Employment law specialist Dippalli Naik, of Monaco Solicitors, suggests some practical steps that can be taken to ensure a balance is struck between the needs of a business and the enthusiasm of its employees during this exciting period.
Summer is finally here and with it are some of the biggest sporting events of the year, with the World Cup kicking off in less than two weeks and Wimbledon at the end of the month, there promises to be some nail biting action in the not too distant future! For employers and employees any major sporting event will likely present a number of challenges in the workplace. Many employees will be keen to watch matches, and keep up to date with progress, and many other employees will not be at all interested in the tennis or football but may well still be affected by the actions of others.
The key to dealing with these issues, is for employees and managers to work together and communicate over what is expected. It would also be a good idea to form a strategy for dealing with any issues that could arise.
Communicate about expectations and obligations
Talking to each other openly about upcoming important games and matches, and plans during the period, can prevent many difficulties arising and increase morale. You might consider suggesting one or more of the following solutions to your managers:
- A team talk to discuss the upcoming events with managers. This will give you an opportunity to flag up potential conflicts during the working day and suggest how you might better manage your time. In this way, employers can make informed decisions about their resources, and, as a bonus, you get to show your initiative and take responsibility for your role.
- Facilities to be provided, or allowed at work, so certain events can be watched. Solutions such as creating a TV room for people to watch matches at break times, allowing radios to be on during the day and a relaxation of the internet policy, so that matches can be watched online, have all been entertained by businesses during previous sporting events. Provided that you and your fellow employees appreciate you still have to follow company rules and carry out your work, such temporary arrangements can be adopted successfully.
Temporary flexible working measures
On match days, events will often be happening during normal working hours. Therefore, it is highly likely that people will be eager to support their favourite players at all times of the day. It is important to remember that there is no legal right to take time off during major sporting events, however, employers may agree, where possible, to temporary flexible working arrangements. You could approach management with the following ideas for flexible working:
- Altering start and finish times during the working day using a rota;
- Extending or staggering the lunch break;
- Allowing employees to make up missed hours on other days in the week.
If a flexible approach to working hours is a viable option, it is important to remember that you are still required to do your job to the best of your ability, so as to ensure that customers and clients are not neglected during this time. Those employees that are not interested in either of these events will also need to be considered by the business, to avoid any arguments over preferential treatment or disadvantage.
Be mindful of all absence related policies
It will not come as surprise to discover that sporting events can result in increased absence levels from work, either because employees want to stay at home and support their players, or because they have been out celebrating or commiserating too much! As an employee you need to be mindful that:
- There will be a sickness absence policy which needs to be followed, failing to follow it properly could lead to disciplinary action;
- There may be a policy for alcohol and drugs use, so familiarise yourself with it and ensure you do not inadvertently breach it;
- There is likely to be a policy for return to work interviews after sickness absence to ensure that any sickness was genuine.
Mutual respect must be a priority
Sports reflect the diverse society we all live in and will engage people from all backgrounds, nationalities and races. These major sporting events present an ideal opportunity for employees to bond with their employers and each other, encouraging friendly banter and camaraderie. However, in all the excitement, it is possible for people to overstep acceptable boundaries and comments about the matches, the players and tactics used, could risk turning into racial slurs, nationalistic harassment and discrimination. To avoid this type of behaviour occurring, everyone should focus on:
- Treating each other in the same respectful way regardless of race, sex or nationality. For example, if Andy Murray supporters are allowed time off to watch a match, this should apply to other nationals who want to watch their own national players. Likewise, assumptions about who will be interested in the World Cup should not be made. Those who are not interested should still be treated fairly and not excluded from the discussions and arrangements.
- Familiarising yourself with the equal opportunities policy and any non-harassment/bullying policy to ensure everyone is familiar with their obligations and understands that any offensive behaviour will not be overlooked and will be dealt with through a disciplinary process.
Wimbledon is a popular sporting event in the UK every year and, of course, the World Cup is only held every four years, the overlap of these two events means that many people will be excitable and distracted during this time. While such popular events could pose hurdles, none of them are insurmountable. The events can even be used to engage positively with the wider team, increase morale and encourage mutual respect and goodwill.
If you have any questions about employment law or are experiencing unfair treatment at work, Monaco Solicitors is here to help. Our dedicated employee focused employment solicitors can guide you through any employment related problems you encounter in the workplace.