Workplace absence: how to prepare for the sun and the sickies


This week my article will focus on employer considerations now that the summer months are nearly upon us. The summer of 2015, like most, has a fantastic line up of events ranging from a number of music festivals and sporting activities, which promises to make for a buoyant public mood. Yet whilst the summer quite often brings out high spirits and a more motivated workforce, it can often be a difficult time for employers managing their employees.

2015 will see the ever popular annual Glastonbury and V Festival weekends taking place amongst many others. The Ashes will be taking place in July along with Tour De France, the golf Open and Wimbledon, which will span over the months of June and July. The Rugby World Cup will be also be taking place in September.

These are just to name a few and as a HR/employment law professional, I can confidently say that good weather combined with a summer of popular activities often means an influx of holiday requests and an increase in the number of “sickies” and unauthorised absences. Last year with the 2014 football World Cup taking place, I noticed that there were more calls on the advice line about employees not showing up to work after a particularly good or bad result, which has encouraged me to write this article. Below you will find my checklist of things that employers should consider to ensure minimum disruption to your business:-

  • We are a country of sport lovers, so even when employees are in work during any big sporting events, there is always likely to be a reduction in productivity with social media, sporting Apps and online streaming now easily available to most on their mobile phones. Employers may have to consider bringing policies into place to deal with accessing social media and using mobile phones whilst at work.

With that in mind, it might be worth considering flexible working to allow employees to start and finish earlier (if your business needs allow this) during major events. Employers could also consider giving employees more hours during the week, so that they can finish earlier on the day of the particular event. It may also be worth considering an office radio or TV so that employees feel engaged and motivated to maintain productivity whilst at work because of the reward, which also great for employee morale.

  • Another point to consider is how to manage holiday requests during peak periods where a number of employees request the same period of annual leave. Requests for time off to attend music festivals and the school summer holidays are key examples of when this may happen.

Again, ensure that you have robust policies in place to deal with annual leave arrangements making it clear that holidays will be granted on a first come first served basis. Ensure that you are clear on what annual leave can be taken and when ensuring that you have adequate cover during your peak times. If a request for annual leave is made to attend an event, which you are not able to authorise due to the needs of the business, then ensure that you confirm in writing that the request has been denied, the reason why and state that disciplinary action will be taken if they proceed to take the unauthorised holiday.

  • Ensure fairness and consistency and do not just assume that all employees are interested in a particular sport or support a particular team. Most workforces are often multi-cultural so be careful that you do not discriminate against or offend a particular ethnicity by not recognizing the importance of the individual teams that your employees support.
  • Always be vigilant and monitor employee sickness absence levels. A good sporting result or a hot summer’s day (let’s face it, these are rare for us!) notoriously bring with them an influx of sickies. Employers need to take the appropriate steps to pinpoint the fakes without overstepping the legal boundaries. There are no issues with reminding your employees of the absence reporting procedures shortly before major events and reiterating that any unauthorized absences will be the subject of disciplinary proceedings.

Related articles:

Employee absences: learning not to overreact:

Absent employees: how to manage long-term sickness:

Nitu Patel

For more information about me, come see my profile: Nitu Patel