Skip to content

The World Cup kicked off in Brazil last night (Thursday, 12 June 2014), with the final taking place on Sunday 13 July. Games are scheduled between 5pm and 11pm (UK time). With football fever set to grip most of the nation, there will be a number of issues around working arrangements for employers to consider throughout the tournament. These include:

  • Requests for annual leave;
  • Sickness absence;
  • Internet use during working hours;
  • Effects of alcohol.

Flexibility from both employers and employees will be key to ensuring a productive business and engaged workforce throughout the tournament.

Annual leave

The World Cup in 2010 cost UK businesses millions of pounds a day as a result of employees ‘pulling sickies’ the day after a key match. Employers can try to avoid unplanned absences by reminding employees of the company’s annual leave policy and encouraging annual leave to be taken. Employers may choose to adopt a more flexible holiday policy during the World Cup, on the understanding that flexibility will be part of temporary working arrangements.

However employers choose to deal with annual leave during the World Cup, it isimportant that all requests are considered fairly and consistently. Not all employees like football, therefore, some leave requests may be made for alternative reasons.

Return to work interview

An employer’s sickness policy will continue to operate during the World Cup. Employers may want to remind staff of the policy and should make it clear to them in advance that sickness absences during the tournament will be subject to closer scrutiny, such as requiring employees to have a return-to-work interview for every absence.

Employers should also remind employees that any unauthorised absence or patterns in absence (including persistent late attendance) could result in disciplinary proceedings.

Acceptable use policy

During the World Cup, employees are likely to spend a significant amount of time using the internet to get team news, score updates or general news about the tournament. Employers should have a clear policy regarding internet use in the workplace (including the use of social networking sites), setting out what is and what is not acceptable usage. Employees should be reminded of this policy in advance.

Alcohol policy

With games taking place in the evening, it is likely that football matches will be enjoyed with a beer… or two! Employees should be reminded that it is unacceptable to attend work incapable of performing their duties properly due to the effects of alcohol. Where an alcohol policy is in place, employers may want to remind employees of the policy in advance.

Flexible working arrangements

With games kicking off between 5pm and 11pm, it is likely that only shift/evening workers will take ‘sickies’ to be able to watch key matches. However, other workers may take them the day after, particularly when the kick off time is 11pm.

One option available to employers for dealing with these issues is to offer employees the opportunity to work flexibly during the World Cup, on the understanding that the arrangement is a temporary one. Employees could be allowed to work through lunch breaks (provided they have taken the required 20 minute rest break), come into work early or late and to leave early or late in order to watch the games or recover from the later kick-off times. Employers should make it clear to employees that flexible working arrangements must be agreed with management before work patterns are changed. Again, it is important to treat non-football fans consistently during this period.

Such flexibility is also a great way for employers to thank staff and boost morale while ensuring the required levels of work are maintained.

For more information on any of the issues raised in this article, please contact our Employment Law team or call us on 0117 904 6000