A practical checklist to help employers prepare for issues in advance and the responses to a number of questions that employers have asked in relation to other similar situations.
The Football World Cup starts soon. For some, the event will be one which raises high emotions, and it can be associated with particular patterns of behaviour. For example, problems may arise in relation to drinking of alcohol, before, during and after watching matches.
In practice, the key for employers will be to:
- make it clear in advance what is and what is not acceptable, and
- be consistent.
Any special arrangements made for the World Cup will have to be workable so that they do not jeopardise the employer’s business. This may mean that some employers decide that they do not want to make any concessions although others may well do so in the spirit of the tournament.
Employers would be well advised to consider in advance what their approach will be to a number of situations and clearly communicate this to employees. For example:
- dress codes - will employees be allowed to wear clothing that shows their support of a particular national team or be allowed to dress down?
- leave - will it be necessary to put a cap on the number of employees who take leave during the World Cup? Is this already provided for by existing arrangements for authorising annual leave? If there is already a cap in place, is there any merit in relaxing this?
- flexible working - what approach will be taken to employee requests to work flexibly during the World Cup (eg to arrive early or leave late, to take longer lunch breaks or to work from home)? What approach will be taken to those who ask for the same flexibility but for reasons unrelated to the World Cup?
- workplace behaviour - is it necessary to remind employees of the need to maintain a good standard of behaviour in the workplace - or to give guidance on when national banter might become unacceptable (racial) harassment?
- alcohol - is it necessary to remind employees of existing rules on alcohol in the workplace or to create specific rules for the period of the tournament?
- communal facilities - is there any merit in providing communal facilities to watch football matches (eg a television in the canteen)? When would these be made available - for all matches/certain key matches (whilst noting the “make up” of the workforce before limiting access to certain national teams)? What limits if any would be put on individuals using the facilities (eg how many matches they can watch in a certain period)?
- betting and sweepstakes - is it necessary to issue rules (or reiterate existing rules) on betting and/or running sweepstakes in the office?
- personal facilities - what approach will be taken to employees bringing radios, portable televisions etc into the workplace? Should employees be expressly prohibited from downloading software onto their work computer to enable them to watch certain matches. If current policies already prohibit this, a reminder may be appropriate.
- disciplinary issues - be clear about what conduct is unacceptable and might give rise to disciplinary action such as unauthorised absence, unacceptable banter, intoxication, bringing alcohol into the workplace etc.
- social media - reiterate the rules on using social media during work hours (Facebook, Twitter, etc). Are employees usually allowed to use social media during their work day? If so, then remind people in advance of the World Cup starting that excessive use of social media will not be tolerated.
Can an employer take disciplinary action against an employee who has a regular pattern of sickness absence during the World Cup?
An employer should not automatically assume that a regular pattern of sickness absence is connected with the World Cup. If, however, after appropriate investigation (including discussion with the employee) it is established that the sickness absences are not genuine then an employer could take disciplinary action against the employee in accordance with its normal disciplinary procedure.
Does an employer have to pay an employee who calls in sick during the World Cup?
This will depend upon the reason for the absence. If the employee is genuinely sick the employee should receive normal entitlements applicable to sickness absence. If, however, it is established that the employee’s absence is not a result of a genuine sickness, this can be treated as an unlawful absence with the result that the employee will not be entitled to payment.
If an employee comes to work with a hangover and cannot work effectively, can they be sent home?
Yes. Employees should come to work in a condition that allows them to carry out their duties effectively. If an employee cannot carry out their work, the employer could send them home. If the employer can prove that the employee’s inadequate performance or absence is self induced, and not caused by other circumstances, the employer can impose a disciplinary sanction on the employee.
Can an employer discipline an employee who comes to work intoxicated following a World Cup game?
Yes. Whether an employer chooses to discipline an employee in these circumstances might depend on a wider picture - for example if this is not an isolated incident and the employee has been showing signs of possibly having an alcohol addiction, the employer might choose to take an alternative course of action. Any disciplinary sanction must be in line with the employer’s alcohol and drugs policy.
Can an employer discipline or dismiss an employee who is unable to come to work because they have been imprisoned or detained for alleged hooliganism?
Potentially. This will depend on a number of factors including:
- the length of the prison sentence and whether it means that the employee cannot carry out their work
- the individual’s disciplinary record
- whether there is any connection between the committed act and the employee’s function
- whether any licences held by the employee which are required for their work, may be affected, and
- whether the employer’s reputation is in any way affected by the imprisonment.
As noted above, the key for employers will be to be clear and consistent. It will be particularly important to ensure that whatever arrangements are made, such arrangements do not discriminate (the obvious examples being on the grounds of race, nationality or sex).
This document (and any information accessed through links in this document) is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this document.