At the weekend I watched a programme on Channel 4 called Don’t Look Down (http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dont-look-down) where the practice of young people climbing such things as very tall cranes without safety wires, known as urban free climinbing, was featured With graphic filming of what it is like to be 100 feet or more in the air, which made me feel physically sick as I do not like heights, clearly the people being filmed were enjoying the thrill and exhilaration. Apparently the craze started in Russia and has now spread to the UK. Whilst there have yet been no deaths from this bizarre sport in the UK, only time will tell whether they will remain a zero statistic. Of course, whilst this is an extreme sport, many employees take part in other sports which can be dangerous, such as racing, skiing, rugby, horse riding, snowboarding, mountain climbing, all of which carry the risk of something going wrong. These issues lead to the consideration of what stance employers can take if their employees partake in extreme or dangerous sports particularly with the risk of accident, disability or death.
The consequences of an employee being off due to sickness absence after taking part in an extreme or dangerous sport will be the cost to an employer. Depending on the length of sickness absence, the employer will have to pay out SSP or occupational sick pay and possibly recruit a temporary member of staff to cover workload if the absence is to continue for several months. To protect themselves an employer can add a caveat into an employment contract or employee handbook so that if an employee has an accident due to their leisure pursuits the employer is not liable for sick pay. If existing terms and conditions are being changed in this manner it is important to consult and get agreement with the workforce. A policy related to a death in service benefit may also be treated in the same manner.
Employees at risk of not being paid sick pay should they have an accident can take out personal insurance to ensure they have an income should they have an accident.
Sandra is and independent HR with twenty years experience in HR management. Sandra provides HR, employment law and auto enrolment support to small businesses across the UK and is passionate about delivering a high quality service on the phone, by email and on site.