Firms told: be clear about missing work to watch sporting events

Travel employers should ensure they communicate clearly with staff on what is acceptable in terms of watching major sporting events on TV during work hours, a webinar has been told.

The C&M Travel Recruitment webinar on absenteeism, entitled Euros & Olympics: The ABC Guide to Curing Staff Headaches in Summer 2024 discussed issues thrown up by current sporting events such as England playing in the Uefa European Football Championships.

C&M Travel Recruitment managing director Barbara Kolosinska said the issue was particularly pertinent with so many staff now working from home as well as in the office.

More: Webinar plans to help travel firms cure staffing headaches this summer

Currently, 45% of all new roles advertised by C&M are hybrid, 35% are fully remote and 20% are fully office based, which shows little has changed since last year.

Travlaw partner Ami Naru, head of employment, said there was no need for businesses to have specific policies for major sports events, but stressed: “There is a fine line between what is acceptable when we have hybrid working. If we have a colleague working from home, would it be acceptable to just say, go and watch the football?”

She added: “We need clear communications. What communications are there to the person at home when everyone else is watching the football at work?”

Naru suggested firms look at the situation on a “case by case” basis, adding: “Most matches are at the weekend or evening and should not impact the majority of the workforce unless you have got shift workers.”

She spoke ahead of this weekend’s England match against Switzerland, which takes place at 5pm on Saturday.

HR and talent professional Claire Steiner, also on the panel, similarly stressed the importance of the relationship and communication between employers and staff.

“It comes down to expectations: what does it mean for everyone in the organisation?” she said, adding: “If someone wants to watch [sport] for two hours and make the time up or someone wants to go shopping – what’s the difference?”

She further highlighted the issue of staff phoning in sick the day after a major sports event.

“If people have sore heads, do you get people ringing in sick? These things do happen. What contingencies are you putting in place to deal with this?” she said.

Naru said she has been contacted by businesses in cases where staff had been seen at sports or music events on the TV when they were supposed to be off sick.

“In these circumstances you would go down the normal disciplinary route, if someone is not genuinely sick. Don’t be afraid to do so,” she told businesses.

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