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World Cup 2014: Kill Business – vs – Killjoy

An employer’s guide to getting the balance right

As 12th June fast approaches and “World Cup Fever” kicks in, many employers across the country and worldwide will be concerned about the impact it will have on their business in terms of potential absenteeism and reduced productivity.

The World Cup takes place between 12th June and 13th July 2014. During that month, it is possible that significant numbers of UK employees could phone in sick each day, in order to watch a match or to recover from “the night before”.

Whilst England’s first game kicks off at 23.00 on Saturday 14th June 2014, most of the games will start from 17.00 BST onwards. Experience tells us that supporter preparations for a game may start hours before, and employees may wish to make an afternoon or even whole day of it. Employees originating from other countries may wish to do the same when their national team plays. Of course, those working late shifts, night shifts and weekends will be affected in any event.

Those who do make it into work may be unproductive due to tiredness, hangover, or be simply distracted by the excitement of it all.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that this is an opportunity for employers to show a bit of festive spirit and boost morale amongst workers, which at the moment, seems well deserved and needed in the UK. Employers who get the balance right could benefit from an increased sense of goodwill and loyalty from their employees.

How can employers deal with the situation without spoiling the mood or de-moralising employees? Here are five management tips aimed at achieving this:

1. Set out expectations in advance, possibly in a memo / email

To address the issue of absenteeism, the memo / email could make it clear that unauthorised absence during the World Cup, as at any other time, will be treated seriously as a disciplinary offence. It might remind employees that where holiday can be booked, it should be requested in advance and will be granted on a first-come-first-served basis (with no priority for football requests, as this could amount to sex discrimination). It might also set out expectations in terms of productivity when at work.

2. Reiterate your Company policies

In the weeks and days before the tournament kicks off, it might be wise to reiterate the relevant Company policies, for instance in relation to alcohol consumption and internet usage at work.

3. Offer flexibility

Where possible, employers could allow employees to work around key games and make up hours in advance / afterwards. A system for recording such time could be implemented to ensure fairness and consistency. Employers will need to consider discrimination law and ensure that they are generally fair, for instance by allowing equivalent benefit for employees with different nationalities, and employees who are not interested in the World Cup.

4. Make an event out of it

Where employers have a television and a license, they might decide to let employees watch the football at work. As above, employers will need to consider discrimination law and ensure that they are generally fair, for instance by allowing equivalent benefit for employees with different nationalities, and employees who are not interested in the World Cup.

Alternatively, employers could allow the football to be played on the radio whilst employees continued to work.

5. Deal with any unauthorised absence or other misconduct fairly and consistently

Employers should be careful not to assume that absence during the World Cup is not genuine, and remember that proving that it isn’t, could well be difficult. Hopefully, if the employer has set out their (reasonable) stall in advance, this might not be necessary. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure!