An employers guide to avoiding World Cup woes

Whilst many of us look forward to the World Cup; eager to cheer on and support the national team as they travel to Brazil in June; this time every four years (or two if you include the European Championships) can be a big headache for employers.

By Karen Credie, KMCHR.

Increases in unauthorised absenteeism, staff all wanting to take holidays at the same time and employees coming into work under the influence of alcohol are all problems reported by employers around the time of major sporting events. So how can you ensure that as an employer, you strike a fair balance between maintaining an efficient and productive workforce and allowing staff to follow the national football team?

Due to the time difference between the UK and South America, the majority of games in the 2014 World Cup will kick off in the evening, with the earliest kick off time being at 5pm. Unless you operate an evening and night-shift, this may cause less disruption than in previous tournaments in terms of staff taking unauthorised days off.

On the other hand, however, there is likely to be an increase in demand for flexible working on those days to allow time for employees to get home. The consumption of alcohol during evening matches is also likely to be higher than on normal weekday evenings, which may result in more self inflicted days off or reduced performance in the workplace on days following matches.

Having a clear policy that is communicated to employees well in advance of the World Cup, advising them that they need to book time off well in advance should they want to take it, may go some way to reducing unauthorised absenteeism. Employers need to remember that it is not just England matches they need to be concerned about; employees of other nationalities need to be treated fairly and consistently to avoid any claims of discrimination.

Another route you could consider is to implement a policy that states that during the World Cup, any unexpected absences from work will be reported to a higher level of management. This could act as a deterrent to employees taking a ‘sickie’.

Another issue that may arise this World Cup is the widespread use of social media and the availability of devices for employees to engage in social media-based football debate during work time. Again, you should make clear your policy on social media usage, directing staff to revisit the company social media policy in advance of the tournament commencing. If you do not have a social media policy in place, now may well be an ideal time to look at implementing one. See our website for a previous blog on the topic of preparing a social media policy for your workplace.

Should you suspect that an employee has taken an unauthorised days’ absence, or broken the company rules on social media usage, and you have evidence to support these suspicions, you may have cause to initiate disciplinary action. In this event, you will need to follow your company disciplinary process as set out in your company handbook, whilst always ensuring you exercise consistency across your workforce.

Overall, it is important to offer a fair approach during this time and to try and turn World Cup fever into something positive. You may want to use World Cup matches as an opportunity to have company staff events where you can all get together and watch the match, or use the opportunity to finish early to watch matches as an incentive or staff reward. For help and advice either in preparation for the World Cup, or indeed any other advice in relation to your employment policies and procedures, please do get in touch with us.