The Football World Cup is an exciting sports event for many. For a football fanatic, any match played by their national team is an event that can’t be missed. Indeed, millions of the UK workforce indicated they were planning to watch England in every World Cup game, even if that fell within work hours.
A YouGov survey even indicated that one in eleven workers who intended to watch England’s opening game on Monday would ‘skive off’ work in order to do so. Whether or not that was the reality on Monday, the remaining World Cup matches still pose a problem for employers on how to balance the need for productivity and a happy workforce.
Last minute holiday requests
Normally when an employee wants to book holiday, they need to give the amount of notice set out in the holiday policy – most employers ask for at least 2 weeks’ notice.
Employers may decide that they can be flexible around this notice period, however they should ensure that all requests for time off are treated equally. Requests to take holiday at the last minute can cause resourcing and planning issues, but refusing the requests runs the risk of employees taking time off anyway, leaving employers with the same issues plus having to deal with a potential disciplinary issue.
Employers could avoid these last-minute issues by allowing for more flexibility in the workplace when things garnering mass interest, like the World Cup, are in play. This could include letting staff to watch the game during work hours (perhaps provided that they make up the time later), or allowing them to take their break during game times.
Employers should remind their employees that the usual sickness and absence policies will apply during the World Cup. However, all sickness should still be treated as legitimate and the proper sickness procedures should be followed unless the employer has good reason to believe the employee is malingering.
Employees should remember that ‘pulling a sickie’ instead of booking time off can land them in trouble. No-one wants to end up like the England super-fan who was seen at Wembley for the Euro 2020 semi-final celebrating a Harry Kane goal after calling in ill, and then getting the sack!
With the World Cup being held in Qatar, which has proven to be a very controversial host, employees may have very differing opinions on the event. Employers should be careful to ensure that all opinions are respected, however it should be made clear that any harassment or hateful comments won’t be tolerated.
Employers should also be mindful that not all of their employees will be supporting the same team. If employers are prepared to show England matches in the workplace, or allow flexibility to allow employees to watch these matches, then they need to ensure that they do this for all other teams and games as well, otherwise they will be opening up the potential for race discrimination claims to be made.
Ultimately, events and occasions which garner popular interest create a great opportunity for employers to promote good employee relations, and foster a positive work culture. While an employer might worry about a loss of productivity from allowing staff to watch a football match during work time – the pay off in goodwill and positive culture is likely to be more than worth it. In the long run, happier employees are more productive and engaged.