With the World Cup less than a month away now, excitement is building around the world, but employers should start planning now to avoid a sudden spate of unexplained absences and sudden holiday requests.
Hethertons Solicitors have said that there are solutions that employers can consider to keep staff happy and their business trading efficiently.
“Every time there is a major sporting event employers start to grow concerned about an increase in staff away time, but employers can put measures in place without removing the spirit of the competition,” said David Scott, Senior Associate Solicitor in Hethertons’ Employment Law team.
“If possible, employers should be open and honest with their team and accept that they are likely to receive an influx of requests for days off on the dates key matches are due to take place.”
David said that the minimum notice period required by law for taking leave is at least twice as long as the amount of leave a worker wants to take, so a request for one day’s holiday should be lodged at least two days in advance. However, this can be longer if the company has specified this in their staff handbook or employment contract.
“Although the Government suggests a period of twice the time taken, in reality, most businesses will request a minimum of a weeks’ notice, with many stipulating that they are contacted sooner,” explained David.
“There is no absolute right to be granted a holiday. The rules regarding the right to refuse holiday stipulate that staff members should be given at least the same length of notice as they have requested, so for a one week holiday they should be given at least one week’s notice.”
David added that employers can restrict or cancel leave on a shorter notice if they face an unexpected busy period, but they should maintain a record of this in case it is disputed.
A much simpler approach, David suggests, is to allow a degree of flexibility for fans by possibly relax usual rules about internet access during work time to allow employees to check scores online or by allowing the radio to be on, as long as it isn’t too disruptive to others or the business.
“Employers should take a pragmatic approach to the World Cup and consider how they can allow staff to follow their teams, without severely impacting the business.
“Placing an outright ban on watching the football or not allowing them to check the scores online could lead some staff to use other methods to avoid coming into work, which is likely to lead to conflict and disruption, so a balanced approach may be best.”
While businesses are under no legal obligation to take any of these steps, it is important to consider practical ways of managing potential disruption.
If any of the above options are considered, employers need to ensure they strike the right balance between keeping their workers happy and still getting work done.
This means that, for example, employers should be clear about how much radio or internet use is reasonable.
Businesses should also think carefully about how the World Cup might impact their workplace policies in other areas, particularly being under the influence of alcohol at work.
David added: “If businesses decide to be more flexible or to change their usual employment practices, then this needs to be communicated clearly ahead of time.
“As always communication is the key. If allowing flexibility isn’t appropriate or if the business is experiencing a busy period and is required to limit holiday time taken then it is important staff are informed.
“Most people can’t wait to enjoy the upcoming matches, but it is important that employers are clear with staff about what is expected, while also being sympathetic to those in the workplace who have no interest football – there is no point pleasing one member of your team if it disrupts or upsets others.”
Considering the potential conflicts and complexities that may arise from the upcoming World Cup, David recommends that businesses speak to a professional adviser in advance to ensure they have the right plan in place.
To find out more about Hethertons Solicitors’ wide range of employment law services, please visit www.hethertons.co.uk or call 01904 528200