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World Cup 2018 - Employers must keep their eye on the ball

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So, England has qualified into the knockout round of the 2018 Fifa World Cup and fans are buoyant. With several games taking place during working hours, some have planned their holidays to be in Russia to support their team whilst most are following on TV.  Acas has produced guidance to help employers prepare for potential issues such as unauthorised absences and a decrease in productivity during this time.

Does the employee have the right to take holiday time to watch the World Cup?

The World Cup falls in the middle of the busiest holiday time of the year for employers. An employee is entitled to holiday time and must make such requests at least twice as long in advance as the amount of holiday requested unless their contract of employment states otherwise. For example, two weeks’ notice should be given for one week’s holiday. Employees taking time off work for the World Cup should have booked annual leave in the normal way. However, they may not have anticipated their team’s performance - England’s early exit from the 2014 competition is a classic example.  If the team does well, a quandary arises - do fans come home on their planned date or stay and support their team in the later stages?  Staying on would necessitate booking more holiday, possibly with less notice than required, or returning home and then travelling out to Russia  once again. In any event, employees should not make travel arrangements until leave has been agreed. 

Employers may wish to be more flexible when allowing employees leave during this period.  However, consistency is essential. It may be that many staff want to take their holiday period at the same time or others have time already booked.  At the same time, minimum staffing levels must be maintained. You may simply decide on a first come, first served basis or have some other policy to determine who should be allowed time off.

Can your employees watch TV or internet coverage at work?

Not really, unless as employer you agree otherwise, in which case a TV Licence for the work place is required. Most employers will have an internet and email policy which governs what employees can and cannot do with their PC at work, and the extent to which PC use will be monitored.  

You may want to consider a flexible working day allowing employees to come in a little later or finish earlier and agree when time is to be made up, or even allow your employees to follow a game in a communal area.  A breach of a policy can be a disciplinary matter although it is not likely to amount to gross misconduct unless the system is abused.

Watching the World Cup can be a great social event. However, it can be associated with an increased consumption of alcohol or the temptation to take a ‘sickie’. Employers should draw employees’ attention to any sickness and disciplinary policies and the consequences of calling in sick without a legitimate reason, or coming into work intoxicated or hungover. You may want to monitor levels of attendance more closely during this period. Employers should ensure that rules and procedures are in place to deal with absences or late attendance and make clear that patterns of absence could result in formal proceedings.

Not everyone will be supporting the same country during the World Cup. Employers should try to ensure that playful remarks do not descend into discrimination. This also applies to employees’ use of email and social media.

Finally, employers should also be fair for those who are not interested in the World Cup. Acas warns, “Remember, not everyone likes football!”

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