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Coping with summer’s distractions: how to get the best from your employees

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June is turning out to be wet rather than flaming and most employees will no doubt be looking forward to their annual holiday and a summer of events, festivals and sport.  Employers on the other hand are probably wondering how many working hours they will lose as the festival and sporting seasons come into full flight.

The key for a productive workplace in the summer months is to plan ahead and work with your employees. Don’t just keep your fingers crossed and hope that everyone will show up as normal on the day of a major international: you will end up disgruntled and determined to take disciplinary action. (We know – we take the calls!)

Here are a few tips on how to keep your employees committed without being a summer killjoy.

  • Get your diary out and log the major events that usually cause distractions from work. This might include Wimbledon, football internationals, The Ashes or Twenty20 cricket, Formula 1, The Open Golf, Women’s World Cup Football, the Rugby World Cup, or the start of the Premier League. All of these could cause lost working hours.
  • Decide now on your strategy for dealing with these events. For example, consider:
- Will you permit half/full-day holiday requests?
- Will you allow employees to leave early?
- Is there scope for flexible working or shift swopping?
- Will you allow employees to watch an event during working hours? (If you allow this, be clear about the rules. For example, will the employees have to make their time up later? Will alcohol be allowed?)
  • If possible, consult with your employees and assess what means the most to them and what flexibility is possible if you are to maintain productivity. For example, if an important kick-off starts during working hours, set up a TV in an office and ensure there’s room for all those who want to attend. This could be done on the proviso that everyone comes in earlier that day or makes up the time later.
  • Ask employees in good time to confirm whether they want time off to attend sporting events.
  • Manage staff expectations and remind staff that unauthorised absences will be subject to disciplinary action. Review your absence policy and, if necessary, remind employees to read it. Make clear that requests for absence will be treated in accordance with the policy and that the usual holiday procedures will be followed. Also confirm that decisions will be made on the basis of business needs.
  • Ensure any decisions are fair to all employees. Letting employees leave early for say, an England football game but not letting employees leaving early for the Glastonbury festival may be unfair and/or unreasonable but it would not be discriminatory (because there are no relevant protected characteristics). However, if you swap Glastonbury in that example for a religious event and you refuse permission to attend that religious event, that refusal could, potentially, be discriminatory. This is because you would be treating the employee holding the religious belief less favourably than a football fan and the reason for the less favourable treatment may be connected with their religion or belief. 
  • Remind employees that:
- the usual disciplinary procedures will apply;
- drugs and alcohol and the effects of excessive alcohol will not be tolerated in the workplace
- downloading sports programmes to watch at work is in breach of TV licensing laws. It may also be in breach of the employer’s IT policy.

Review your employment and absence policies

If nothing else, review your employment policies and make sure your employees are aware of them. You don’t need to be a killjoy. Just be prepared and a little flexible. Don’t forget that sporting events, festivals and good performances from our national sporting heroes could be a great way to strengthen your team and to boost employee morale.

Contact

For more information and assistance on employment policies and contracts, please contact Susan Mayall on 0161 684 6948 or make an enquiry.

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

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