The 2018 World Cup - How employers can avoid an own goal or penalties!

The 2018 World Cup - How employers can avoid an own goal or penalties!

Watching football at work

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Football World Cup will take place in Russia between Thursday 14 June and Sunday 15 July 2018. Football match times in the UK will vary between 1pm and 8pm.

Employees across numerous nationalities will be keen to follow their team and enjoy the event. Many staff may want to book some leave to attend the World Cup or attend special group events in the UK. Most are bound to use the internet or their phones to stay updated on the match results and in work time.

Employers who are concerned to ensure staff remain focussed on their work and maintain productivity should start planning as soon as possible to reduce the impact that the World Cup could have on their business.

Planning ahead

Employers may consider having agreements or policies in place regarding issues, such as taking time off, sickness absence or even watching the matches during working hours, especially if they are encouraging staff to get involved by having match predictor competitions or sweepstakes in the office.

Additionally, employers might want to talk with their employees to gauge the level of interest in the World Cup. This can help them better prepare for and balance staff requests for time off with the needs of the business.

With this forward planning, both employers and employees can better understand the needs of each party. But taking a more flexible approach to working hours, annual leave etc. may not always be possible as an employer will need to maintain a certain working level.

Taking a flexible approach

Whether or not employers currently have flexible working practices, it may be something to consider during the period of the World Cup, even if only a short-term measure.

An employer could consider a more flexible working day, meaning employees may come in a little later or finish earlier, and then agree when this time can be made up.

Allowing employees to listen to the radio or watch the TV may be another possible option. Is it possible to allow staff to take a break during certain matches? If this is done, it is important to make sure that different nationalities are treated equally to avoid allegations of race discrimination. Staff should also be warned about using racially abusive language, especially where staff are from countries whose teams are facing each other. 

Employers may look to allow shift swaps with management permission. Any change in hours or flexibility in working hours should be approved before the event.

Time off

Employees who wish to take time off work around the time of the World Cup should book annual leave in the normal way, as set out in their organisation's policy. However, employers may wish to look at being a little more flexible when allowing employees leave during this period but remember this will be a temporary arrangement.

Employees should remember it may not be possible to get the leave they have requested, particularly if a significant number of staff have requested the same time off - in these cases employers may need to adopt a 'first come first served' approach. The key is for both parties to try and come to an agreement.

Some employees may want to travel to Russia to watch the matches live, however, they should remember not to book flights until leave has been agreed. Employees should also be aware that they may experience travel delays when they are back in the UK so should return in plenty of time so their work doesn't suffer.

All leave requests should be considered fairly by all employers, and a consistent approach to other major sporting events in granting leave. Remember not everyone likes football!

Sickness absence

Organisations' sickness policies will still apply during this time, and these policies should be operated fairly and consistently for all staff.

Levels of attendance should be monitored during this period in accordance with the attendance policy, any unauthorised absence or patterns in absence could result in formal proceedings. This could include the monitoring of high levels of sickness, late attendance or lower levels of performance at work due to post match celebrations.

Websites and social networking

During the World Cup, there will be an increase in staff using social media, sports news websites or official sporting events pages on the internet.

Employers may wish to remind staff of any policies regarding the use of social networking and websites during working hours. The policies should be clear on what is and isn't acceptable web use.

Drinking or being under the influence at work

Finally some people may like to participate in a drink or two while watching a match.

However, coming to work under the influence of alcohol or being caught drinking during working hours could result in disciplinary procedures.

Employers should consider having guidelines in place which clearly set out what is acceptable in the workplace concerning alcohol. For example,  a no alcohol policy. This will need to be modified if the employer arranges an event at which alcohol is served or if it is available on work premises

Before the World Cup begins, an employer may want to remind staff of what it expects from them. As for the England team, it will probably all be over by the time they face Belgium on 28th June

To discuss staff policies, HR or any other employment law matters please speak to Paul Gringley on 0113 320 5000 or email