Are you ready for sick days during sports events? Research shows you need to be!

Employees who take sick days during sports events will need careful monitoring this Summer, which features a perfect storm of EURO16, Wimbledon and the Olympics.

With some key matches scheduled during work hours, including this Thursday’s England -v- Wales match, the European Championship is expected to be the biggest cause of unauthorised leave in the UK during 2016.  Many organisations have conducted research ahead of the games, and the results for British businesses don’t give good predictions.


Research from ELAS last week indicated that 40% of employees would pull sick days during sports events if the event took place in working hours.

Whilst this summer has more sporting events than any other, new research from Kronos has revealed that more than a third of employees (35 percent) expect Euro16 to cause more absenteeism than Wimbledon (18 percent) and the Rio Olympics (11 percent) combined – though the fallout from all three could be catastrophic.

The Kronos research showed that nearly three quarters of employees (73 percent) believe their fellow workers have already “thrown a sickie” in the last 12 months and almost one in five (18 percent) believe their colleagues take up to six false sick days off every year. One third (33 percent) of all workers admitted to taking a sick day when they were not ill.

Experts all agree that sick days during sports events are not inevitable, but the issue needs careful handling – nearly one in five (19 percent) told Kronos that lack of flexibility was the reason they took a full day off rather than arrive at work later or leave earlier, so with a little creativity absenteeism can often be positively discouraged.

Neil Pickering, Industry and Customer Insight Manager, Kronos, said:

“Demonstrating willingness to accommodate employee needs, and allowing them to enjoy these sporting events and their leisure time goes a long way to improving employee engagement and ultimately results in higher levels of productivity and performance. With the appropriate advanced workforce scheduling tools, organisations can actually use these events to their advantage.”

These findings would seem to be supported by separate research carried out by the UK’s largest jobs board, CV Library which revealed that 81.9% of employees saw major sporting events as an opportunity for managers to bond with staff, regardless of whether they enjoy sports or not. Of the 2,000+ employees that completed the survey:

  • 61.1% plan to watch sporting events this year
  • 62.3% of staff believe businesses SHOULD show support for international sporting events
  • Yet only 1 in 11 worked for companies that embraced events

Lee Biggins, CV-Library’s founder and managing director, comments:

“Instead of a chance to increase staff morale, major sporting events can often be considered as a potential disruption by employers. Planning ahead and considering ways to embrace international events in the workplace, can actually reduce disturbance and encourage team building amongst employees.”

Absence management expert Adrian Lewis, of Activ Absence, said:

“Unauthorised leave always happens during major sporting tournaments and HR managers should anticipate that during Euro 2016 they will probably see more people calling in sick. Whilst short term absence is hard to manage and can have a big impact on productivity, there are steps businesses can take to ensure there isn’t too much disruption over the next few weeks.  The Kronos research also found that being flexible with workers meant they were less likely to take unauthorised sick days.  

“Why not allow people to watch games in the office, or allow people to leave a little earlier or come in a later for other matches?

“Being flexible this summer will help reduce absenteeism and build staff morale and motivation. However, it’s still important for companies to be clear on their absenteeism policy and make sure people understand the rules.”

Here are Adrian’s tips for managing absenteeism during Euro 2016:


1. Keep an eye on sporting fixtures, even if you aren’t a fan yourself.  Make sure that you are prepared for possible sickies in advance. It’s harder to get temporary cover for sick days during sports events or the day after bank holiday, so plan in advance based on previous experience.

2. Fair play is important in sport – it also extends to fair handling of leave requests.  Decide ahead how you will handle multiple requests for staff holiday, especially during sporting tournaments – if you can’t authorise all of them, could you compromise and let people watch the fixtures at work instead?

3. To stop absenteeism, make staff aware of your policy on sickness absence and enforce it equally throughout your organisation.  More than half of employed adults believe their work performance is negatively impacted when attendance policies are not fairly enforced throughout an organisation, so make sure your rules treat management and staff equally.

4. Educate your staff.  Staff who take sick days to ‘watch the match’ don’t realise that short term absence has a big impact on the company’s bottom line and is more disruptive to the business than long term sickness.  Raising awareness can encourage them to book planned annual leave days rather than faking a ‘sickie’.

5. Always use return to work forms and interviews.  Sporting absenteeism seems to have regular offenders – by having to complete a return to work self-certification form, or experiencing a return to work interview it’s less likely to be brushed under the carpet.  Inaction sets an example to the rest of your workforce, so if your reports spot a trend, act on it.  Those who regularly take sick days during sports events need to be tackled robustly.

6.  Consider your systems in advance – spreadsheets and paper forms are less than ideal for managing both staff holiday and sickness absence, especially if more than one person is able to authorise leave.   Absence management software is designed for purpose, prevents leave clashes at line manager level and usually saves more than it costs – it’s also visibly fair.

7. Use sporting events to promote teamwork, engagement and motivation at work. Ways to do this include themed days at work, showing matches to encourage attendance and maybe even having a fun sweep stake.  If the fun is at work, people will be less likely to fake sick days during sports events, and come into work instead.

Allowing staff a little but of fun and flexibility during Euro 2016 can work as long as everyone understands the rules and knows the procedures for being absent. Businesses that can use Euro 2016 for team building events and engaging with staff will reap the rewards of fewer people being off sick and ensure any loss of productivity is kept to a minimum over the next few weeks.


Author: Editorial Team

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