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World cup 2018
  • Published:
    21 June
  • Area of Law:
    Employment

How to manage the World Cup as an employer

With the World Cup in full swing, it’s likely that most avid football supporters will have already booked time off work to spectate. However, the fact that many matches begin during working hours may only just be dawning on less-passionate supporters.

Whilst international events such as the World Cup are great news for fans, employers can be left facing difficult decisions around holiday and leave which, if handled incorrectly, can have harmful effects on office morale and productivity.

Avoiding indirect discrimination

It is vital that any chosen strategy is implemented fairly; does not discriminate against any employees; and avoids placing too much pressure on the business.

Whilst allowing an early finish to watch an England game may be a kind gesture, it should be remembered that employees may be supporting a number of different national teams, or may not be football fans at all, so any policy must take this into account.

Be realistic

As long as both employers and employees are reasonable about the way holiday requests are considered, there shouldn’t be any issues. However in some cases, it may be that special working arrangements, such as flexi-time to fit around matches or relaxed rules on annual leave, such as accommodating short notice requests, are more suitable options.

Of course, some employers may feel that everything is too business-critical and that there is no room for flexibility around the World Cup. Whilst not an unlawful approach, it is unlikely to be well-received by the workforce.

Modern technology provides employees with a variety of ways to keep up to date with the games, and it is advisable to remind employees of internet usage and social media policies. Allowing a more open and lenient approach to watching matches may limit covert attempts to do so during working hours and, in the process, may lead to a happier office in the long run.

Suspicions of foul play

It is worth reminding employees that should a leave request be refused, and the employee then fails to attend work, that this will in the first instance be treated as an unauthorised absence. Deterrents such as having to call in to report an absence, as opposed to texting or emailing, make it easier for the employer to understand the reason for the absence and discourage dishonesty.

Likewise, monitoring the frequency of absences and the pattern of behaviour may make it easier to spot if individuals are being dishonest with their time off. 

Communication is key

It is important for employers to effectively communicate their views on absenteeism, misconduct and, importantly, dignity at work during major events such as the World Cup.

For example, office banter could quickly escalate and cross the line into harassment under the Equality Act 2010, which could leave the employer vicariously liable for such claims. With this in mind, it is worth reminding employees of the acceptable boundaries and standards of conduct expected of them whilst in or around the workplace. 

The World Cup is not an annual event and, ultimately, putting strict measures in place is unlikely to keep employees onside. Instead, allowing for more flexibility, whilst maintaining clear boundaries, is sure to make employees happier and more productive, resulting in a positive effect that lasts long after the tournament finishes.

For more information on the topics covered or for any other employment-related matters, please contact a member of the Employment Team.

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