Wimbledon 2017 may be over, however, for employers, Wimbledon, as with any major sporting event, can and will present a number of challenges in the workplace; not least the possibility of increased absenteeism, loss of focus and concentration and heightened emotion, which could lead to clashes. There will also be employees who may not be interested in the tennis but who could still be affected by the actions of others.
The key to dealing with these issues is managing employee expectations and forming a strategy for any issues that could arise. Employment specialist Dippalli Naik of Wildings Solicitors suggests some practical steps that can be taken to ensure a balance is struck between the needs of a business and the enthusiasm of its employees during this exciting period:
Talking to your employees openly about Wimbledon and their plans during the period can prevent many difficulties arising and increase morale. Consider one of the following:
- Arrange a team talk to discuss with employees what they would like to do during the working day and how they intend to manage their time. This way employers can make informed decisions about their resources.
- Discuss with employees whether facilities can be provided or allowed at work to accommodate the employees' desires to watch certain events. Ideas such as creating a TV room for people to watch matches at break times, allowing radios to be on during the day and relaxing the internet policy so that matches can be watched online have all been entertained by businesses during previous sporting events.
On match days, events will often be happening during normal working hours. Therefore, it is highly likely that employers will face pressure from employees eager to support their favourite players throughout the day. To deal with this, employers should:
- Be flexible – there is no legal right to take time off during Wimbledon, however employers can agree, where possible, temporary flexible working arrangements such as altering start and finish times during the working day using a rota and extending the lunch hour. They can also allow employees to make up missed hours on other days in the week.
- If this is a viable option it is also important to remember those employees that are not interested in Wimbledon and ensure they are not disadvantaged by the working arrangements – balance is key.
It will not come as a surprise to discover that sporting events can result in increased absence levels from work, either because employees want to stay at home and support their players or because they have been out celebrating or commiserating too much! However, the effects of such absences can be very serious for a business so employers need to:
- Remind employees of the sickness absence policy and the repercussions for not following it, particularly in relation to unauthorised absence.
- Reiterate the policy for alcohol and drugs use to avoid employees coming to work hung over and therefore less productive or taking time off to recover from a heavy night or drinking on the work premises.
- Determine whether an absence is related to the tennis or genuine – this can be addressed using return to work interviews.
Sports reflect the diverse society we all live in and will engage people from all backgrounds, nationalities and races. Wimbledon presents an ideal opportunity for employees to bond with their employers and each other and encourages friendly banter and camaraderie.
However, in all the excitement it is possible for people to overstep their boundaries and comments about the matches, the players and tactics used could risk turning into racial slurs, nationalistic harassment and discrimination. To avoid this type of behaviour occurring, employers should focus on:
- Treating all employees in the same way regardless of race, sex or nationality. For example, if you allow Andy Murray supporters time off to watch a match, you should apply the same policy to other nationals who want to watch their own national players. Likewise, do not make assumptions about who will be interested in the tennis and remember that those who are not interested should still be treated fairly and not excluded from the discussions and arrangements.
- Publicising the equal opportunities policy and any non-harassment/bullying policy to ensure employees are familiar with their obligations and understand that any offensive behaviour will not be overlooked and will be dealt with through a disciplinary process.
Wimbledon is a popular sporting event in the UK every year and many people will be excitable and distracted during this time. Whilst such a popular event could pose problems for businesses none of them are insurmountable and it can be used to engage positively with employees, increase morale and encourage mutual respect and goodwill.
If you need guidance on how to deal with the last stages of Wimbledon or have any questions about Employment Law and practice generally, we at Wildings are here to help. Our dedicated Employment Solicitors can guide you through any employment problems you encounter in your business or in the workplace and can advise you on all aspects of Employment Law generally whenever you need them. Wildings also offers a new insurance backed retainer service for businesses which provides full access to HR and Employment law advice for an affordable monthly fee.