Harriet Howes, an employment lawyer at Howes Percival

How to handle World Cup fever in the work place - Norfolk lawyer shares her tips

Monday, June 2, 2014
6.03 PM

The World Cup is days away - but with fears that staff might be distracted by the Brazilian football festival, Harriet Howes, employment lawyer at Norwich-based Howes Percival offers her tips on handling World Cup Fever

Get the tactics right...

Anticipation is already reaching fever pitch ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup which is due to start in June. However, the tournament can cause many employers to panic that their employees will be suddenly struck down with a bout of ‘World Cup fever’, taking ‘sickies’ to watch matches or arriving late after a night of celebrating their team’s win. To reduce the risk of this happening there are a number of measures employers can take:

1. Unpaid or annual leave

Allow employees to take unpaid time off work to watch matches or consider requests for short periods of annual leave. Employers must ensure that employees are informed in advance whether requests for leave will be unpaid or part of their annual leave and how requests will be considered, for example on a first come first served basis. Requests will need to be treated consistently.

It is wise to confirm to employees that if time off or holiday requests are refused and they subsequently fail to attend work, this will be treated as unauthorised absence for which they could be disciplined, unless they can demonstrate it was for another reason e.g. sickness.

2. Shift swaps

For businesses that operate a shift system, introducing a shift swap scheme enables employees to arrange their shifts around the matches they are interested in, provided appropriate levels of cover can be maintained and subject to the Working Time Regulations.

Introduce a temporary flexible hours system

This allows employees to alter their hours to accommodate match times, for example an extended lunch break, starting work later or finishing work early – provided that core business hours are covered and employees are aware that they will need to make up the time another day.

3. Screening matches on work premises

Some employers see the World Cup as an opportunity for team building and as a gesture of good will screen matches on site. However, be aware that non football fans who choose not to watch and get left to staff the office may not be so happy about such an arrangement. Furthermore, employers need to be aware that in a diverse workforce not everyone will be interested in just England’s matches, so they may have requests to screen other matches.

They think it’s all over...

The key to successfully managing employees during the World Cup is to ensure that whatever measures an employer decides to implement, these are clearly communicated to all staff. It is also advisable to remind employees that turning up to work drunk or so hung over they are incapable of carrying out their duties will be considered a disciplinary offence and that levels of sickness absence will be closely monitored for the duration of the World Cup.

Ultimately employees have no ‘legal right’ to take time off work to watch football matches and it is for the employer to decide how flexible they want to be.