With England’s final first round match scheduled for Wednesday 23rd June at 3pm, we offer advice to employers trying to keep employees’ minds on the job during the World Cup.
The FIFA World Cup in South Africa is now in full swing and employers are faced with an epidemic of football fever until 11 July 2010. With over a third of fans reportedly planning on missing work to watch matches, employers are having to strike a balance between the demands of football mad fans and the need to keep other employees on-side.
What does this mean for employers?
With some matches scheduled during the normal working day, including England’s crucial match on Wednesday, employers need to plan ahead in order to maintain both a happy workforce and business continuity. Consistency is key, and we would recommend treating the World Cup no differently to other major sporting events, such as Wimbledon or the Olympics, for example, to avoid accusations of favouritism from fans of other sports. As ever, a written policy is the best starting point and with the Rugby World Cup and the 2012 Olympics fast approaching, now may be the time to put one in place.
Employers inundated with requests for time off will need to deal with them in the usual way. There is no special right to leave in these circumstances, but an employer would be wise to accommodate holiday requests if at all possible, to avoid employees taking unauthorised absence and leaving the employer with a post World-Cup hangover of disciplinary investigations.
What should employers do?
Our top tips for employers are:
Manage employees’ expectations. Be clear on what you expect in terms of attendance and performance.
Agree to requests for annual leave/flexible working if possible. If business continuity will not allow this, be upfront with employees. It is important to be consistent with how you ordinarily treat competing requests for leave.
Consider allowing staff to listen to the radio or watch the match at work. Be clear that this is being done on a discretionary basis only. Remember that not all supporters will be England fans and requests to watch other matches should be dealt with in a fair and consistent manner to avoid potential claims of discrimination.
If you suspect an employee has “pulled a sickie”, deal with this in accordance with your policy on sickness absence. Keep records and note any patterns which emerge (absence on the day or day after key matches for example) to assist the investigation.
Remember that, with a little forward planning, major sporting events often act as a great boost to morale in the workplace. Employees will welcome a fair and flexible approach to what, for some, is the pinnacle of the sporting calendar.