Game on: Employers and the World Cup

Legal Posted 03/07/18
Employment expert Louise Purcell at Whitehead Monckton looks at potential issues for employers during the World Cup.

The World Cup is well underway. For many, this is a marvellous thing. Weeks of football in the sunshine. What could be better? Although there will of course, always be those of us who prefer to take advantage of the deserted quiet roads, shopping centres and other public spaces, while the rest of the world seems to be watching “The Game”.

The problem for employers is that football fans are likely to want to watch the matches, which often take place during working hours. This can lead to absenteeism and decreased performance at work, whether due to employees constantly checking the score and discussing tactics with colleagues or perhaps, because they are feeling a little worse for wear after a big night out. The World Cup can even lead to disagreements between colleagues, who may for example support different teams or take different views on that “red card” or last night’s penalties.

The main thing employers can do to avoid issues, is to be clear about arrangements and expectations. Some employers allow staff to watch games during the working day and to make the time up. Others suggest that staff should take annual leave to watch key matches.

If you believe that you have an absenteeism situation, then always ensure that you adhere to your policies and take legal advice before taking any action whatsoever. Try not to over react. It is quite possible that the individual who took the day of the match off as sick really was poorly, even if they were posting on Facebook. Their illness may be disability related. Reacting hastily, could damage employer-employee relations or even worse, land you in the Employment Tribunal.

In terms of employees checking the latest scores, be clear about your policy on the use of personal devices, company internet and social media during working hours. Such policies and rules are often set out in IT / disciplinary / social media policies etc. Do think about sending the relevant policies around to staff this week by way of reminder, in order to ensure that staff are aware of them and the possible consequences of non-compliance.

Of course, some employees may support other teams and you should be clear to all employees that they should respect those who do. Again, it may be worth reminding staff about your rules and policies which relate to bullying, harassment and discrimination and to make it clear that a failure to adhere to company rules may constitute misconduct / gross misconduct. Usually, most people are respectful of others at work but things can go wrong, so it is best to be prepared.

Lastly, if you are going to let staff watch games together in the office, then be careful to manage this carefully. Are you going to allow alcohol? What about those who support other teams and / or who don’t like football? Are you going to let them go home early instead? Will staff have to make time up?

The main thing is to be clear about your expectations and then, you are much less likely to run into problems.

In the event that you do have any issues, please contact Whitehead Monckton for advice

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