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Employment Law and Sports

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Sports lovers have been denied access to live events over the past year, but as some open up and fans trickle back in what implications does it have for employers and employees if track and trace picks them up? In addition, with many staff working from home how can business owners make sure they are still productive during an upcoming summer of sport?

We’ve got the Euros, Wimbledon, test match cricket and a whole host of other events coming up.  After a pretty dismal pandemic with not much to look forward to, it could be far too tempting for employees to have the TV on instead of the laptop when working from home.

“Employers often face the habitual problem of absenteeism during sporting events, hot on the heels of warm weather days offs and it’s a perennial headache and something I’m often called on by frustrated employers,”

The key here for the summer months is to plan ahead and work with your employees.  We’ve all got used to doing things a little differently this past 15 months or so and as always communication is vital, especially if you have staff working from home,” said Head of Employment Law at Pearson Solicitors, Susan Mayall.

“If sports fans have been to a match or a concert and are alerted by track and trace they will of course have to isolate and that could potentially have implications in the workplace if they cannot work from safely from home. The same is true indeed if they have been to any venue such as a pub or restaurant.” added Susan.

Employer Covid SSP claims

An employee who is self-isolating  for one of the following reasons and is therefore unable to work may be able to claim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP):

  • Experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and self-isolating
  • Living with someone (or in an extended or linked household with someone) who is isolating due to having symptoms of COVID-19
  • Developed symptoms of COVID-19 while already self-isolating due to a member of the employee's household having symptoms, and self-isolating
  • Been advised through the contact tracing system that they have come into contact with someone who was, at the time, infected with COVID-19, and self-isolating for the duration specified in the notification
  • Tested positive for COVID-19 and self-isolating
  • Living with someone (or in an extended or linked household with someone) who has tested positive for COVID-19, and self-isolating
  • They have been advised to self-isolate at home for a period of up to 14 days before their admission date to hospital for surgery or another hospital procedure and are staying at home in accordance with that advice

SSP will only be payable in the above circumstances if the employee has self-isolated for at least four days.

Under the SSP rebate scheme, an employer can recover up to two weeks' SSP per eligible employee where the first day of incapacity due to COVID-19 fell on or after 13 March 2020.  More than one claim can be made per employee, subject to the overall two weeks maximum per employee.

Employment Policies

With sporting events coming up employers may want to consider time off for England matches, or make it a team event for staff either remotely or in the office – always observing Government guidelines.  Also it may be wise for employers to consider:

Will you permit half/full-day holiday requests? Will you allow employees to leave early for matches? 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?)

You may want to 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.

Avoid Discrimination

Ensure any decisions are fair to all employees. Letting employees leave early for say, an England football game, but not for other large scale events or festivals may be unfair and/or unreasonable.

If you’ve refused permission for staff to leave early for a religious event or refused permission to attend a religious event, that refusal could, potentially, be discriminatory. Here you would be treating the employee holding the religious belief less favourably than a football fan.  As always it’s advisable to pick up the phone and chat things through with your employment law solicitor if you have any concerns.

Remind employees that: Downloading sports programmes to watch at work is in breach of TV licensing laws. It may also be in breach of the IT or workplace policies.

“It’s been a tough year and half for all of us and sport is a great stress reliever – even if it’s a penalty shoot out!! If nothing else, review your employment policies and make sure your employees are aware of them, you don’t need to be a killjoy, in fact just the opposite this could be a great way to boost the morale of your workforce, just be prepared and a little flexible,” advised Susan.

For advice on employment law and for specific business advice contact Susan Mayall and the team on 0161 785 3500 or enquiries@pearsonlegal.co.uk

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.

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