Holiday Entitlement During Major Sporting Events

Holiday Entitlement During Major Sporting Events. When it comes to major sporting events interest generally grows as a team progresses through the event. As the 2022 FIFA World Cup starts on 21 November and ends on 18 December 2022 the requests for time off to watch key matches are likely to compete with other requests, for time off in the lead up to the Christmas period. If you are in the position of not been able to grant all requests you should deal with them in the same way as other periods of high demand. This might mean declining a request, asking another employee to change an already approved request or cancelling a previously approved request.

Avoiding Discriminatory Treatment

Employees who consider that they have been treated unfairly may pursue a grievance. Employees may also claim that they have been subjected to unlawful discrimination (for example because of their sex, race or age) where a request for time off has been refused. To avoid allegations of unfair and/or discriminatory treatment when either granting time off or allowing employees to take annual leave to watch matches, you should ensure all requests are considered fairly and consistently and decisions do not favour a particular group.

Employers should not discriminate when deciding for which matches to grant time off. If time off is to be granted to watch key England matches, it should also be granted to watch key matches involving other nations so that employees of different nationalities can follow their team.

Controlling When Holiday Entitlement Is Taken

Employees have the right to a minimum of 5.6 weeks’ annual leave, but there is no statutory obligation you, the employer, to insist that they take this, if the employees do not request holiday. However, you do have a duty to take reasonable care of the health and welfare of your employees and it is good practice to encourage employees to plan and take their holiday entitlement in each holiday leave year. A claim for damages arising out of an accident at work or work-related stress could turn on evidence of your failure to ensure that the worker took the holiday and rest breaks to which they were entitled.

Q1: Can we require employees to use a portion of their accrued holiday before the tournament starts?

In many situations, it is possible for you to dictate when an employee should take some of their holiday entitlement. Many employers close between Christmas and the New Year and some have a summer shut down to allow maintenance work to be carried out.

The starting point is to check the employment contract to make sure if there are any contractual provisions, which allow you to designate a specific period of annual leave (such provisions are very common). Secondly, check if there is any ‘relevant agreement’ under the Working Time Regulations, which permits you to force an employee to take annual leave (such as a collective agreement). If the contract or relevant agreement contains such provisions, you should comply with those terms (which may include giving a minimum amount of notice of a period of leave).

In the absence of such express provisions, you can still dictate when an employee must take holiday entitlement, but must give notice equivalent to at least twice the period of leave to be taken. For example, if you wanted an employee to take one week of holiday you would need to provide two weeks’ notice.

If you don’t want to designate specific dates as holiday you may prefer to be more flexible and set general rules, which still allow the worker a degree of flexibility. For example:

  • If your holiday year runs from January to December you could say, ‘You must have used 80% of your annual holiday entitlement by 31 October and 100% by 31 December’. So, employees who have 20 days of entitlement (28 less the 8 bank holidays) would need to use 16 days by the end of October, leaving 4 days to use during November and December.
  • If your holiday runs from April to March you could say, ‘You must have used 50% of your annual holiday entitlement by 30 September, 75% by 31 December and 100% by 31 March’. So, employees who have 20 days of entitlement (28 less the 8 bank holidays) would need to use 10 days by the end of September, leaving 5 days to use during October, November and December and a further 5 days to use during January, February and March.

Audit Use Of Holiday Entitlement

Now would be a good time to audit how much holiday staff have taken proportionate to the time left in the holiday year (e.g. use a red, amber, green colour coding). This audit process should identify staff who appear to be stockpiling their annual leave. What it will not provide, without further investigation, are the reasons why they are have lots of leave outstanding.

This audit will then able you to investigate why some individuals have large amounts of holiday outstanding:

  • Identify if there are any reasons why they have been unable to take their accrued holiday
  • Discuss with staff how much leave they are intending to take in the coming weeks and months
  • Encourage staff to, wherever possible, ‘use it or lose it’
  • In cases where it has genuinely not been reasonably practicable to take leave, outline any application process to carry over holiday.

Q2: Can we decline any requests for holiday during the World Cup Tournament?

Under the Working Time Regulations 1998, an employee who wishes to take holiday entitlement must give notice equal to twice the length of the holiday that they wish to take. An employer can decline the holiday request on condition they:

  1. have a genuine business reason for doing so, and
  2. give notice that is at least equivalent to the length of holiday requested.

If December is one of your busiest trading times, that would be an acceptable reason. Also, if you have already approved holiday for the maximum number of people you can have away from work at one time, would be an acceptable reason – however bear in mind an employee in this position may be inclined to take the time as sick leave instead.

With regards to notice, if an employee wanted to take one week as holiday, they would need to provide two weeks’ notice and then you would need to provide at least one week of notice to decline the holiday request.

Disciplinary Action

If an employee chooses to go ahead with a holiday that you had declined, the absence should be recorded as unauthorised, and you may consider disciplinary action.

Q3. Can we cancel an employee’s holiday that we had previously approved?

To cancel previously approved holiday, you would need to give the employee the same number of days’ notice as the original holiday request (so one week of holiday requires one weeks’ notice to cancel).

This would clearly not be a popular move and should only be undertaken under extreme circumstances. There is also a risk that unreasonably cancelling holiday could be considered a breach of mutual trust and confidence, a term implied into the employment contract. If employees feel this has been breached, they could resign and claim constructive dismissal. In addition, if employees have made travel plans, they may expect compensation from you for any cancellation or re-scheduling charges incurred as a result of having to cancel the holiday.

Q4. Can an Employee use some of next year’s entitlement to cover time off to watch the world cup?

Yes, you could allow that.

The best way to do that would be to contact everyone to say ‘to allow everyone a degree of flexibility during the World Cup we will allow individuals who have 2 days or less of their annual entitlement remaining to bring forward some days, up to a maximum of 5, from next year’s entitlement. If you do not use the days brought forward they will not expire on 31 December and will continue to apply in the 2023 holiday year. Requests to bring days forward should be submitted by the 31 October’.

Q5. How do we manage an employee who works from home?

If the employee continues to work as productively during the World Cup tournament as they do at other times, it would be hard to raise any concerns.

But, if you notice they are not working productively and meeting the requirements of their role, you will need to consider whether the circumstances are serious enough to warrant treating the incident as a disciplinary matter under your normal disciplinary procedure.

Top Tips

It would be wise to have a clear line of communication with your employees concerning holiday. It is a good idea to:

  • Talk about any plans to use holiday during the world cup tournament as soon as possible
  • Discuss why holiday might need to be taken
  • Listen to any concerns from staff
  • Welcome and suggest ideas for other options
  • Consider any temporary adjustments to your holiday policy to allow flexibility during the tournament.
Holiday Entitlement During Major Sporting Events

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