Should Employers Give Staff Time Off For Sporting Events?

It’s an issue that raises it’s head time and again for employers in the workplace – when those big sporting events come along and crucial matches just happen to be taking place during your company’s working hours, how do you deal with it? Should employers give their staff time off for sporting events?

Do you already give your staff time off for such occurrences or have you managed to implement a system whereby staff can somehow watch games and feel a part of the occasion? Or is it something you grapple with each time there’s a major sporting event and it is something you have never got round to dealing with effectively?

What Are The Sporting Events That Can Affect Your Business?

When issues of staff wanting to watch or attend sporting events comes up, the obvious sport that jumps to mind is international football. Whether it is the European Championships or the World Cup, these occasions are the ones that tend to capture the imagination of many people in the UK whether they are football fans or not. It is certainly football that captures the imagination of the media when it comes to suggesting how you should deal with it as an employer.

But the fact is, when it comes to major sporting events, if you are going to acknowledge one then you can’t dismiss others. Not all your staff are going to be football fanatics – we all know those people who would rather do anything but talk about, or watch, football…but they could be fanatical about other sports. Some other major sporting events that could capture the imagination of your staff and that you might need to take into consideration are:

  • Rugby Union – These days, there is an increasing number of international events in the rugby union calendar from the 6 Nations to the World Cup and these can attract a huge following.
  • Rugby League – Particularly if you have a company in the Lancashire or Yorkshire regions, chances are, you going to have some keen rugby league fans who are going to want to watch international test matches.
  • Cricket – There are many people who will never watch another cricket match in between but they are desperately keen to follow the Ashes matches between England and Australia.
  • Olympics – Yes you could list all the individual sports and games that are also a part of the Olympics but this is the big one that only takes place every four years. It’s not the same in every country but in the UK, as an employer, you will no doubt be aware of the passion many people feel for the Olympics – especially when GBR are up for a gold medal in any particular event.
  • Commonwealth Games and Athletics World Championships.
  • Wimbledon – Again, your staff might not be remotely interested in tennis for the whole year, but for two weeks every June/July, the nation is fixated with lawn tennis…particularly if British players are involved.

If you are sports fan yourself or if you have sports fans in your workplace, you can no doubt add to this list but these are just some of the main occasions that could crop up as raising an issue.

What Are The Issues International Sporting Events Can Throw Up For Your Business?

The sporting event becomes more important than work

It depends what line of business you are in but again, if you are a sports fan yourself, you will not be offended if your staff suddenly seem to want to put a big sporting event before their work duties. Sport is life for a lot of people.

If there is no system implemented in your workplace for whether staff should be given time off during these national and international occasions, you could find yourself dealing with a loss in productivity due to:

  • Arriving late to work or making an excuse to leave early. Not all sporting events take place during office hours. If the event is in another time zone, staff could be watching matches at home, early in the morning, and not arriving to work until the match has finished.
  • Absenteeism to watch the event. Staff who don’t feel they can ask for time off – or some other arrangement – during a big game may well take the option of ringing in sick so that they can stay at home (or go to the pub) to watch the match.
  • Absenteeism after the event. Of course, lots of big sporting events see friends meeting up in local pubs to get together and enjoy the occasion. Too much alcohol means lots of workers admit to ringing in sick the following day because they have a hangover.
  • Using the internet and social media in work time. Again, it depends on the nature of your business but if there is no system in place for staff to follow sporting events, you could find a loss in productivity because workers are using the internet and social media to follow scores and watch videos.
  • An influx of requests for holidays. If a lot of people in your workplace want to watch the event and they ask for annual leave, chances are, you are not going to be in a position to allow all of them to take the day (or longer) off at the same time.

Should Staff Be Given Time Off For Major Sporting Events – What Are The Solutions?

Well, of course, one solution could be just to ignore the fact that these major sporting events are taking place. Your staff have got work to do, you have got a company to run and things must keep going no matter what.

And, if the culture in your workplace is one where staff feel they shouldn’t ask for time off or take their work break entitlement, well, then you might not even get the influx of annual leave requests.

However, I have written in the past about British workers not using their holiday and break entitlements and the fact that, whilst this could seem really beneficial – all of your staff working all day, every day – it is actually detrimental to your business. Productivity can suffer because staff feel tired and stressed by workload and, ultimately, do not feel valued.

These days, young people like school leavers and graduates are increasingly looking for jobs and careers with companies who are going to value their contribution and commitment to the firm and value them as a person. Yes, a good salary is beneficial but job satisfaction is often cited as being more important than financial reward.

So, with that in mind, if you are an employer who can show you value your staff and appreciate everyone’s need for a sensible work life balance, it is going to make for a happier, more engaged, more productive team of employees. Acknowledging that some of your staff feel an absolute need to watch or be a part of big sporting events can be a part of this. It might not be easy to make this work in practice but if you can implement some systems for staff, it will be much appreciated. The main point for you to bear in mind as an employer is that consistency is essential.

