World Cup - what should employers be doing to manage staff during this time?

Whilst World Cup Fever might be about to grip the nation- what should employers be doing to manage staff during this time? 

Not everyone likes to watch the beautiful game of football especially with England’s past record of losing important penalty shoot-outs but in all likelihood you will have some employees wanting additional time off work to watch as many matches as possible. 

The World Cup is taking place between 12th June and 13th July 2014 in Brazil and with the time difference most matches will take place between 5pm and 11pm (UK time). Whilst this is good news in terms of disruption during the normal 9 to 5 working day there may still be the usual issues to deal with in terms of a peak in requests for time off, an increase in sickness absences and website use during working hours. 

Whilst there is no obligation to help employees watch matches and to fit this around their working hours we would always recommend an element of flexibility from employers and employees whilst ensuring that productivity is not affected. Any employer being seen to help employees to get involved in being able to watch matches will no doubt boost staff morale but care needs to be taken not to isolate or treat less favourably those who have no interest in football. 

Before the first whistle blows 

So even before the opening ceremony takes place we would suggest that employers have in place agreements and policies dealing with issues of time off, sickness absence or even watching TV or watching matches over the internet at work. 

Annual Leave 

The usual company policy on annual leave should apply and employers will need to ensure that employees wanting time off to watch matches follow the correct booking process. Special arrangements are not always possible and if a temporary change to policy for booking time off is put in place it needs to be clear that this is only temporary during the World Cup. Don’t forget that you may have some employees who are not interested in football who may also want leave during this period and you will need to balance the business needs and different requests in line with your policy. Also be aware that the application of special measures for the World Cup could result in similar requests for other major sporting events, such as Wimbledon or the Ryder Cup. 

Sickness absence 

It is a sad fact that during these types of events sickness absences can increase with some employees taking “duvet days” to watch matches or to recover from the night before. 

It is important that staff understand that the usual sickness policy will apply and any unauthorised absences or patterns of absences following particular matches will be investigated and could result in disciplinary proceedings. 

Flexibility 

On a temporary basis you may decide to allow a more flexible working day, for example earlier starts and finishes on particular match days, or time being made up on other days. A lot of times this can require honesty from the employee and careful management so that everyone is treated equally. Allowing staff to watch TV or via the internet on match days may help to alleviate a mad rush to leave to get home in time for kick off. 

Any changes need to be clear and agreed in advance and again ensure fairness for all. 

Use of social media and the internet 

As more people live virtual lives through sites such as Facebook and Twitter employers may see a peak in internet use during working hours with people wanting to keep up with the latest match day gossip. 

Again having a clear policy in place and clear expectations both during normal working days and during the World Cup should alleviate any issues in terms of the effect on productivity. 

A timely reminder before the World Cup starts making it clear of expectations and reminding employees that they may be monitored will help to manage any issues in this respect. 

Goal celebrations or match loss commiserations 

Whatever the performance of the team your employees are supporting there can be the potential of issues with consumption of excessive alcohol whilst watching matches. Whilst this will be out of work time, employers may need to monitor whether any of their employees are still under the influence (or even drinking during working hours). 

Whilst you may have a clear alcohol policy a reminder again may be worthwhile before the matches begin. 

Team Rivalry 

Not everyone in your workforce will be necessarily supporting England and within football there is a lot of banter and team rivalry. It is important that any such banter and rivalry does not turn into racial discrimination, which would include discrimination on the grounds of nationality. 

Managers should keep an eye on acceptable behaviour and the usual policies and procedures for addressing staff differences and potential discrimination should be used. 

If you need any assistance in producing relevant policies for this purpose or having current policy and procedures checked then please contact James Johnson at james.johnson@smithpartnership.co.uk for more information.