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9th June, 2014

Plan ahead to manage the World Cup at work

Four years have passed and the World Cup is upon us again in summer 2014. As this year’s tournament is taking place in Brazil which is four hours behind UK time, England’s matches are scheduled to take place between 5pm and 11pm (UK time). Whilst the England matches themselves may not be taking place during your normal working hours, they can, together with other matches of interest, still have an affect on business.

Keen football fans may be tempted to take time off work during the World Cup to support their team, even if this means doing so through unauthorised absence. Whilst there is no obligation on an employer to make special concessions during the World Cup, research has shown that employees are likely to react far better to their employer and increase their productivity if they feel that their non-work interests are supported.

So, what considerations should employers and employees have?

Firstly, employers should have robust policies in place. Most employers will already have policies to deal with issues such as unauthorised absence but they must ensure that these are consistent with any special arrangements that are made. Furthermore, employees should be aware of the policy content, their obligations under them and consequences of breaching them well in advance of the World Cup.

In terms of unauthorised absence itself, this should be monitored by employers. If policies allow, it may be appropriate to request medical evidence earlier than the usual practice of seven days’ absence if an employee is suspected to be “pulling a sickie”. Further, where possible, monitoring an employee’s social media profiles may be a quick way to evidence a “sickie”. Employees should consider their employers methods to ensure they don’t inadvertently breach policies.

One option to boost the workforce could be to consider providing flexible working. It is likely that an employee only realistically wants some flexibility for a very short period therefore a flexible working request may not be necessary and it could be more appropriate for an employer to relax rules during this time. By allowing staff flexibility over their start and finish times, cover can still be provided for the business during the core hours and staff may be able to make up time later.

Another approach would be for an employer to offer shift swaps between employees. Members of staff who are not interested in the World Cup may help facilitate this, but employers should be careful to ensure they do not treat them less favourably or make them feel excluded.

In recent years, the use of social media has rocketed and is now arguably the largest medium for breaking news, together with opinions on events such as the World Cup. Through social media, employees may be tempted to regularly check their accounts in order to keep up to date. Furthermore, employees may attempt to watch parts of the World Cup using work internet systems, which if done at the same time by several employees, could adversely result in the system failing, not to mention wasting working time. Both of these issues highlight the importance of robust internet usage and social media policies. In addition, employers may want to monitor the use of such mediums on employees’ personal devices. A “Bring Your Own Device” policy is one solution.

Bearing all of the above in mind, an employee may be less likely to break the rules if their employer allows them to keep up to date. One option is relaxing the rules to allow employees to check breaking news. Employers could even limit this to a particular site such as the BBC. This may help to avoid the employee having continual and addictive use of a medium like Twitter. When using social media, employees should carefully consider the content of what they are posting to ensure that they do not breach company policies.

Another option to satisfy the employees’ needs is to allow them to watch some games on a communal television. This is likely to boost morale amongst the workforce. As with flexible working, employers should consider how this time will be made up and when deciding which games to screen at the workplace, consider equal opportunities. Remember, not all employees will automatically be supporting England and shouldn’t be treated less favourably for this. Nationalistic behaviour among employees should be monitored to ensure there is no racial harassment or discrimination in the workplace.

Lets just think for a moment if there was a change to the 48-year trend and England went on to win the World Cup. No doubt, this would cause a huge amount of celebration amongst employees. Employers should consider their alcohol misuse policy to ensure that employees are not attending work under the influence of alcohol and that they are aware in advance that this would constitute a breach of policy and the associated implications. Employees who are considering such a celebration should bear their employment obligations in mind prior to any actions which could affect their work.

Ultimately, the important thing in preparing for the World Cup is forward planning and ensuring management lead by example.

For further information and advice in relation to best practice around the World Cup, please contact Helen Watson on 01244 405565 or send an email to [email protected].

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