Should workers be given time off to watch the beautiful game?

One of the first pledges made by Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the UK was an overhaul of corporate governance, including appointing employee representatives to company boards.


The UK’s summer of sport has officially begun – starting with football’s European Championships in France, and followed by August’s Olympics in Brazil – not to mention the annual Wimbledon Championships in London.

These sporting events will no doubt generate a high degree of interest from the working population, with a significant number expected to prioritise viewing over work – during working hours.

Employment law specialists ELAS suggests that the European Championships alone could cost £269 million in lost productivity; while research company Kronos found that one in three employees think the football will have a bigger impact that Wimbledon and the Olympics combined.

The question for employers is how to behave during the summer of sport?

The first thing to remember is that this is not a unique phenomenon. More than three quarters of employees (77%) believe colleagues have ‘thrown a sickie’ in the last year, and nearly one in five (18%) believe other people take up to six days a year.

Employers can choose to take a hard-line with absenteeism by tracking time off and requiring suitable explanations; however, this might have negative longer term implications. A more flexible approach could lead to happier workers, who produce more, and ultimately are less likely to leave.

Employers that do allow their workers time off to watch certain games – providing they are willing to make the time up – may reap the rewards.

“Demonstrating willingness to accommodate employee needs, and allowing them to enjoy these sporting events and their leisure time goes a long way to improving employee engagement and ultimately results in higher levels of productivity and performance,” said Neil Pickering, Industry and Customer Insight Manager at Kronos.

The one thing that employers must do, one way or another, is to ensure their employees understand the absence management practices that are in place.

Alex Fleming says:

Employers who listen to their staff and work to accommodate their needs will find out that the benefits outweigh the costs in very tangible ways. Increased productivity, engagement and retention are valuable commodities.”

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