Should employers adopt a sporting events policy and what should it include?

Employers should consider adopting a policy to cover their approach to major sporting events such as the World Cup or Olympic Games. The policy should specify the employer's approach to events, including time off, and the expectations that it has of its employees. By making this clear the employer may experience less unscheduled absence than would otherwise be the case.

Adopting a policy in advance of the event is likely to benefit employers and employees because it will enable both to plan ahead and will facilitate open communication about time off and absenteeism. A sporting events policy could, for example, inform employees that they must request annual leave if they wish to take time off and that requests must be made by a specified date. The policy could inform staff that the employer will make every effort to accommodate holiday requests to watch matches or events but that employees should be aware that it will not be possible to grant all requests. Employers could make clear that requests will be granted either on a "first come, first served" basis or on a rota basis. Where employees are to be allowed to watch sporting events during work time and on the premises, the policy should set out how the employer will arrange this and the conduct that it expects from employees (for example that alcohol may not be consumed and that bad language and rowdy behaviour will not be tolerated).

Prior to the start of the event, employers should ensure that they have a clear sickness absence policy and a reliable method of recording sickness absence, including dates and length of absence and the reasons given. This should allow employers to identify patterns of sickness absence (for example where it coincides with the timing of televised matches during the World Cup). Employers should also ensure that their disciplinary policies and procedures allow them to deal effectively with conduct issues that might arise from sporting events (for example unauthorised absence or attendance at work under the influence of alcohol).