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FSB supports small firms to avoid legal strife during the World Cup

01 June 2010 PR/2010/27

FSB News Release

PR 2010 27

Issue date: Tuesday 01 June 2010

FSB supports small firms to avoid legal strife during the World Cup 

With the World Cup approaching, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and Abbey Legal Protection have produced guidance on how small firms can avoid employment issues during this high-profile month long tournament. 

As many workers and their bosses will want to watch and enjoy the World Cup, it is vital that both are on the ball about issues relating to advance requests for time off, and that any unplanned absences taken are dealt with urgently.  

The timings of the England matches lend themselves very well to UK working patterns. However, the FSB is concerned that as England progresses working fans may get over exuberant and staff absence due to hangovers will follow.

The FSB advice falls into two distinct categories: 

  • Advice concerning employees who have asked in advance for time off to watch the 2010 FIFA World Cup

  • Advice concerning what to do with those employees who phone in sick or simply fail to turn up for work on match or post-match days


Mike Cherry, Policy Chairman, Federation of Small Businesses, said:

"The World Cup only comes round every four years so we should all be able to enjoy it as much as possible. Employers need to start engaging with their staff to make sure they put plans in place to cater for those employees that want to watch the football, as well as those that don't and might want to work overtime during this period. 

"Both employers and their staff need to look at celebrating the World Cup realistically. Employers need to be aware of the impact that unplanned absence could have on their ability to trade and employees need to know that throwing a sickie rather than asking for time off could result in disciplinary procedures. 

"The advice in this guidance will enable firms to follow their team with no adverse impact on the business or employment.  Being prepared will let everyone benefit fully from the tournament and ultimately enjoy it.

"Sorting out these issues before the first game kicks off means everyone can relax and enjoy the matches, while making sure jobs still get done in the workplace. Firms and their staff can reap the reward of the feel good factor that accompanies the World Cup without any disputes dampening the party atmosphere."

Tips from the guidance include:

  • Agreeing with employees that they can take the relevant days or half-days off as part of their annual leave entitlement in the usual way

  • Granting employees special unpaid leave 

  • Where possible, putting in place  a flexible working system on match days so that staff can watch the matches by, for example, granting a longer break or allowing them to come into work later or leave earlier and make the time up

  • Allowing staff to listen to the radio or watch the television at work.  You could allow short breaks at regular intervals or you could have the radio or television on in the background

  • Not forgetting that not everyone supports England and not all football fans are male.  There are 32 teams participating in the 2010 FIFA World Cup and football has a strong female following

  • Not discriminating when deciding which matches to grant time off and not favouring your male employees over your female employees

  • Putting in place a requirement that employees who phone in sick on key match days (or post-match days) provide medical evidence of their sickness absence, for example, some proof that they visited their GP or a doctor's certificate

  • Putting in place a requirement that employees who are off sick during the 2010 FIFA World Cup period must notify their absence to a specified person. This will help make your employees aware that you are closely monitoring sickness absence during this period

ENDS

Notes to Editors

1. The FSB is the UK's leading business organisation with over 213,000 members. It exists to protect and promote the interests of the self-employed, and all those who run their own business. More information is available at www.fsb.org.uk

2. The advice can be found in full below and at www.fsb.org.uk 

3. Abbey Legal are the FSB's legal advice partner and be found at http://www.abbeylegal.com/

Contacts

Stephen Alambritis: 020 7592 8112/ 07788 422155
Eric Beech: 020 7592 8128/ 07917 628998 eric.beech@fsb.org.uk 
Prue Watson: 020 7592 8121/ 07825 125695 prue.watson@fsb.org.uk 
Sara Lee: 020 7592 8113/ 07595 067068 sara.lee@fsb.org.uk 


EMPLOYMENT AND THE 2010 FIFA WORLD CUP

The 2010 FIFA World Cup ‘kicks off' in South Africa on 11 June 2010 and runs to 11 July 2010.  Only England within the United Kingdom will be taking part.  The other UK teams failed to qualify.  Football lovers can look forward to a month of enthralling television entertainment.  However, their employers may not be so lucky.  Many employers are beginning to receive requests for time off work from their staff.  It is also likely that some employees will not be so honest and will simply phone in sick or not turn up for work at all so that they can watch ‘the match' or recover from their post-match hangover.  

Requests for employment law advice in this area therefore tend to fall into two distinct categories:

  1. Advice concerning employees who have asked in advance for time off to watch the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
  2. Advice concerning what to do with those employees who phone in sick or simply fail to turn up for work on match days or post-match days.

This fact sheet deals with the legal position on each of these issues in turn.

Dealing with requests for time off

The key for employers has to be collaboration with their employees.  Whilst there is no legal requirement to give employees time off to watch FIFA World Cup matches, there is simply no point in turning down an employee's request for time off on principle alone.  Not only will this serve to disenchant the employee, it may also result in them taking the time off anyway and either phoning in sick or taking unauthorised absence.

