When considering requests before the event you may want to give employees a deadline for request submissions so that you can consider all requests fairly. Be aware that flexible working arrangements could cause problems, for example, with employees who made such requests for religious holidays, or working parents with previously rejected flexible working requests.

Finally, do not give preferential treatment to World Cup fans (nor just England fans!)

Social Media

You will likely see an increased use of social networking sites during the Word Cup e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. We recommend implementing policies on social media use, which addresses not only staff internet use in the workplace, but what employees should include on their profiles or pages (such as the reference to their employer's details) and what is considered acceptable and non acceptable usage.

Remember your data protection obligations requiring you to make it clear if you are monitoring employees. We would always advise you to seek advice on your data protection and record retention obligations.

Ashfords' Employment & HR Department has extensive experience in drafting policies and procedures relating to issues such as sickness absence, requests for annual leave, social media and alcohol. If you would like any further information on the content of this article please contact Stephen Moore.

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