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‘World Cup-it is’ Could Cause Over One in Ten to Skip Work

But half of employers are prepared to put the boot in if they catch them doing it

London, 12 May, 2014 - New research suggests that World Cup football fever could be responsible for a surge in employees pulling sickies this summer.

As many as one in four (25%) 25-34 year old men revealed they may take unauthorised absence from work when the FIFA World Cup kicks off next month in Brazil, according to a survey of 2,282 Brits conducted by YouGov for Wolters Kluwer, the global information services business (www.wolterskluwer.com).

The research was commissioned by Croner, a Wolters Kluwer brand in the UK that provides information and consultancy to HR, health & safety and business professionals. It reveals that 13 percent of working Brits would be tempted to call in sick if one of the England games clashes with work and their boss doesn’t offer them the option of watching it on TV at work or the opportunity to work flexibly. This rises to 18% of working males and 25% of working 25 to 34 year old males.

Even though the World Cup is less than six weeks away, only 6% of the workers surveyed have so far booked time off to watch matches, increasing to 9% of males and 16% of working 25 to 34 year old males. Another 7% of workers are planning to take time off; again these requests are more likely to come from 35 to 44 year old males (15% vs. 3% of female respondents of the same age).

However, if employees get the urge to call in sick, they’ve got a 50/50 chance of facing disciplinary action, according to a separate survey of Croner customers.

Wolters Kluwer asked 118 employers in its Croner survey if they were proposing to take disciplinary action against employees who are discovered to have taken unauthorised absences to watch the World Cup; 50% said they were, although a further 40% didn’t know.

When they were asked what provisions they were making to let staff to watch the World Cup at work, only 20% have made arrangements, 54% said they weren’t doing anything and a quarter haven’t thought about it yet.

Despite the fact that only a fifth of employers surveyed have made provisions for staff to watch the World Cup, 60% of bosses agree that allowing staff time to work flexibly to watch a major sporting event is important and ultimately boosts productivity and morale  among employees. A further 55% agreed that sporting and cultural events provide an opportunity for them to strengthen their company culture and build goodwill among employees.

Richard Smith, a senior employment law expert for Wolters Kluwer, says: “Absence management always features high on employers’ lists of concerns around major spectator events like Wimbledon, the Olympics and the imminent World Cup. We’re quite surprised by such a high proportion of workers in our survey admitting they feign illness so they can enjoy a major sporting event, but we are advising our clients on how they can actually turn this to their advantage.

“Rather than worry about employees being struck down with ‘World Cup-it is’ on match days, they should be thinking of how temporarily relaxing the rules can have positive returns for their business. They should look at how they can allow staff to watch relevant matches – whether it’s to work flexibly or on a company-provided TV. In addition annual leave policies should be updated with clear guidelines issued to all employees, emphasising that unauthorised absence could lead to disciplinary action.”

Croner is also reminding employers of the rules granting annual leave. Richard Smith continues: “Even employers who decide to let employees see the games on TV should be prepared for a bout of annual leave requests and be ready to deal with them. In most cases it’s impractical for a business to allow a large proportion of the workforce to take annual leave at one time, so employers may refuse annual leave requests on the grounds of the business’s needs. It’s therefore essential to have a fair system in place for granting annual leave, such as random selection or a first-come-first-served basis.

“Even though it’s likely that younger males will be first in line for holiday at this time, employers must ensure it is granted fairly, otherwise they could be guilty of sex discrimination,” warns Smith.

He adds: “It’s worth remembering that the workforce is now more diverse than ever and that other nationalities are likely to want to watch their own teams. Be sure not to discriminate against these groups.”

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