Employers have a number of options to try and accommodate their football fanatic staff whilst ensuring business disruption is kept to a minimum.  Employers may wish to consider implementing one or more of the following measures:

  1. Agreeing with the employees that they can take the relevant days or half-days off as part of their annual leave entitlement in the usual way.
  2. Granting the employees special unpaid leave.  

Of course, these two options will only work if the number of football fans on your staff is minimal and remember that you should be consistent with your approach to other major sporting events in granting unpaid leave, such as the Wimbledon tennis tournament.  If you can only allow a limited number of staff to be absent on leave at any one time, apply a first come-first served basis, a rota basis or some other fair criterion such as you currently apply when dealing with requests for leave during other periods of high demand, such as over Christmas.  The needs of the business must take precedence.

3. Operating a flexible working system on match days so that staff can watch the matches by, for example, granting them a longer break or allowing them to come into work later or leave earlier and make the time up.

4. Allowing staff to listen to the radio or watch the television at work.  You could allow short breaks at regular intervals or you could have the radio or television on in the background.  Either way, make it clear to the employees that you are doing this entirely on a discretionary basis and any abuse means the privilege will be withdrawn, for example, racially discriminatory or bad language or rowdy behaviour.  You may also wish to ban the consumption of alcohol.

Also, do not forget that not everyone supports England and not all football fans are male.  There are 32 teams participating in the 2010 FIFA World Cup and football has a strong female following.  Therefore, do not discriminate when deciding for which matches to grant time off (if time off is to be granted for England matches, it should also be granted for matches involving other nations, so that employees of different nationalities can follow their team) and do not favour your male employees over your female employees.  

Dealing with absenteeism

A number of employees are bound to abuse the system and may be tempted to either phone in sick on match days or post-match days or simply not turn up for work at all.  The latter constitutes unauthorised absence.  The golden rule here is to try and take action to prevent this happening in the first place.  

The starting point is to issue all staff with a memorandum or e-mail which makes clear your policy on allowing staff to watch the 2010 FIFA World Cup.  Be as positive as you can about working with your staff to keep them happy.  However, also state that if employees turn up late for work or fail to turn up at all on match days or post-match days when prior time off has not been authorised, or they turn up for work under the influence of alcohol, then disciplinary action will be taken against them under the terms of your disciplinary procedure.  That way, your employees are in no doubt about the consequences of their actions.  

Finally, you could require that employees who phone in sick on key match days (or post-match days) provide medical evidence of their sickness absence, for example, some proof that they visited their GP or a doctor's certificate.  If you do this, you need to operate your policy consistently and not just apply it to those whom you suspect may have been watching the football.  Bear in mind you will have to bear the cost of any doctor's certificate provided where the employee's absence is less than seven calendar days.  Alternatively, you could require that employees who are off sick during the 2010 FIFA World Cup period must notify their absence to a specified person, such as the Head of HR.  This will help make your employees aware that you are closely monitoring sickness absence during this period.

Make sure you 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 enable you to identify patterns of sickness absence on match or post-match days.


England's route to World Cup 2010 glory

England is in Group C.  Here are the key dates for your diary:


Date
Time
Opponent

 

Saturday, 12 June 2010

 

20:30

USA

Friday, 18 June 2010

 

20:30

Algeria

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

 

16:00

Slovenia


If England finishes either first or second in their group, they will play again on either Saturday, 26 June 2010 at 20:30 or Sunday, 27 June 2010 at 16:00 respectively.  

If they reach the quarter-finals, they will play on either Friday, 2 July 2010 at 20:30 or Saturday, 3 July 2010 at 16:00.

If they reach the semi-finals, they will play on either Tuesday, 6 July 2010 at 20:30 or Wednesday, 7 July 2010 at 20:30.

The final of the 2010 FIFA World Cup takes place on Sunday, 11 July 2010 at 20:30.

There will be a one-hour time difference between the UK and South Africa when the matches are played.  South Africa is one hour ahead of the UK.  The above times are the times that the matches will take place in South Africa, so in England they will be one hour earlier.


This fact sheet was prepared by the Employment Unit of Abbey Legal Protection.  It is intended only as a guide and is not to be regarded as a substitute for consultation with one of our Legal Advisors, since every case will ultimately turn on its own particular facts and circumstances.  Should you require legal advice please contact Abbey Legal Protection on 020 8730 6000.  If you are driving when using the legal advice service, please make sure it is safe and legal to do so.  

Abbey Legal Protection offers a professional Employment Consultancy Service on a wide range of employment and HR issues including redundancy programmes, termination of senior employees and directors, in–house training and drafting employment documentation compliant with the very latest changes in employment law specifically tailored to your business.  We are successful and popular with our clients because we take a customer-focussed approach to each Employment Consultancy assignment. We also provide legal advice for FSB members and this service is included in their membership fee. To contact Abbey Legal Protection Email: consultancy@abbeylegal.com Tel: 020 8730 6125