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Chucking a sickie, and major sporting events

Stephen Booth

"Any boss who sacks anyone for not turning up to work today is a bum!" (Bob Hawke, 1983)

Have you ever thrown a sickie for a grand final? You're far from alone. With the average Australian's passion for sport, major sporting events (the Olympics, the World Cup, Wimbledon, le Tour de France, the Ashes, Origin - the list is endless) can provide employees with significant temptation to "chuck a sickie." Indeed, a recent Robert Half global survey found Aussies (and Kiwis) get the gold medal for sports event-related sickies (or at least, HR managers perceive that they do).

Despite Bob Hawke's famous comment on the morning Australia won the America's Cup, an employer's expectation that employees will turn up for work is not to be disregarded entirely.

Of course, in many cases, employees will let their employer know that they intend to stay up late to watch a big game, and they'll make acceptable arrangements in a tolerant and mutually respectful way. 

However, the employee who doesn't forewarn their employer, and just calls in sick (or worse, the employee who asks and is refused but is defiantly determined to do as they please, so calls in sick) presents problems for getting work done when required, and of trust.

So how do you manage this? Here are a few pointers:

However, all these options have a certain killjoy tone (as Bob Hawke's exuberant aphorism suggests). Is there a more positive way, apart from letting employees get away with it?

Positive engagement benefits might arise if you work the event into the work day. Events on early in the morning or late in the afternoon, might become a work social event (much as the Melbourne Cup traditionally is) which can fit in with the work day, minimise the risk of absenteeism and serve as a bonding experience. A Smart Company article suggests uncovering and embracing employees' sporting passions may be an effective way to boost employee engagement and show the boss in a good light. It may be harder to apply that to a long event or an event occurring in the small hours (the Olympics, a test match, the Tour de France, the World Cup) than to a one-off occurring in or close to work time, but then again, there could be scope for a bigger buzz from working in a bigger event.

Now, what about the people who don't have an interest in sport, working away at their desks and feeling they don't get a benefit that their sporting fan colleagues do?

Enjoy whatever sports event comes next in your calendar.

For further information on leave entitlements, please contact our Employment Law specialists in Parramatta and Norwest, Baulkham Hills:

Stephen Booth, Principal
Phone: +61 2 9895 9222

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