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The World Cup 2010 Employment Issues

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The 2010 World Cup is due to start on 11th June. Therefore it is possible this will result in a surge of absence during world cup games. If employers do not put in place measures to accommodate those that wish to watch the games employees may well simply 'take a sickie' or take unauthorised time off. It can be very time consuming and difficult to prove 'sickies' and the time management of handling misconduct and unauthorised absence is high. Whilst it is not possible to completely eliminate unauthorised absence or 'sickies' it is possible to put in place strategies to reduce the risk and maintain a happy workforce. So long as the operation of the business is not effected and core business hours are covered there are a number of ways this can be achieved. • Annual Leave – employers are likely to be faced with an increased number of requests from employees asking to take time off during their working day to watch world cup matches. The usual policy for requesting these should be followed where possible but where this is no longer possible due to time constraints employers will need to have in place a system to deal with such requests. Where a number of employees require time off at the same time clearly not all requests can be granted. Therefore, employers should ensure that they plan in advance how they will deal with such requests. Perhaps on a 'first come first served' basis. It is at the employer's discretion as to whether or not annual leave is granted and such discretion must be exercised objectively and fairly. • Unpaid Leave – Employers could allow employees who do not have sufficient annual leave or who do not wish to use their annual leave to take time off unpaid during world cup games. The same principles apply as stated above in respect of paid leave when exercising discretion. • Flexible Hours – allowing employees to take time out during their working day and to make that time up at a later date, perhaps at the start or end of a working day, may be an acceptable way of enabling an employee to work flexible hours to watch a world cup game. Once again, employers will need to have in place a plan to deal with such requests to ensure that the operation of the business is not disrupted. • Shift Swap – ASDA's are introducing a shift swap which enables employees to swap shifts. This is a good way of ensuring that staffing levels are maintained but those who may wish to take time off during world cup games are able to do so at the agreement of other employees. A practical way of putting this into effect is to ask in advance, employees who are not interested in watching world cup games, to confirm whether they are happy to swap shifts so that the planning can be done in advance and by management. • Watching the game on employers premises – where room allows some employers may be able to screen the game at their own premises in a specific area that will not affect those who do not wish to watch the world cup games or interfere with clients and customers who may also be attending the premises. In order to be fair to those who do not watch the game employees who do take time out to watch a world cup game should be required to make that time up at another time. • Radio and internet coverage – during world cup games employers may authorise employees to continuing working but to follow the game either on the internet or by radio so long as this can be done without disrupting other employees or by obtaining their consent first. Agreement should be obtained before a game starts to eliminate a disgruntled employee part way through a game. Whatever strategy an employer chooses to adopt it must ensure that when exercising discretion, the criteria is objective. The policies must be communicated to both male and female employees and discrimination issues avoided. Allowing only England games to be covered might give rise to a claim in discrimination where there are employees from other nationalities whose Country of origin are participating in the world cup and where those employees wish to watch those games. England Matches Saturday 12th June 2010 at 19:30 – England v USA. Friday 18th June 2010 at 19:30 – England v Algeria. Wednesday 23rd June 2010 at 15:00 – England v Slovenia Depending on the success of England during the world cup additional games may be played on either Saturday 26th or Sunday 27th June 2010. The quarter final will be played on Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd July 2010. The semi final games will played on Tuesday 6th and Wednesday 7th July 2010. The final will be played on Sunday 11th July 2010 at 19:30. The above times have been adjusted and are times that the matches will start in the UK. • For additional information please contact: Alexandra Dean of Gepp & Sons. The above is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.