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BenQ encouraged workers to throw footy sickies

Red card for Euro 2004 sponsor

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BenQ UK has been given the red card after being found to have encouraged workers to throw sickies during the recent Euro 2004 football championships.

The techie hardware outfit - one of the sponsors of Euro 2004 - ran an ad plugging a laptop with a screen that was 33 per cent brighter than average.

Under the headline "Bogus sick days will be 33% more enjoyable this summer" the ad featured a picture of a man lying in bed and watching football on his laptop.

It went on: "What better way to enjoy BenQ's multimedia streaming and official statistics from UEFA EURO 2004 when you're far, far too ill to do any work? ...".

Although the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received just one complaint, it agreed that the ad was "irresponsible" and encouraged people to take time off "under false pretences". BenQ UK tried to tackle the complaint head-on insisting that this was a humerous ad that didn't encourage workers to take time off since it had been "statistically proven" that the number of sick days taken increased during major sporting events.

Far from promoting irresponsible behaviour in workers, BenQ said it was merely mirroring a fact of life. It also pointed out that many of the games during Euro 2004 were in the evening.

Although the ASA accepted that the ad was meant to be funny, at the end of the day, it ruled that it "irresponsibly condoned absenteeism from work under false pretences" and sent BenQ off for an early bath.

It's estimated that British businesses lose 40m days a year through sickies, costing employers a massive £11.5bn in 2002. While larger companies can absorb this extra cost, it can hit smaller businesses hard.

While many workers go absent because of hangovers, stress, workplace bullying and family-related matters, there are sickie spikes during major sports events. ®

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