Let’s take a look at some solutions for employers:

Be aware of the calendar of major sporting events

Have a policy in place before the event starts so that everyone in the workplace knows what is acceptable and what isn’t. This could be something you have drawn up yourself or it could be an agreement discussed and drawn up in a staff meeting before the event. Each event will attract varied levels of interest so, if possible, you could make arrangements before individual events take place.

Make sure agreements are mutually beneficial

Yes, it’s great that staff (and, perhaps, yourself) want to watch sporting events and, as an employer looking to make sure your staff are happy and feel valued, you want to give them that opportunity. But, you also know that your company can’t keep coming to a standstill just because a national team are playing.

As an employer, it’s about creating a balance where employees know it is unrealistic to to ‘down tools’ for the whole event. It’s about working together so that staff can appreciate the system in place and you can keep productivity and engagement high.

Introduce flexible working hours during the sporting event

Obviously, this depends on the type of company you are a part of but, where possible, temporary, flexible working hours could be introduced whilst the sporting event is taking place. This could be like a flexi time system where staff build up some hours prior to the event so they can take a flexi day off. Or it could be more informal whereby staff can arrive an hour or two later than usual but they make up the time either on the same day or on another occasion.

Again, this will need to be arranged and approved before the event. If it’s an event where most of your staff are looking to watch a match, clearly, you can’t have your whole team taking the day, or part of the day, off. The arrangements in place need to be fair so that some staff are not left feeling like others have been favoured over themselves.

Create a culture where staff are not tempted to ring in sick

It is a difficult balance to achieve and, in theory, if discussions in staff meetings have led to agreements and compromise about how the company will run during a major sporting event then the majority of your team should be happy with the situation. It should have created a situation where your staff are not tempted to take a sick day to watch the match.

However, it is also beneficial to have a clear company policy about staff taking time off sick and making sure all staff are aware of it. Clear policies will mean staff are aware of how sick days are monitored and the procedures to go through once they return to work. Being clear and open about this can also go a long way to help stop that temptation.

Have a clear policy about internet and social media usage in the workplace

As an employer, depending on the size and type of company you are a part of, you may already have a policy in place regarding staff using social media or other parts of the internet during work time.

Again, it is about being clear and open and having a culture whereby all of your team are completely in the picture about what is expected of them and when it is and isn’t appropriate to use the internet for non work reasons.Even if the work is not office-based, you might also have a policy on the use of smartphones during work hours for social media and internet.

I have already mentioned above about the benefits of employers allowing a degree of flexibility when there is major sporting event taking place and there are going to be times when it is impossible to give all the staff who want to take time off, those hours they want to take. If your staff are in work and are wondering what is happening with the score or who won a race, then social media and internet are going to give them the answers they want.

Again, a mutual agreement about internet use during a sporting event will demonstrate to your staff that you are doing your best to accommodate them and they are more likely to work within the agreements made.

Have a TV in the workplace

This might not be suitable for all workplaces or, indeed for all types of events, but when there is a situation where you are not in a position to give staff annual leave for a major sporting event, there could be some occasions where you might have a television in the workplace. In athletics or the Olympics, for instance, leaving a workstation to go off and watch one race or gymnastics performance could be plausible.

A television could be set up in a staff area, too, so that when your team are taking lunch breaks or other breaks, they can keep up with what is happening throughout the day. This could work for events such as the Ashes where matches are played over a period of days.

Is it possible for staff to swap shifts?

Flexible working is becoming more and more common in the UK’s workplaces and, for some industries, such as the hospitality and catering sector, for example, it might even be a requirement for staff to be flexible. Lots of SMEs could also accommodate staff wanting to work flexible hours.

Not all people are football fans or tennis fans so you could have a policy in place where, when there is a major sporting event taking place, staff can swap shifts or cover for each other when their favourite event is taking place.

And let’s not forget, some of your staff will not be sports fans, at all. They might not want to watch or be a part of any event. They night be happy to cover other sports fans shifts by swapping so that they can pursue other interests or commitments.

In Conclusion…

We know that staff who feel they can ask for time off and who take time out from work benefit a company because they are then happier and more engaged in the workplace. Taking a break reduces fatigue and encourages more ideas so productivity and innovation in your workplace increase. Giving staff time off – in whatever capacity – for international sporting events not only means your staff feel appreciated, but it also makes a win win situation.

I have written in the past about the types of perks employers can give employees and the acknowledgement of international sporting events could be one of these perks that you can mention when writing job ads. Offering perks can both boost your staff retention and also be included in your recruitment strategy for attracting young people to apply for roles within your firm.

The main point to bear in mind is consistency; making sure that all staff who are interested in sporting events are treated fairly in the amount of time out they are given and also, making sure you recognise that not all of your staff are interested in sport. Those staff must also be accommodated when the time comes where they might also need time out for other reasons.

If you are looking to attract young people to apply for your vacancies – temporary, part time or full time – E4S attracts school leavers, students and graduates who are looking for work of all types. Click here to place your job ad with us.

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