This year is the first World Cup to be held in the Winter in the UK. This means we will be substituting beer gardens in the warm sunshine for hot chocolates in front of the fire place.
This however, will not prevent employees from calling in sick or simply not turning up for work after a football game. It is important that employers are wary of their rights and what course of action they can take in this likely event.
Many employees will pre-book annual leave to coincide with the England games. Some employees however, will call in sick or simply not turn up for work on the day or the following day of the game. As the World Cup is to be held in Qatar, one of England’s group games commences at 1pm (GMT). In this event, I have listed below what tools are available to employers below:
If an employee calls in sick on the day of a game or the following day, they must still follow their employer’s absence reporting procedure. Now if the employer is aware that the employee is in the pub/was in the pub watching the game, they could have reason to suspect that the employee’s absence is not genuine. In these instances, it would be reasonable for an employer to instigate a formal investigation into the employee’s absence. This can include:
- Arranging a formal investigatory meeting for the employee to attend;
- Speaking with colleagues who were in attendance with the employee;
If the employer forms a reasonable belief that the employee has fraudulently called in sick and has evidence to form this reasonable belief, they may proceed to a formal disciplinary hearing.
An employer should analyse whether this is a genuine absence by speaking with colleagues, any social media posts which shows the employee at the pub or otherwise and if there is a case to answer, the employer should follow the above process.
If of course, there is no evidence to suggest the absence is not genuine, the employer is unlikely to have any grounds to prove otherwise and should not take formal action against the employee. However, all employers should have in place an absence record for each member of staff. If an employer is able to demonstrate that an employee is frequently having short term absences, then the employer can commence the disciplinary process. It is important that employers have in place an absence policy which deals with short term frequent absences.
Unauthorised leave of absence
Unauthorised leave is a frequent issue employers tend to face. It can become growingly frustrating for employers and it is important to deal with incidents efficiently and consistently.
During the World Cup 2022, there is statistically a larger chance that employees will not follow the absence reporting procedure and not turn up for work. In this scenario, an employer should deal with any unauthorised leave of absence consistently for all employees. This may include commencing a formal investigatory meeting with the employee in respect of the days they failed to follow the absence reporting procedure. Depending on the outcome of the investigation, this may result in formal disciplinary action against the employee. It is important to ensure all procedures are consistent amongst all employees, to avoid any arguments that an employer has treated another employee less favourably, for example, only taking action against certain employees who have a protected characteristic.
Dates of interest
Below are some dates which may be of interest for employers:
- England v Iran – 21 November 1pm
- England v USA – 25 November 7pm
- England v Wales – 29 November 7pm
Many employers may take the view that they cannot prevent an employee calling in sick on the day/following day of the game. In this case, I have provided some alternatives which may allow a preferential outcome for both employer & employee:
- Allow the employee to work from home. This can mitigate the chance an employee may call in sick as it provides certainty that they need not attend the office;
- Release a company wide memorandum to actively encourage employees to use annual leave for these periods. If there are mass requests for annual leave, employers can refuse such requests providing they are acting in accordance with their own policies and procedures;
- Allow employees to take some time off unpaid;
- Allow employees to leave the workplace early and require them to work extra hours to make up the difference. Employers should ensure that they are not in breach of the Working Time Regulations in this respect.
The above merely lists some examples that employers and employees may find some middle ground on but ultimately, if an employer requires an employee to be in work, they risk breaching their own contract by not attending and as such, there are various actions an employer can take.
It will be a month filled with joy (hopefully!) for England fans and if employers can be transparent from the outset on their expectations during the World Cup, employees can then not argue that the rules or guidance provided by the employer was unclear. In any event, if an employer fails to set any boundaries or guidance during this period, they should still expect their employees to comply with the terms of their employment contract, regardless if this is during a World Cup or not.