Prevention is always better than the cure when it comes to absence management. There are some important steps you can take to help prevent your team staying off when their team is on.
Employees may submit holiday requests so they can watch matches. It’s prudent to think about how to deal with competing requests and have a system in place similar to that for the Christmas period. If you decline requests, employees could call in sick instead. In this case, normal sickness absence policies should be followed. If there is evidence that the sickness was not genuine, meetings and disciplinary procedures should take place as usual.
Introducing flexible working hours, providing viewing facilities in the office or giving staff time off in lieu will all boost morale and greatly improve productivity on non-event days. Employees who believe their wishes are being taken into account are more likely to be flexible and accommodating when you need a big push before a deadline. Allowing shift-swaps, earlier or later starts or, where practical, providing access to a TV or radio can all eliminate the need for your employees to take unauthorised absence.
But be sure to have clear guidelines on what is and isn’t allowed and apply these rules consistently. Those who don’t follow major sporting events may feel aggrieved if their own important events aren’t afforded the same flexibility. Stick to one rule for all, and make it clear to your employees you operate a fair and balanced workplace.
Have a clear policy
Having a clear policy in place for ALL absences – not just those that may be contentious – will help employees to recognise what is and isn’t acceptable all year round. When drawing up a policy, consult employees, unions and managers, and consider:
• The rights and obligations of employees when they take time off work.
• The terms and conditions relating to sickness or injury leading to incapacity to work.
• Sick pay provisions.
• How and when an employee should make you aware of their absence/lateness.
• When a medical certificate (‘fit for work’ certificate) is required.
• Return-to-work interview procedures.
• The amount of permitted time off.
• Arrangements for sick pay.
• Policies relating to grievance, health and safety, drugs and alcohol.
• The repercussions of failing to comply with the company’s absence policy.
To ensure your absence policy has an impact on your team, it’s essential to clearly communicate it to them – either through their contract, as part of their induction, in briefings, or in a company handbook. The policy should be publicised to all staff members, as well as being enforced and seen to be enforced by every member of the team. By monitoring time keeping and absence you can identify trends and potential underlying causes. Without this, you can’t make the decisions or actions you need to improve employee attendance. More and more employers are opting for HR software (like MoorepayHR) to give them this at-a-glance view of absence patterns among teams and individual staff.
Set trigger points
Trigger points will give you a much higher standard of attendance for all employees and ensure a fair approach is adopted when people are absent. If the trigger point occurs every time there’s an important match or game, it will serve as a reminder to managers that it’s time to investigate the situation.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to give them a formal warning just yet – there may be a genuine reason for absence. It’s just so you know that further examination into an individual’s absence levels is needed. Once a trigger point has been hit, the manager can interview the employee and, depending on the circumstances, decide whether formal disciplinary action is appropriate. Trigger points could be set at the number of days employees are absent over a month, quarter or year.
Keep up morale
Unhappy employees are more likely to call in sick, so it’s important to create an environment which is enjoyable and stimulating. It’s also important to consult your workforce and take into account any majority views – for example, if they would like to listen to a radio, or watch events on TV (you should check licensing laws to stay compliant).
If an employee has an event they wish to take part in, can you be proactive and combat unnecessary absence by agreeing a flexible working pattern in advance? Encouraging your employees to communicate their needs can help you come to a compromise, giving your employee every opportunity to avoid missing work.
Could your team take half-hour lunch breaks instead of the usual one hour for a week or two, or come in an hour earlier for a few days? If so, that could allow them to accrue the time they need to take an afternoon to watch a midday match or attend a child’s sports day without hurting productivity.
Arranging staff social activities – such as an organised out-of-hours event to watch an important match – can help make everyone feel involved, not just the super fans. It can also help to nip in the bud any sense of resentment that others may be getting ‘special treatment’.