Sporting Events – How to Tackle Absence Issues


With two major sporting events this summer, employers are likely to experience higher than normal levels of annual leave requests and absence. How can normal levels of performance be maintained?

This is the year of the Euro 2016 football tournament and the Summer Olympics. Any major sporting event can cause absence headaches for employers of any size, particularly small business with limited contingency plans. With both of this summer’s events taking place over a prolonged period, employers should start thinking now about how to get the most out of their staff and keep them engaged during these periods.


You should take the time now to review policies to ensure that they deal with all potential hot spots. Annual leave booking processes; sickness absence protocols; internet policies should be top priority.

Even where attendance levels are not an issue, you may still experience a drop in productivity because your staff are following events on the internet using either work PCs or their mobile phones. Update policies where necessary or create new short term policies – such as introducing a maximum cap on annual leave, or deadlines by which annual leave requests should be made – to deal specifically with this summer’s events.

“Tell employees that you will rigorously enforce your rules even if this means refusing an annual leave request for a football match….”


To ensure all of your rules are fresh in your employees’ minds, send out a communication which reminds them of your levels of acceptable behaviour in terms of absence, booking holidays and productivity in work etc. Doing this means that no-one can claim ignorance should you need to use the policies as evidence in a disciplinary hearing for any instances of bad behaviour.

Tell employees that you will rigorously enforce your rules even if this means refusing an annual leave request for a football match that has not been made in line with your procedures, or where the maximum cap has already been reached, and that the employee will be expected in work on that day.

Get Tough On Absence

Obviously not all absence during the sporting events will be non-genuine, but you should be more alert to the possibility that employees may suddenly get a 24 hour bug, or have a bad headache. Sticking strictly to your absence notification requirements and consistently holding return to work interviews may make employees less inclined to “pull a sickie” if they know they will have to account for themselves face to face with you on their return.

Consider Flexibility

Getting involved in the excitement and celebration of the events could keep your employees engaged and make coming to work more fun for them, therefore reducing potential instances of absence. Although this may not be an option for all workplaces, think about having a television on in the canteen or in the back room to show matches or athletic events, for example.

Alternatively, designate one person to keep an eye on the score and report back to their colleagues. But remember: you may need a licence to show events on the television and you shouldn’t focus only on events with British participants in order to avoid any claims of discrimination.