Reality TV shows like I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here are harming business productivity, a law firm claimed.
As a result of people taking time out to vote or bet online for the winner of such shows, hundreds of working hours are lost each week, reckons Cobbetts.
It claimed: "This, combined with employees taking time off work to watch reality TV shows at home, can completely disrupt the day-to day running of a business. In addition, near to Christmas many employees take annual leave, or fall ill due to the winter weather so the situation is made worse."
Kathy Halliday, employment partner, went on: "It is predictable that employees in the Midlands will take more unauthorised absences to take advantage of live viewing of reality TV, but employers must ensure that they approach unauthorised absence with care.
"Initially, the most concerning factor that absenteeism will have on businesses is the impact upon productivity and therefore profitability.
"Employers, however, also need to be aware of the consequences of their actions should they choose to discipline employees who have taken unauthorised leave. Without having the correct procedures in place to ensure that everything is done in line with best practice and legal requirements, they may well leave themselves open to a barrage of tribunal claims.
"Those who are impulsive, choosing to act first and think second, could end up facing huge penalties at tribunal, as a result of unfair dismissal, constructive dismissal or harassment claims.
"The advice is to investigate each case on an individual basis."