UK: Summer Sport Skivers

Last Updated: 18 July 2012
Article by Will Walsh

During Euro 2012 and London Olympics it is highly likely that at least some employees will throw a "sickie" to watch the TV coverage and a larger number will spend significant amounts of time checking sports news at work. In the first of three articles covering the 2012 summer of sport employment issues, lawyers in our Employment Team answer some questions which you may be faced with.

The Summer of Sport is likely to raise issues for employers, in particular with regards to absenteeism and productivity. Will Walsh answers some of the most frequent questions. 

o you have to allow employees to take certain days off as holiday?

No, but you should consider holiday requests fairly. You should follow your normal rules on taking holiday, unless these can be fairly adapted or relaxed to the circumstances, for example first-come, first-served. Explain to staff in advance that leave requests will not be refused unreasonably, but it may not be possible to agree to all of those who ask for time-off to ensure minimum staffing levels, for operational as well as health and safety reasons.

Be mindful of claims of favouritism, discrimination or general unfairness when deciding which employees can take the time off. For example, it might be the case that more men ask for time off for football, but requests by women should not be treated any differently.

What should you do if you suspect a worker has taken a 'sickie'?

If a worker calls in sick on a day which coincides with a match or key Olympic event, or the day after a big game, you may have suspicions that the reasons for the absence are not genuine.

Ensure that you have clear rules and procedures in place for dealing with unauthorised absences, for example in your disciplinary rules or absence policy. If you don't have rules in place already, issue a policy in advance of summer of sport confirming that unauthorised absences will be dealt with in accordance with your formal disciplinary procedure. This doesn't have to be a formal policy – a memo or email may do.

Scrutinise unauthorised absences closely throughout Euro 2012 and Olympics and keep a record of these. The greatest difficulty in pursuing disciplinary action is often obtaining evidence to support your suspicions of what the person was doing whilst off work. Look out for those celebratory photos on the employee's Facebook page! Alternatively, you may hear rumours that the real reason for the absence has been divulged to work colleagues, in which case you could interview those people as part of the investigation.

Where workers are absent during this period, hold return to work interviews with them on their return to work to try to establish if the absence was genuine.

In reaching any decision, much will come down to your own judgment. Actual evidence will assist that judgment significantly, otherwise you will have to rely on your reasonable suspicions, taking into account the cogency of the explanation given by the employee, their general demeanour and other factors such as whether the period of absence coincides with particular games and is of a short term nature. You are not required to prove the case against the employee beyond all doubt, your obligation is to reach a reasonable conclusion based on the evidence available.

Do you have to pay staff who are absent without prior authorisation?

Generally no, but you should have a return to work interview with the employee first to check what the reason for their absence was. If you are not going to pay employees for unauthorised absences, this should be clearly stated in your policy on the matter.

Those who only pay sick pay over and above Statutory Sick Pay on a discretionary basis should be aware that Statutory Sick Pay is generally not payable for the first three days of an absence, which may help resolve this particular issue if any employee has called in sick and there is genuine doubt over whether the absence was genuine or unauthorised. However discretion must be exercised fairly and evenly.

What if a worker doesn't come back from lunch or leaves early without consent?

This is an unauthorised absence, in the same way as taking a whole day 'sickie' discussed above. You should meet with the individual on their return to work, like a return to work interview, and try to establish the reason for absence. If the reason is unsatisfactory, the matter should be dealt with under your disciplinary policy.

Can workers rely on the fact that other departments have all been allowed time off?

Not necessarily, particularly if you can explain genuine reasons why. For example, a team in the marketing department may all be allowed the time off, whereas members of staff in a customer services team are not, because customer services need to be available all the time to answer telephone and email queries, whereas marketing staff don't.

Similarly, individual employees may be treated differently, for example when considering their holiday request, if they have specific managerial responsibilities or job duties that require them to be in the office.

If there are reasons why different employees or teams are treated in a particular way, try to explain why this is the case to staff so that they understand this.

Should workers be allowed to use the flexible working policy to watch sport?

The normal flexible working policy does not apply. However, you might consider requests by workers to swap shifts where possible. Tell staff in advance that they should not do this without prior approval.

You could also consider bringing in temporary staff to cover shifts, although this may be an expensive option.

Do you have to make allowances for workers who do not watch football or the Olympics?

No. However, you should keep an eye out for disgruntled employees who feel that they are having to work harder to cover for colleagues during the summer of sport. Some employers might consider implementing football-free areas of work, where those who do not wish to take part can go to escape.

What can you do to avoid workers taking unauthorised leave?

  • Send an email or memo to staff with your policy on holiday and absences during Euro 2012 and the Olympics.
  • Where you do not intend to allow time off for the matches, encourage workers to book holiday to watch matches as early as possible, but also make it clear that granting holiday requests will be subject to the needs of the business.
  • Remind workers that sickness during Euro 2012 and the Olympics will be scrutinised carefully and everyone will be asked to attend back to work interviews.
  • Think about designating one manager as the point of contact for all staff reporting sick during the Euro 2012 and the Olympics, to monitor the situation.
  • Consider your policy on allowing staff to swap shifts.
  • Can you take on temporary workers to cover absences?
  • Think about allowing workers to watch matches and events on TV in the office or canteen or at their desk. If you allow this, will you require them to make up the time before or after work or at lunch?
  • Emphasise that benefits during this time are a privilege rather than a right and should not be abused.

This document is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this document.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.