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Football fever has once again gripped the world with the advent of the World Cup – Russia 2018.

The games kicked off on 14 June 2018 with the final whistle set for 15 July 2018.  As is now customary, ACAS have produced an updated guide to employers (and employees) on surviving the World Cup.  Ultimately, the goal is to strike the right balance between keeping employees happy but not getting caught offside.

I appreciate that not everyone likes football and that the World Cup is likely to affect some organisations more than others.  However, with FIFA’s estimation that circa 9 million people in the UK alone would call in sick to avoid working the same day as a match during the World Cup 2010, it is a hot topic.

Below is a game-plan for you, covering some of the more likely issues that will throw in, below.  Ultimately, my advice is to have a clear and consistent approach.

Internet and television usage
Every organisation takes a slightly different approach to internet usage.  I am sure that all you readers have internet policies in place that clearly set out what is expected of employees and covers things like, times allowed on the internet, types of sites etc.

Instead of the internet, employees may be keen to keep up with the games by watching them on the television at work.  Each organisation needs to take a view on this and whether the games will be made available.  Before deciding to stream any game, always check you have the appropriate TV licence to avoid a fine.  Whilst this may be a way to engage with your employees, you need to keep an eye on the ball and ensure that productivity does not slump as a result; otherwise a team talk will be necessary at half and full time.

To ensure that everyone knows the rules, it would not go a miss to remind employees of internet and television policies during the World Cup.  Any breach of the relevant policies should be dealt with promptly and in a consistent manner, depending on the severity of the breach.

Drunk or hungover
Given the start times of the games, there is a possibility that an employee may arrive to work either drunk or hungover.  In the event that an individual is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol, then an investigation needs to be undertaken.  The purpose of the investigation should be to establish whether the individual is capable of conducting their work and/or whether they present a risk to themselves or others.  If they are incapable or present a risk, they should be sent home.

The outcome of the investigation will determine whether formal disciplinary action should be initiated.

Absenteeism / late to work
Every organisation should have a policy setting out the specific rules setting out sickness absences with appropriate tools to enable you to monitor absences and recognise patterns.

Absenteeism to watch the World Cup or turning up late as a result of watching the games should be dealt with in line with the organisation’s policies.  One-offs may be easily dealt with through an informal warning.

However, it may be the case that you suspect that the absence is not genuinely because of incapacity or that there is a pattern of absenteeism.  Perhaps you noticed that the absenteeism falls on a day when the employee’s was planning to take holiday, but whose request was rejected.  Where there are grounds for this belief, an investigation should be conducted to discern the reasons for the absenteeism using probing questions.

The outcome of the investigation may require further disciplinary action.  Any such action must be conducted in a consistent approach either with the organisation or ACAS guidelines.

Requests for time off
During the World Cup organisations are likely to see a rise in requests for time off.  If, as addressed above, your organisation is screening the matches, you may not see such a rise in requests.

Ultimately, holiday requests should be treated as normal and in a consistent manner that has regard to the needs of the business.  It would be a good idea to manage employee’s expectations.

The ACAS guide talks a lot about organisations being flexible to try and accommodate employees enjoying the World Cup.  The start time for games vary between 1pm and 8pm and so some thought could be given, on a temporary basis, to allowing some flexibility of employees’ working hours / shift patterns.  Perhaps allowing early finishes either through shortened lunch breaks or by allowing the employee to make the time up at a later date.

Our thoughts
The World Cup allows a unique opportunity for organisations to show their employees that you are all on the same team.  Of course, it is not without its potential problems, but hopefully tackling them won’t bring out yellow or red cards.

Nick Hobden Partner and Head of Employment – Thomson Snell & Passmore.

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