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World Cup 2014: Are Employers ready for kick-off?

March 26, 2014

With less than a week to go until the start of the World Cup in Brazil, employers should be thinking how the event might impact their organisation.

Although the event is taking place outside of the UK, it is still likely to cause a shift in behaviour amongst the UK workforce with an increase in requests for annual leave, sickness absence and website use during working hours.

Instead of giving employees a straight red card, employers might see the World Cup as a way to maximise engagement. Providing greater flexibility, improved communication and further support to employees can be a means of curbing absenteeism and managing productivity during an event like the World Cup.

With this in mind, employers should have a set of simple workplace agreements and rules in place which cover:

Annual Leave

While there is no obligation to give employees time off for any reason associated with the World Cup, a blanket ban is likely to be counter-productive and damaging for employee relations. Therefore, employers can look at being a little more flexible when allowing employees leave during the event. However, employees should also remember that it may not always be possible to book leave off. The key here is for both parties to come to an agreement and for planning to be in place to ensure that the organisation has sufficient cover in place at times when holidays are likely to be requested.

If employees are allowed flexibility or additional time off, an employer needs to ensure that it is not limited to England matches and supporters, but also applies to supporters of other nationalities which may be involved.

Sickness Absence

With the time zone differences, some World Cup matches kick-off as late as 11pm. There is therefore a chance of employees calling in sick the next day, or turning up for work worse for wear.

An employer should make it clear at the outset that they will be monitoring absences and that any unauthorised absences could result in formal proceedings. Being under the influence of alcohol or drugs while at work presents serious health and safety issues and should be dealt with in the normal way, regardless of the reason.

However, again, careful planning can help avoid absenteeism becoming a significant issue and there is no reason why an employer cannot agree a one-off variation to shift patterns with individuals or groups of employees if it allows employees to enjoy evening matches without affecting operational needs.

Use of social networking sites and websites

During the World Cup, there may be an increase in the use of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as websites covering the event. It is vital that employers have a clear policy on web use and that it is clearly communicated to all employees. If it is allowed at break and lunch times then that is fine but it should be made clear that it is not acceptable at times which would interfere with normal work. If a company is monitoring an employee’s internet usage, then legally, they should make it clear that it is happening to all employees.

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