Employees fundraising by undertaking physical challenges has become increasingly prevalent in recent years and a client of ours recently asked us…

 

‘…from a company risk perspective is there anything we need to be doing, e.g. if someone gets ill / has an accident etc.’.

We thought we would share our answer as it’s equally applicable to all employers.

 

If the event is being organised by the Company, there are a number of factors to consider. Obviously, such initiatives can boost employee wellbeing, engagement, morale, motivation etc. and feed into the organisation’s CSR activity. However, from an occupational health perspective, there’s always going to be risk attached to any kind of exercise-based health promotion initiative, e.g. people pushing themselves too hard and damaging their health / injuring themselves. Therefore, it’s important to manage such events responsibly by advising people who have not exercised for a while to first consult their doctor and ensuring that participants have access to a proper training programme. It’s also advisable to facilitate ongoing health screening or assessment in the lead up to / in the immediate aftermath of the event. Although these steps won’t eradicate risk, they at least serve to manage it. It’s also vital that due consideration is granted to inclusivity in order to mitigate the risk of any discrimination claims. If an individual doesn’t want to / can’t take part in the physical side, thought should be given to other ways for them to get involved – the activity itself should just be one dimension of wider engagement and wellbeing exercise.

 

If the event is something the employees themselves have arranged, the only measures we would consider it necessary for you to take relate to the up-front management of any sickness absence that may result from the challenge. It’s not uncommon for employment contracts and / or sickness policies to reserve the right to review payment of contractual sick pay if an employee sustains an injury participating in a sport or leisure activity. As with so many aspects of employment law, a common-sense approach involving clear communication of Company policy in advance is key to the effective management of such eventualities. That policy would need to clearly define the pursuits it applies to, either with reference to its technical composition or the types / level of risk it involves. Where sick pay is “discretionary”, you will probably already appreciate the need for that discretion not to be exercised arbitrarily in order to avoid perceived unfairness and all that can flow from that. We would also recommend that a degree of discretion takes place in the application of the Bradford Factor to any related periods of absence.

 

Chris Nagel, Director / Head of HR at EML, comments…

 

“More generally, it’s always worth considering the impression that withdrawal of sick pay in such circumstances will generate among staff. Will the Company be perceived as uncaring and actively seeking to deter employees from participating in activities that, by and large, are good for their health? Will these perceptions have a negative impact on recruitment and retention?” 

If you’re an employer with queries in this area that aren’t covered above, please feel free to contact us for an initial chat without charge or obligation.