World Cup guide

Amy CrabtreeGiving time off
By Amy Crabtree, Forbes Solicitors

With the World Cup looming and many matches taking place mid afternoon we are warning employers to carefully consider whether to give staff time off to cheer on their team.

Although there is no legal requirement for employers to allow time off to watch matches, it may be worth considering a specific holiday policy to ensure requests are dealt with consistently and fairly.

It is important that any requests for employees of different nationalities to watch their respective home nations are dealt with in the same way.

There are other options open to employers, such as screening key matches during working hours however which matches to show will need to be considered carefully to avoid claims of race discrimination.

Alternatively, employers could allow flexibility to watch matches, and require employees to make up for lost time by working through lunch or extending the working day.

Employers should be careful to avoid upset when offering flexibility to employees to watch the matches as this would be considered as preferential treatment compared to, for example, parents or fans of other types of sport who have been refused requests in the past.

There is the potential of complaints of indirect discrimination if policies put one group of employees at a disadvantage to another.

Above all, it’s important that businesses plan carefully in advance of the World Cup to make their policy clear to employees. Whilst employers should be aware of the wider implications, if this is handled in the right way it can improve morale and productivity in the business.

Lisa ClarkHandling questionable sick days
By Lisa Clark, Marsden Rawsthorn

The World Cup could potentially lead to absence problems and major concerns for employers.

In the event that someone does not turn in for work according to sickness, the employee is only entitled to statutory sick pay on the fourth day of illness.

Therefore if the employee is only absent for one day he or she will not receive any pay unless they are entitled to receive contractual sick pay. If an employer does refuse to pay contractual sick pay it is potentially a breach of contract. Consequently, employers should ensure they are knowledgeable of their own policies.

Key decision makers and managers can, on many occasions, have the tricky task of deciphering whether a sickness is indeed legitimate.

Back to work interviews can aid the process of determining the truth and guarantee that in future only genuine absence will be tolerated. Usually, those who fail to turn up for work and who do not make contact with their employer are subject to disciplinary action in accordance with the employer’s contracts and policies.

It is also recommended that the employer complies with the ACAS Code of Practice in dealing with sickness absences. Whilst not always favoured by businesses, taking practical pre-emptive decisions can help to avoid a rise in sick leave.

A small number of businesses are not only introducing flexible working hours but they are also setting up facilities allowing employees to watch certain matches on TV screens at work.

Obviously it is important to consider any risks involved, especially where alcohol is concerned. There may well be health and safety risks attached to alcohol consumption if for example employees are responsible for the welfare of others, operating machinery or driving as part of their job role.

The simple introduction of a TV screen can foster relationships within the workplace and keep staff happy.

Jane ParryThrowing a (tax-free) World Cup party in the office
By Jane Parry, PM+M Chartered Accountants

With the World Cup almost upon us, it is estimated that the number of people absent from work is due to increase as more employees want time off to watch the big matches.

Absent employees are more likely where organisations have no provision for staff to be able to watch the football, and throwing a World Cup party is a great way to ensure that employees are not tempted to miss work due to the football.

The added bonus is that these celebrations can be tax-free, as employers are allowed to spend £150 tax free per head a year on social functions following taxation laws, so there is no excuse for businesses not to get into the football spirit.

Recent research suggests that nine out of ten businesses have no plans in place to manage absence during the football tournament, meaning some employers may experience staffing problems. Excuses such as food poisoning and stomach bugs are the mostly likely to be used by workers keen to stay at home during the big matches.

This is something fun for the whole team and will help businesses keep employees at work, reducing costs that unauthorised absence will incur. These parties do not need to be expensive but with potential for them to be tax free it is a great way for local businesses to give something back to staff and get ready for the World Cup.