How Does Employment Law Relate To Football? Is It A Completely Different Ball Game?
Football clubs are employers and footballers are bound by the same
employment legislation as everyone else, despite the fact the wages they receive are significantly higher than any other industry.
With two high profile disputes between players and their clubs in the news right now,
what can employers do to resolve disputes when, many say, wages within the industry are out of control and give too much power to the players?
Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce is trying to figure out what to do with striker Ross McCormack after losing patience with him for repeatedly missing training – the latest excuse McCormack used was that he could not get to training as the electric gates at his house would not open. The manager challenged McCormack, asking him to jump over the fence and get a taxi in before going to his house to check the gate for himself. Bruce
cited a history of indiscipline at the club and said: “He said he couldn’t jump over a fence that was four feet six inches high. Not in 20 years in management have I ever gone down this road but I feel I have to make a stance because I will not put up with it on my watch. How can I pick him when he doesn’t come in?”
Earlier this month Dimitri Payet told West Ham United that he
would never play for the club again after they rejected a bid from Marseille. Manager Slaven Bilic told the press that they will not sell the player, who signed a five year contract in Feb 2016, saying “We aren’t going to sell him, not whatsoever. It’s not a money issue or anything. We want to keep our best players”. Payet has now effectively gone on strike refusing to play or train with the club. What Can The Clubs Do?
Emma O’Leary is an
employment law consultant for the ELAS Group. She says: “Whether you run a premier league football club or a corner shop, the law is the same. If you have an employee that does not turn up and has no reasonable explanation for their absence then that should be tackled.
“Time off for emergencies to care for a dependant is a statutory right; time off because you could not get over your gate is not. Of course an employer must be reasonable when it comes to genuine absence but when a pattern is emerging where it’s clear an employee has lost interest or simply cannot be bothered to come to work then this needs to be addressed. Whether it’s a fault on a fancy electronic gate rendering the employee under house arrest or their granddad’s cousin’s sister has died for the 4
th time, if employers have any doubt as to the validity of an absence then they should challenge it. Maybe the employee simply fancied a duvet day or maybe there is an underlying issue and they are not coping with work, or want to move on. Don’t be afraid of communicating with your employee. It’s ok to ask why they were absent, if the reasons were genuine and get to the bottom of what might be an issue. Perhaps you might not want to announce it to the whole company or the outside world though!
“While the Payet case is extreme and very unlikely to happen in the real world, where an employee who refused to work would be shown the door pretty quickly, this situation does occur daily within organisations with managers being left with the dilemma of keeping key talent whilst accepting that making allowances on attitude can affect the rest of the team.”
Is there anything a manager can do to keep an employee who wants to leave?
Emma O’Leary says: “Yes. It’s important to keep regular communication with employees including those who are frustrated or disenchanted. Little things like listening to what is causing the frustration and trying to overcome the issues are key. Whilst it can be tempting to ignore employees concerns or bury your head in the sand, ultimately this causes more problems than it solves. Employees need to be communicated with, even when the message is one that managers feel the employees don’t want to hear.”