Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Games fatigue no excuse for work slackers

The eyes of the world have been on Rio for a week now. Photo / Bloomberg
The eyes of the world have been on Rio for a week now. Photo / Bloomberg

It's official. The Olympics are not an excuse to suck at your job for two weeks every four years.

The eyes of the world have been on Rio for a week now, but a 15-hour time difference means Kiwi sports' fans must swap sleep for a chance to watch the planet's best athletes.

Life doesn't stop for the Olympics. Most of us are still expected to show up to work, and put in a fair day's effort, sleep-deprived or not.

Employment law experts told the Weekend Herald this week they were not aware of any formal disputes emerging midway through the Games.

But Whitehead Group employment advocate Max Whitehead said one employer had expressed doubt to him over an employee's Olympics-timed sick day.

"They said they half expected it was the Olympics. They were worried this guy wouldn't turn up ... there's a bit of a history."

The best course of action for Games-obsessed employees, and their employers, was to be honest with each other, Whitehead said.

For employees that meant asking employers if they could alter their hours to watch the Olympics, or take time off, and for employers it meant not covertly trying to find out what employees were doing when not at work.

"Any major sporting event is exciting. But being upfront is best."

Employment lawyer Catherine Stewart said employers and those working for them were legally obligated to act in good faith towards each other. Employees wanting to watch the Games should ask for leave, or ask their employer if they can alter their hours to see certain events.

"An employee who does not turn up to work without authorisation potentially risks disciplinary action against them, even leading to dismissal depending on the circumstances.

"The fact that an employee was watching the Olympics is not likely to be a compelling defence if that had not been cleared with their boss first."

Abbey Employment Law Specialists partner Greg Bennett said concerns about tardiness and performance were shared during last year's Rugby World Cup, with matches occurring in the small hours here.

"We just told them to get managers to have a chat with them."

Open communication was the best option, Bennett said.

"Then the employer can make adjustments, or just say yes or no. Always talk to the boss or manager about what to do."

Employment lawyer Garry Pollak

said employees had a responsibility to be able to work, Olympics or not.

"If they come to work and can't perform because they've been up watching the bloody telly, well ..."

Major employers spoken to, including Air New Zealand and Spark, said they had not spoken to employees about the Olympics and work performance.

A spokesman for Spark said it was down to the manager's discretion if someone wanted "to start a bit later because they've been up watching all night."

- NZ Herald

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