8th August 2013
Sports Flu – a debilitating condition that rears its head during the summer months, relentlessly infecting employees and rendering them unable to work during major sporting events. ‘You cannot be serious!?’ I hear you yell. But serious I am. And the antibiotics that GPs hand out so willy-nilly just aren’t cutting the mustard.
Many employers experience an upturn in short term sickness and absence during major sporting events but, unless you’ve seen the cleaner instigating a Mexican wave at Wembley, it’s important to tread carefully when considering disciplinary action under these circumstances.
Don’t jump to conclusions – It’s perfectly feasible that an employee has been taken ill on the day of the Wimbledon final so, before brandishing that P45, be sure to gather the facts. It could be that your suspicions are supported by a distinct pattern of short term absence.
Investigate – Following any period of absence a return to work interview should be held with the employee in question to establish the reasons for their non-attendance. This will give you the opportunity to question the employee and, if you have a reasonable belief that their absence was not genuine or they have not given a satisfactory reason, you may be able to take disciplinary action. Alternatively, if you have evidence that the employee has been spotted taking in a sporting event whilst ‘incapacitated’ then you are well placed to start disciplinary proceedings. False reporting of absence as sickness is a serious offence and can be dealt with as such if the correct procedures are followed.
Think ahead – If you are experiencing a sharp increase in sickness and absence during major sporting events then it may be beneficial to introduce a policy detailing the company’s stance on unauthorised absence and the repercussions that an employee may face if found to be reporting in sick when well. Some employers even make arrangements for staff to be able to watch sport whilst working and, in some cases, this has proven very successful in reducing short term absence during the summer months.
As long as full and proper investigations are carried out and fair processes followed, there is no reason why a sporting summer has to be a major bummer for employers.
I make that 1-0 to HR.
David is a Human Resources Consultant at Let’s Talk People.
David has been providing HR & employment law advice to business owners and company directors for 8 years. He is a qualified member of The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.