Union tells workers how to throw a world cup 'sickie'

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The Independent Online

A trade union is offering advice to members on how to go about taking a "sickie" so as to watch England play in the World Cup.

On its website, Amicus has published advice under the headline World Cup Fever.

It reads: "So you want to watch the World Cup, but you are meant to be at work when it's on: can you play away or is the risk of permanent relegation from your job too high?".

The union advises members to try to book time off, but failing that suggests trying to persuade management, with the help of a union negotiator, " what a good investment it could be to find ways to let people watch the World Cup" - adding that allowing staff to watch a game together at work on a big screen would be "great team building" and is much cheaper than an "away day".

Another alternative is asking your boss if he will let you have time off to watch the game and then make up the time.

Under the sub-heading Just Take A 'Sickie'?, the website says: "It is quite difficult to prove that someone is not really sick if they have one day off."

Advising members to call in sick if they are required to do so, it adds: "If your employer is suspicious about your reason for absence then they can take the timing of your sickie and notification of it ... into account in deciding on the balance of probabilities if you really were sick, or not."

The advice continues under the sub-heading What If You Are Caught?, saying: "Taking time off work without permission can lead to dismissal for 'gross misconduct'."

It adds: "Also, lying to your employer about your reason for absence might amount to gross misconduct too."

The advice goes on: "However, if your company disciplinary/absence procedure does not make this clear you can argue that it is simply a form of misconduct which should be viewed in the light of your work record."

It adds: "If you have a union representative they should be able to help you with your arguments and interpretation of procedures."

The advice concludes: "It will always be a gamble if you can't get your boss to play on the same team in the World Cup Watching/Work game."

Stephen Alambritis of the Federation of Small Businesses called for the advice to be withdrawn from the union's website.

Employers were already taking action to be "very, very flexible" in allowing staff to structure working days around matches, he suggested.

And encouraging sickies - and suggesting it was possible to get away with it - was grossly unfair on firms and fellow workers.

"They should withdraw that bit of advice from the web," he said on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"It's grossly unfair also on staff who are not football fans when they see a union advising their other colleagues to take a sickie."

Absence from work cost the economy £13 billion a year, he said.

He backed another piece of research which showed today could in fact be one of the most productive as staff made efforts to get jobs done so they could leave work early.

"That's the way to view the World Cup rather than advice on throwing sickies," he said.

Amicus director of legal services Georgina Hirsch told the programme: " On balance, the article is far from encouraging people to take sickies.

"In fact, we advise people that it's a big risk for them to do so.

"Unions exist to help advise people about issues at work and I'm afraid the reality is people do take sickies, whether it's for the World Cup or not."

The Amicus General Secretary, Derek Simpson, said later: "Amicus is backing England in the World Cup. We are not encouraging staff to take a sickie, we are advising them not to and warning them of the consequences of doing so.

"Employees who want to watch the World Cup should make the appropriate arrangements with their employer."

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