A Guide to Tackling the World Cup in the Workplace

By 26th May 2018 Managing absence

The FIFA World Cup kicks off in Russia from14th June to 15th July with matches and commentary running throughout the working day and into the evening.

As an employer you need to consider the impact that such a high- profile sporting event may have on your business and put in place a strategy to minimise any disruptions.

Firstly, you need know the dates and times of the matches, especially those featuring UK teams or other favourites likes Brasil, Spain and Italy.

You can find a full breakdown of fixtures, starting with the group stages here: https://www.fifa.com/worldcup/matches/

The schedule sees most matches in the early stages starting mid-afternoon throughout the week and weekends with the final on Sunday 15 July.

World Cup & Work Commitments

A proportion of your staff will want to watch some or all matches but may be unable to do so due to work commitments. As a result, employers are likely to find themselves dealing with increased demand for time off, lateness, absenteeism, bleary eyed staff staying up past their normal bedtimes, and poor productivity during the tournament.

So, what can you do to minimise disruption in your workplace?  Start by planning ahead, assess the interest, know which members of your staff are football fans, know the fixture list and identify the most popular matches. You should then discuss your approach with your staff in a positive way and where possible accommodate requests for leave.

The aim is to maintain effective employer/employee relations and discourage employees from taking ‘sickies’. It is important to note that any requests must be balanced against the needs of the business.  There is no right solution but some options to consider include:-

  • Holiday requests
  • Flexible working hours
  • Shift swaps
  • Unpaid leave
  • Special screening of matches on premises if appropriate.

Requests for Time Off

When considering requests for time off, employers should act fairly, consistently and follow their own procedures.  If more employees want time off than can be granted, consider granting leave on a ‘first come first served’ basis or by using a rota system.  Any decision should also be based on non-discriminatory criteria, which should explained to and understood by staff.

If employees do not have sufficient holiday entitlement, then unpaid leave or making up ‘lost’ hours could be another solution.

Screening in the Workplace

Some employers are happy to bring the World Cup in to the workplace allowing employees to watch matches on a big screen in a meeting room for example, on the internet or listening to them on the radio.

Employees must be reminded that Company policies still apply e.g. What are the Company rules re gambling?  Is a sweep stake permitted?  You should also make it clear that aggressive or racist language and or behavior is not permitted and is potentially deemed as gross misconduct.

It must be made clear that breaches of Company policy and ruleswould lead to the privilege being withdrawn and disciplinary action could be taken against the employees involved.

Managing Absent Employees

If an employee turns up for work late or is believed to be under the influence of alcohol then the employer’s normal disciplinary procedures should be followed.

An employee who has been refused leave, or who does not believe leave will be granted, may not turn up for work, or call in sick. While the above circumstances are likely to raise suspicions, employers should take care not to jump to conclusions. They should carry out an investigation into any unauthorised absence before disciplinary action is considered.  A return to work interview or the requirement to produce medical evidence could act as a deterrent to abuse.

Planning in Advance

Finally, as with most things “failing to plan is planning to fail” so by taking the time to plan employers can take the hassle out of any issues of absence during the World Cup and even use it to maintain and improve staff morale.

If you don’t have the policies or procedures in place to manage any of the actions recommended, then HCHR can help.  Just call us today on the number below and we will help put your mind at rest.


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